Is it too early to declare David Moyes the wrong decision?
No-one expected Sunday (November 19) to be a dramatic start to a new chapter for West Ham. Away to Watford is not how dreams begin.
However, the 2-0 defeat only confirmed that the story of West Ham’s season will be one of close-shaves, jitters and relegation scraps.
Vocal West Ham supporters could pick up where they left off after the 1-4 drubbing by Liverpool earlier in the month with Sam Allardyce declaring the East Londoners have lost their way.
“You’ve destroyed our club”, “sack the board” and “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” – all familiar refrains – rang out again even with David Moyes in the dug-out. So what’s wrong at the club?
1. The London Stadium factor
Teams take time to adjust – but surely none have struggled as much as the Irons. Early teething problems and crowd trouble only drew attention to the old Olympic Stadium’s flaws – fans too far from the pitch and too little noise. Only goals, momentum and scintillating play can overcome the vastness of the space – and this a club woefully short on all three.
2. The Boleyn Ground legacy
That last season, one etched in the memories of all West Ham supporters, was one of glory and emotion, the stuff of football folklore. The euphoria of the farewell flattered to deceive some underlying flaws in the West Ham side.
A handful of remarkable away wins and the charisma of Slaven Bilic in full effect meant fans began to believe this was the foundation, not the high point. Club captain Mark Noble, for one, has never recovered from the move.
3. The Dimitri Payet saga
The story of West Ham’s decline will surely feature the mercurial Frenchman at its heart. From club darling to sour, divisive diva, Payet was the turning point. He orchestrated West Ham’s 2015/16 season and put a spring in the step of Bilic. But his decision to go on strike in order to get back to France had three debilitating effects.
- The club was shorn of its talisman goal-maker;
- It rocked club’s morale and confidence;
- It took the wind from Bilic’s sails. After that drawn-out affair, he appeared bloodless and lost and the team never found shape or form again. Payet’s departure spelt Bilic’s doom – and exposed his tactical fallibility.
4. The no-striker conundrum
The yearly puffed-up battles to land a 25-goal a season man have seemed to be more about ego than results. And the consistent failure to bag their man was not only a distraction but led to a hodge-podge mix of makeshift substitutes.
This season’s make-do Javier Hernandez has netted just four in all competitions while Andy Carroll continues to infuriate on and off the pitch. So this closed season Bilic decided to rebuild the defence instead – now the worst in the league.
5. The David Moyes decision
It’s a tough question to ask so early but is David Moyes a busted brand? He was superlative at Everton, forging his reputation as a wily operator and, in the process, becoming the heir apparent at Old Trafford. Since then a succession of cataclysmic failures, culminating in Sunderland’s relegation, have done to Moyes what Payet did to Bilic.
So West Ham have brought on board an Eeyore when they needed a cheerleader, a pragmatic presence when they needed go-getting glitz and a self-absorbed technician looking for redemption rather than a swaggering game-changer with a nose for glory.