Everton’s relegation woes deepen as West Ham get glimpse of life post-David Moyes

Tomas Soucek (C) - Everton do everything possible to remain in relegation fight as West Ham get glimpse of life post-David Moyes

West Ham fans may reflect on the nightmarish vision of what a post-David Moyes world looks like.

Evertonians used to be like them once, back in the days when their team hovered frustratingly in the Europa League places, craving that elusive next step towards the promised land of Champions League qualification and the major trophies they see their legends lifting on the murals around the stadium.

All the debates currently aired in London’s East End were first broadcast in Merseyside’s pubs after the most frustrating defeats between 2002-2013; that more ‘style’ was needed, others were moving forward more progressively, and when it came to the killer instinct separating competitors from winners, Moyes was more suited to laying foundations than building upon them.

How the Gwladys Street must crave the mild irritations of losing cup finals, semi-finals and Champions League qualifiers during the Moyes era now. The regression since was not immediate after his exit, but during the Farhad Moshiri years it has been constant and occasionally bordered on the apocalyptic.

Everton’s only significant victory in 2024 was in their appeal to the independent commission which reduced a 10-point punishment for ‘“reckless” spending to six. On the pitch, they are endeavouring to maintain their interest in the fight against relegation.

Goodison was virtually empty by the time Edson Alvarez clipped in West Ham’s third to provoke a booing chorus so frequent in this stadium, it is in danger of becoming a club anthem.

With obvious affection to his old club, Moyes described his side’s victory as harsh on the hosts. Given the second half saves by goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, that was an interpretation willingly accepted by those considering the outcome a combination of the unfortunate and self-inflicted.

Not for the first time, Sean Dyche pinned the “joint-responsibility” around the theme of missed chances.

“I can’t tell you how frustrating it is,” he said. “No excuses. That is what has to change to get us back to winning ways.

“You have to kill games off. Scoring that second has been our nemesis all season. Scoring the first has been challenging enough.”

For a basic analysis, pointing out that had Beto scored a first-half penalty, Dwight McNeil converted from close range to double Everton’s lead, and Areola’s acrobatics not stopped Beto adding to the clever header which made amends for his earlier miss, the outcome would have been different.

But the same soup is being reheated and it is starting to taste sour. And for all the bare facts of 11 shots on target - 10 saved by the goalkeeper - the underlying reason for habitual failure in front of goal is a lack of the necessary poise and class.

West Ham were not exactly fluid or persistently penetrative until injury time - there was more than a touch of the smash and grab about the means by which two last-gasp goals secured a 3-1 win.

The difference is in Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudos they possess players with the capacity to produce a match-winning moment. In James Ward-Prowse they have a set-piece king who ensures winning a corner can be the turning point of the afternoon, as shown when he delivered for Kurt Zouma’s headed equaliser.

And in Tomas Soucek, they had a player exquisitely executing a sliced volley past Jordan Pickford. That sent Evertonians’ to the turnstiles, their jeers more a howl of exasperation that their side lacks players who can consistently and reliably supply such a finish.

Everton huff and puff to an elite standard. They fully apply themselves to the job of pouncing on the long, high deliveries of Pickford. And they generally defend with organisation and courage, Jarrad Branthwaite a gem destined for international recognition.

But they do not have the skill or the imagination to hurt opponents in different ways. Every visiting side knows what’s coming, the question being whether they have the physical and psychological capacity to survive and thrive amid the aerial bombardment and chase for second balls. West Ham are the latest to do so.

The Hammers are two points from the top six now, and it is their fans’ entitlement to want and expect more. Perhaps Moyes will be looked upon as the facilitator who enabled his successor to propel an improving squad to greater heights.

Or perhaps, rather like his Everton career, he is destined to be remembered more fondly in retrospect for his overall excellence, rather than for the lofty targets that narrowly eluded him.