Time for David Moyes to release handbrake as West Ham face up to relegation battle
David Moyes admitted on Friday that the positivity with which back-to-back draws against Chelsea and Newcastle had been greeted was a sign of the times at West Ham.
“Last year, I was trying to win the games and not draw, that’s for sure,” Moyes said. “On both occasions, I thought they were good draws.”
For 55 minutes here at Tottenham, a third in a row looked well within the Hammers’ grasp, but having frustrated a lacklustre home side with relative ease, as the game opened up so to did Moyes’ defence.
First, they were carved apart by Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg’s pass, which sent one wing-back, Ben Davies, away to tee up the other, Emerson Royal.
Then, seconds after Moyes had looked to loosen the shackles with the introductions of Danny Ings and Said Benrahma, the game was put to bed by the more familiar combination of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.
The upshot is that despite visible signs of improvement in recent weeks, West Ham find themselves back in the bottom-three, a psychological concern for a team who, even in the midst of their troubling run before Christmas, would have expected to pull clear by now.
In celebrating their own side’s 2-0 victory, Tottenham fans sang with glee about the prospect of relegation, coming up with two or three tunes to convey the same message: “West Ham are going down”.
There is a long race to be run and the relative optimism delivered by a four-game unbeaten run ought not to be eroded by one defeat, particularly not one here, but with numerous rivals at least temporarily resurgent, next weekend’s home meeting with Nottingham Forest looks must-win.
There, Moyes will surely plump for a more adventurous side having set out, understandably, to contain what looked a conservative Tottenham XI.
Jarrod Bowen, playing in an unfamiliar role off the left, had the Irons’ only two chances of note, lashing just wide from Tomas Soucek’s inside the opening two minutes and then being denied by Fraser Forster from a tight angle in the aftermath of Royal’s goal. In between, West Ham’s most creative accomplishment was Declan Rice’s half-time change into white boots.
The plan clearly, had been to sit in, a flat-back-five denying Spurs’ front-three the space in which to operate and throughout the first-half, when the hosts famously struggle, it worked. Harry Kane was allowed to pick the ball up deep, but couldn’t find his passes through the claret and blue forest. Dejan Kulusevski was forever cutting inside and looking up at the same overcrowded box. Richarlison was almost anonymous. Anything delivered into the penalty area was headed clear with ease.
And so, having seemingly sussed out the tricky bit, it would have been to Moyes’ huge frustration that two hardly potent wing-backs combined for the opener, Angelo Ogbonna caught out of position as Hojbjerg turned innocuous midfield possession into a golden opportunity with one eye-of-the-needle pass, a chance not wasted by Emerson when it eventually fell his way, the Brazilian steering calmly past Lukasz Fabianski.
Moyes waited a quarter-of-an-hour to twist, not turning to a bench for once overflowing with attacking options until the 72nd-minute. Before it had even expired, Son, himself on as a substitute, had sealed the deal.