As I write this on Monday evening, it looks pretty certain that David Moyes will be leaving West Ham. In a strict contractual sense, he has already left given that his contract apparently finished at midnight on Sunday. So, in some ways it is entirely right and proper that the West Ham board should cast their net far and wide in order to start next season with the best manager possible. Moyes has tried to put a little pressure on David Sullivan with some of his comments at the weekend, but if he is expecting it to work, it looks as if he’s mightily mistaken.
Moyes did what was asked of him. He ensured West Ham avoided relegation. Seven out of nine points in the last three matches of the season saw to that. And yet…
I’ll put my cards on the table. I didn’t want Moyes to replace Bilic. I remember emailing David Sullivan almost pleading not to appoint him. But we’re a fickle lot, we supporters, and he actually won me around. He seemed to inject a new, and some would say, much needed discipline into the team. Their fitness levels seemed to improve, and after a rather dodgy start, we started to win a few games. I’m sure we all remember the 1-0 victory against Chelsea. There were some half decent performances too, even if the results weren’t always what they might have been. However, Moyes has always been known for his ‘let’s get the defence right first’ approach to football. But he never really did that. We shipped goals like there was no tomorrow. The results don’t lie. We let in more goals over the season than any other club in the league. Luckily we scored twelve more than Burnley, who finished 7th. Of the 31 matches Moyes managed, six were lost by three goals or more. Yes, he could cite defensive injuries, but when you sell one of your experienced defenders in the transfer window when several of your other defenders are injury prone, be careful what you wish for. Just imagine where we’d be if young Declan Rice hadn’t risen to the challenge.
It was in mid-March that I began to wonder whether my new found faith in David Moyes had been misplaced. It was the Burnley, Stoke and Arsenal matches which really did it for me. The team selections seemed to defy logic. How he could think the same formations and lineups for Stoke at home and Arsenal away beggared belief.
It was around that time that it emerged that at least six West Ham players were hacked off with the manager. OK, there will always be players who are unhappy for various reasons, but when you have such diverse characters as Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Manuel Lanzini, Javier Hernandez, Andy Carroll and a couple of others all saying the same thing (apparently), you know there is a problem. I don’t believe in player power overruling a manager, but it was hardly the best environment to launch a run in of very difficult games, which, had we lost all of them, could have ended up with relegation. In the end we missed relegation by 9 points, but it could have been very different.
The fact that we got two wins and a draw against three decent teams in our last three games shouldn’t mask the inherent problems at West Ham. We got those points against three teams with nothing to play for. Unlike us. I’ll admit to being surprised at the quality of the team performances in each of those games, but it’s easy to play well when the other team isn’t operating at 100% firepower. We have some outstanding individual players who often play as if they have never met their teammates. That happened under Bilic and it has happened far too often under Moyes. And too often he hasn’t been able to change tactics to get the best out many of the players, albeit with one exception.
That exception has been Marko Arnautovic. I’d love to know what triggered his transformation from a journeyman who couldn’t be arsed under Bilic to one of the Premier League’s best players under Moyes. He scored for fun and became a world beater. He clearly seemed to think he had a point to prove to all of us, and he proved it with some panache. He’s a player I’ve grown to love watching. Is that down to David Moyes? I don’t know.
When Slaven Bilic left we had 9 points from 11 games. Moyes has got 31 points from 27 games. In a full season that would have been a total of 43 points. Hardly earthshattering. If Bilic’s record had continued we’d have had 32 points and been relegated.
My honest feeling is that David Moyes isn’t a West Ham kind of manager and frankly never will be. I think it was the 3-0 capitulation at Wigan in the FA Cup that started the rot in terms of him losing the fans. In truth, though, we never took to him.
I know there are many people who believe he should be given a two year contract. My fear is that we will have another Allardyce on our hands. He’ll do OK but won’t play the kind of football we want to watch. I’ll never forget the despair I felt at various points during Allardyce’s reign. It’s the only time I’ve actually dreaded going to a match because I knew I’d be bored.
Having said that, when did we last have a West Ham kind of manager? Zola? Pardew?
Looking at the candidates to replace Moyes, there are one or two who I doubt would offer a different kind of football to Moyes. Benitez’s teams, for example, have never been at the cutting edge of entertaining football.
Talk of attracting the likes of Emery, Pellegrini, Nagelsmann or Ancelotti is all well and good but are we really going to attract any of them? Really? I’d love to believe it, but I have my doubts. But we should certainly be aiming high if the club’s ambition really is to proceed to the next level. The fact that Paulo Fonseca, the Shakhtar Donetsk manager was seen being driven into David Sullivan’s Essex mansion yesterday evening is certainly an encouraging sign.
There are, however, plenty of good managers already operating in England or Scotland who would fit us well, if we can’t get one of the top managers.
Brendan Rodgers would surely welcome a return to the Premier League. Would Eddie Howe or Sean Dyche not be persuadable and relish a new challenge? Could David Wagner be enticed away from Huddersfield? Marco Silva, the former Watford manager, is said to interest the board. He did a cracking job at Watford until his head was turned by Everton. He was never quite the same again, and Watford eventually lost patience with him.
My conclusion is that David Moyes should be thanked for his work at West Ham but we should then bid him farewell. There is, however, a but. If there really is no one on the managerial market who fits the job better than Moyes, then we may have to ask him to stay on. He may regard that as insulting, and tell us to do one unless he is offered the job within the next week. So be it. But the board owes it so us to get this appointment right. We can’t contemplate another Avram Grant situation. Time is rather of the essence, given that the transfer window opens on Thursday.
Whoever becomes our next manager is going to need to start with a fairly blank sheet of paper. There will be quite a few departures from the club over the summer and I suspect we will be buying quite a few players. So while there is no imperative to appoint a manager this week, we should certainly be making an offer well before the World Cup finals start.