West Ham lurch back into crisis as David Moyes decisions again fall flat

 (AP)
(AP)

If a draw at Leeds and an FA Cup victory over Brentford pressed pause on West Ham’s crisis, then David Moyes must pray that defeat here at Wolves flicked only “play” and not “fast-forward”.

As their dismal season reached the halfway stage, the Hammers finally did what they have been threatening to for months and dropped into the Premier League’s relegation zone thanks to a 1-0 loss at Molinuex and unfavourable results elsewhere.

Nineteen League matches have now brought just four Hammers wins and none since victory over Bournemouth on October 24. Any pretence that Moyes’ men are not in a fight for survival ought now to be cast emphatically aside: only goal difference is keeping them off the bottom.

After a poor game that was, in the main, fairly even, played between two teams devoid of cutting edge and lacking in identity, the contrast at full-time could hardly have been more stark.

Wolves are no world-beaters and are still underperforming markedly for their level of talent and spend, but the arrival of Julen Lopetegui has at least changed the mood around the club and at the final whistle the former Spain boss was serenaded by a packed home crowd.

Moyes, meanwhile, made his way across the field to salute the travelling support, but got little but gesticulations of anger and disapproval in return.

That the Hammers boss is being let down badly by a misfiring team is not in doubt. This is a squad littered with players who have, for some time, been failing to live up to their reputations.

Jarrod Bowen, for instance, looks a shadow of the player of last season, Lucas Paqueta unable to replicate the brilliance the world witnessed for Brazil in Qatar. Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell and Tomas Soucek are all on the wane, forces that have faded badly over the past 12 months, having previously been cornerstones of Moyes’ successful second stint in charge.

But Moyes has thrown plenty at the wall, in terms of personnel and system, and none of it has stuck, often a telling clue that the point of no return has been crossed.

The question now is how much longer the club’s board, so far strong in backing their man, can wait to find out whether that is the case.

 (AP)
(AP)

Antonio fails the audition

Moyes left Craig Dawson out of his squad for this fixture after Wolves submitted a bid for the defender which, the Irons boss admitted, had destabilise his preparations.

With Gianluca Scamacca seemingly nursing a knee issue, Moyes had little option, however, but to start with Michail Antonio, who has also been linked with the Midlands club, though the Hammers are yet to receive a formal approach.

Antonio has been frustrated at playing second fiddle to summer signing Scamacca in the League this term, airing those feelings publicly in an interview with Standard Sport last month.

The reality is, though, is that Scamacca’s form has hardly needed to be eccentric to retain the upper-hand. Antonio has had plenty of chances across various competitions and seldom done much with them, including here.

There was the occasional trademark foray through a forest of bodies, neither forward nor defenders quite sure where the ball would be shifted next, but for the most part this was Antonio at his frustrating worst, summed up by one pass out of play on the counter-attack that left Moyes head in hands.

Julen Lopetegui’s interest reportedly stems from Antonio’s bustling performances against the Spaniard’s Sevilla side in the Europa League last season. How Moyes could do with that player now.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Benrahma deserves more

It took only 20 minutes for the first chants of the benched Said Benrahma’s name to go up among the travelling fans here.

It says plenty about the struggles of West Ham’s other forward players this season that Benrahma, despite retaining the inconsistency inherent in his maverick talent, has been just about the Hammers’ most reliable attacker and has become something of a cause célèbre for frustrated fans.

Scorer of the goal that saw off Brentford in the third round of the FA Cup during a late cameo last weekend, the Algerian was again only named among the substitutes, perhaps in part due to Moyes’ desire to provide a fragile left-side of defence with greater protection in the form of the industrious Pablo Fornals.

There is also a feeling that his manager believes Benrahma’s best impact is off the bench, but with his team so lacking in creativity, though, that is not a luxury Moyes can afford.

Benrahma’s introduction in place of the struggling Soucek gave Irons fans the briefest glimpse of the more adventurous midfield many have been calling for, with Fornals shuffled into a central role, but 15 minutes later the Spaniard was replaced by Scamacca as Moyes understandably went for broke.

At home to Everton next weekend, with nothing else working, the combination is surely worth a proper go - if Moyes survives that long.