David Moyes mocking West Ham supporters with ‘up for the fight’ comment after Spurs surrender
Bad results, poor performances and individual “lapses” just seem to happen consistently to West Ham and David Moyes. Feels like a manager could sort it out.
It was either sarcasm or instinctive sycophancy; David Moyes is a football man and is thus revered across an industry he has worked in as a coach for two and a half decades, his every decision given an automatic air of esteem. But to hear the co-commentator suggest that introducing right-back Ben Johnson for centre-half Angelo Ogbonna nine minutes after going 2-0 down and 11 minutes before full-time was proof of a manager deciding to “throw everything at this” was the final insult to West Ham fans.
That substitution did involve a formation change. Moyes started with a 5-3-2 system which left no room for interpretation as to the first number; it was a five. There are sometimes blurred lines in and out of possession or in certain game states, but this was not three centre-halves with wing-backs given licence to roam either side. This was a rigid, flat back five. And ahead of them were stationed three holding midfielders, with Jarrod Bowen ostensibly partnering Michail Antonio in one of only two actual attacking roles.
By the 71st minute, and with that team a goal down having somehow managed only three shots to Tottenham’s 15, Danny Ings and Said Benrahma were introduced for Antonio and Flynn Downes. Moyes lobbed a couple of kitchen utensils at his hosts but the sink remained firmly intact.
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Almost immediately after that double change, Heung-min Son scored Tottenham’s second goal of the game. It was a deficit neither Johnson nor Pablo Fornals, given eight minutes to turn the tide in place of Emerson Palmieri, could affect.
Considering the weekend’s prior results, it was a surrender West Ham could hardly afford. They entered these fixtures in 16th and will end them in 18th, with three of the four teams who had been below them all winning 1-0. The Hammers were three Premier League games unbeaten before visiting their London rivals, after a hard-fought victory over Everton and two spirited draws with Newcastle and Chelsea; suddenly that exact same form is incorporated in a run of just one win in 11 top-flight matches.
Setting up specifically not to lose a match rather than trying to win it is not a problem in itself. It’s unambitious, negative and often dull, but the tactic can undeniably be effective and useful. West Ham, of course, are not very good at it whatsoever and yet Moyes has not managed to devise an alternative plan at any stage despite that being clear for months. He put the concession of Tottenham’s goals down to “lapses” without accepting such things are far more likely because of a managerial approach which rejects possession as a concept and focuses on constant concentration in defence. He must see it doesn’t work. He must be aware of his record away at the Big Six. He must know West Ham are in the relegation zone.
This club more than any other will realise that no team is too good to go down – not even one which finished seventh last season, spent nearly £173m across two transfers windows and lost no regular first-team starters. Moyes will have his excuses but surely even he wouldn’t dare try and explain how West Ham have been leapfrogged by Fulham, Brentford and Brighton from the position he manoeuvred them into.
Five of the current bottom six have changed their manager at least once this season and West Ham are only an exception to that rule because Moyes has a reputation and a standing in the game. A co-commentator on a different match feed said that the Hammers had shown plenty of positive signs to work with as they passed the ball around unthreateningly at the end of a 2-0 defeat to an opponent long since resolving to conserve their energy. It didn’t feel like a level of neutral constructive criticism Jesse Marsch or Nathan Jones might have benefited from, nor one Moyes deserves.
The argument is no longer whether Moyes should go, but in which division he will leave West Ham when he does. “Let’s see who’s up for the fight,” said the Scot after a game he sought to draw 0-0 and lost 2-0. The fans will hope his players don’t follow that example.
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