Too good to go down? It’s a phrase that, historically, West Ham fans do not put much stock in.
Still, there seems little doubt that the talent at David Moyes’s disposal is far superior to that of his relegation fight rivals — so where is it all going wrong?
Moyes has tinkered constantly in search of a winning formula within a squad advanced by eight new summer arrivals but, so far this term, playing football in reverse.
The chief failings have been collective: a lack of identity, structure, resilience or craft in West Ham’s play — but almost no individual unit within Moyes’s side is functioning at the level required either.
Ahead of Saturday’s crucial meeting with relegation rivals Everton, we look at Moyes’s muddle…
The typical back-handed compliment for a struggling side is that their goalkeeper has been arguably the most consistent performer. Save a dip just before the World Cup, Lukasz Fabianski has maintained his high standards despite his advancing years, leaving Alphonse Areola — maybe the best No2 in the division — assigned to a cup role. Not a problem position, but the exception on that front.
Moyes has five of them, but injuries have still left the Hammers down to the bare bones at times and the ideal first-choice pair of Nayef Aguerd and Kurt Zouma are yet to start a game together. Craig Dawson has served the club brilliantly but now wants out and could join Wolves before the end of the month.
Thilo Kehrer has proven highly error-prone since signing from Paris Saint-Germain, while 34-year-old Angelo Ogbonna’s pace is too easily exposed unless playing in a back-three. Just six months after signing two centre-backs — and selling Issa Diop to Fulham — Moyes may be forced into the market again.
With Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell both on the wane, Moyes has been aware of the need to upgrade for some time but has so far failed to do so.
Kehrer’s versatility has often seen him deployed at right-back, but with only marginally more success than at centre-half. On the left, Emerson does not seem trusted to play in a back-four. Academy graduate Ben Johnson, capable of playing on either flank, has had niggling injury problems but is loved by fans and has been underused of late.
Declan Rice remains West Ham’s standout player, even if not quite at his best since the World Cup, but Moyes is paying the price for failing to sign genuine competition this summer. Tomas Soucek is having a torrid season but has still been called on to start all but one league game, with Flynn Downes clearly not yet up to the level.
Getting the best from Lucas Paqueta feels like the key to fixing the Hammers’ creative woes, and his move to a deeper role has seen the Brazilian more involved, but early signs of a promising relationship with Gianluca Scamacca have faded. Manuel Lanzini is rarely seen.
Jarrod Bowen was one of the division’s best last season, but his form has fallen off a cliff. Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma have both been better, but it has been a case of one or the other in the League since late August.
The former is surely worth a try at No10, while Moyes cannot afford the luxury of using Benrahma as an impact substitute when his starters look so flat. Maxwell Cornet is no nearer a return after a calf problem that has frustrated the club’s medical staff.
Scamacca has shown flashes of his quality but is yet to deliver consistently, scoring just three league goals, though several minor injuries have played their part.
Michail Antonio is frustrated at sliding down the pecking order but has had plenty of opportunity in both league and cup competitions without staking a convincing claim to a shirt Scamacca has hardly made his own. Not the only position where reinforcements are being sought just one window after a marquee signing was made.