West Ham defensive struggles are not new as David Moyes still searches for answers

Headache: David Moyes (REUTERS)
Headache: David Moyes (REUTERS)

With a characteristically thrilling 3-3 draw at home to MK Dons on Monday, Notts County assumed the novel position of being both League Two's best attacking side and its worst at defending; 80 goals scored, 79 conceded, 159 in total across just 41 matches.

Unsurprisingly, the Premier League does not quite have an equivalent, but West Ham are perhaps the closest thing, showcased in Saturday's 4-3 reverse at Newcastle.

Few teams in the division boast a frontline as talented and dynamic as that of Jarrod Bowen, Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta, who along with Michail Antonio all provided at least one goal or assist in sending the Hammers into a 3-1 lead.

However, no team outside the relegation zone, except Brentford, has conceded more goals than the Hammers' 54, the last three of which came in the space of 13 minutes to power the Toon to their dramatic late win.

Kalvin Phillips’ loan move has been a disaster (Getty Images)
Kalvin Phillips’ loan move has been a disaster (Getty Images)

Given the conjecture around David Moyes's future revolves largely around a perceived lack of entertainment, that is a peculiar state of affairs. It is a puzzle Moyes has wrestled with for much of the campaign, yet the solution seems no clearer.

His team have already scored more goals and taken more points than in the entirety of last season, but unless they keep a rare clean sheet on Tuesday night, will match — and possibly surpass — last term's tally for concessions with seven games still to go.

Perhaps that speaks to a tweak in his side's balance and, on Monday, Moyes talked up the importance of defending as a collective effort, on the back of a much-hyped title showdown that saw two of the division's best attacking sides strangle the life out of one another. But it is not as if players such as Bowen, Paqueta and Kudus are luxury forwards who shirk their share of the work.

West Ham’s defensive frailties are not new, just simply more exposed

More relevant, then, was his pointing to the loss of Declan Rice and "how much that plays a part in covering up a lot of things for you". In other words, the idea that the Hammers' defensive frailties are not new, just simply more exposed.

In Edson Alvarez, Moyes secured about as good a Rice replacement as could be expected, but he will again be absent on Tuesday in serving the second of a two-match ban. Since his full debut, Alvarez has started all but five league games. In those, West Ham shipped three at Brentford, five at Fulham, two at Sheffield United, four at Newcastle and two in 45 minutes at home to Burnley, before the Mexican's half-time introduction.