FA Cup progress and the prospect of a run to distract from their Premier League malaise are the prizes on offer for West Ham when they go Brentford on Saturday, but for David Moyes’s fringe players, the shape of the second half of the season is on the line, too.
Moyes has built a large squad designed to withstand the demands of domestic and European competition, making eight new signings in the summer after watching his fatigued side left running on fumes towards the end of last season.
In all, the Scot has used 24 players so far in the Premier League this term — more than Arsenal, Manchester City or Manchester United — and also blooded a host of youngsters in Europe and the Carabao Cup.
West Ham were in action twice a week almost without exception during the first part of the season in the run-up to the World Cup, playing more matches than any other top-flight side, after starting their Europa Conference League campaign in the final qualifying round.
After finishing top of their group in that competition, however, the Hammers advanced straight to the last 16, which does not begin until March, and should Moyes’s men be knocked out of the Cup by Brentford, they will be left with just six League games scheduled between now and the end of February.
Moyes, having tinkered constantly with his line-up in search of a winning formula amid a spate of injuries, will surely now use a calmer period in the calendar to seek continuity in his bid to improve West Ham’s League position.
That would be bad news for the likes of Ben Johnson, Flynn Downes, Emerson and Manuel Lanzini, while Conor Coventry may seek a loan move, with the club having considered sending him out last summer.