David Moyes must again guide West Ham to safety to save his job

Under-fire: David Moyes  (Getty Images)
Under-fire: David Moyes (Getty Images)

West Ham play at Leeds tonight at the start of a run of three crucial games against potential relegation rivals before the end of the month.

That is not a sentence that anyone connected with the club — players, fans, owners and certainly not the manager — expected to be reading at the start of the New Year, given less than six months ago the Hammers were in the midst of a £170million spending spree designed to take them to the next level.

Instead, their form has dropped off a cliff this term (though results have been faltering since the back end of last season) and the Hammers head to Elland Road outside the relegation zone only on goal difference, a minor miracle in itself, given their chief failing has been an inability to put the ball in the back of the net.

West Ham have found themselves in similarly precarious positions around the turn of the year twice before in the past half-dozen seasons and found the means to survive quite comfortably each time. Trouble is, the man drafted in to fight the fire on both occasions is already standing in the dugout this time around, in danger of watching his fine work of the past three years go up in flames.

David Moyes retains, for now at least, the backing of the West Ham hierarchy, despite a run of five straight defeats in the Premier League either side of the World Cup and just four League victories all season.

Having resolved to give the Scot the winter break as a chance to reset and relaunch the Hammers’ campaign, it is perhaps unsurprising that the trigger has not been pulled after two disappointing losses, by Brentford and leaders Arsenal.

Moyes, though, admitted yesterday that he is “not stupid enough” to think the defeats can keep coming without consequence, and the club’s board are now firmly embroiled in an evolving game of stick or twist in which each further negative result tips the odds more enticingly in favour of the latter.

The faith shown in Moyes is both admirable and deserved, given his record of successive top-seven finishes in the top flight and last season’s run to the Europa League semi-final, but beyond the moral reasoning of loyalty, it also stands true that the 59-year-old turning things around remains the most convenient outcome for all parties.

David Moyes has been heavily backed in the transfer market. (Getty Images)
David Moyes has been heavily backed in the transfer market. (Getty Images)

A mid-season managerial hunt could get messy; there are few obvious out-of-work options and a balance to be struck between the kind of progressive manager the club would ideally seek to match its ambitions — and transform what is, at present, a muddling style of play, short of pattern or identity — and one capable of having an instant impact.

Talk of Thomas Tuchel or Mauricio Pochettino is surely fanciful. The West Ham side that finished seventh and with a hefty transfer kitty going into a summer window, perhaps, but one set for a relegation fight with no money to spend this month? No thanks.

This is a squad built by Moyes, with eight new arrivals in the summer, and another overhaul under a new coach would suit no one.

On the flip side, West Ham can hang tough for only so long.

Relegation to the Championship would be disastrous for a side with the third highest spend in the last transfer window, a 60,000-seater stadium to fill and plans this summer to cash in on their most valuable asset, Declan Rice, whose price tag would have to plummet.

Headlined by Rice, Moyes has a squad far too good to be where they are, but, as this club knows only too well, by no means too good to go down, either.