It was only a matter of time before David Moyes found himself back in management. The Scot had been on the substitute bench for a while after leaving West Ham at the end of the 2017-2018 season. He has had several offers from both home and abroad yet Moyes believed strongly that he belonged in the Premier League.
Indeed his old club Everton looked to be lining him up only to eventually go for Carlo Ancelotti. But Moyes didn’t have to wait much longer before West Ham came calling following the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini.
There is a slight sense of irony that West Ham have returned to Moyes after Pellegrini failed. After all Moyes was already in the managers chair when owners David Gold and David Sullivan had a change of heart and decided not to renew his contract in favour of heading down a different direction.
That “direction” was Pellegrini and at first it looked like an inspired move. But now the two David’s are eating a huge slice of humble pie with West Ham after turning back to the man who saved them from relegation the last time.
The problem that faced Pellegrini and ultimately led to his downfall was the heavy expectations. It was expected that West Ham would be a gatecrasher in the top six this season given the amount of money they spent in the summer and the summer before (£170m in total). Indeed the squad bulked up in key areas previously lacking whilst deadweight was shifted on to leave the squad lean but mean. Everything was set for Pellegrini to be successful.
Indeed it looked like he would be at the start of the campaign. Four wins from their opening six games including a stellar winning performance against Man Utd put West Ham exactly on target to upset that top six. But then came the trip to Bournemouth where things started to unravel at an alarming rate. An injury to Lukasz Fabianksi late in the first half rocked what looked to be a fairly comfortable Hammers performance and bizarrely they never seemed to recover. Bournemouth took the lead shortly after and although Cresswell rescued a point late on, it was clear that something was not quite right.
Many fingers were pointed in the direction of back up goalie Roberto who made a series of howlers in the games following the draw with Bournemouth but in truth the wheels were already shaky before he came into the side. Pellegrini failed to inspire the squad he had and live up to the expectations. Now it’s Moyes turn to see what he can do.
He (Moyes) does inherits a squad brimming with talent though. In goal, he has arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League last season (Fabianski) that didn’t play for Man City or Liverpool. In front of the Pole, Aaron Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks are accomplished wing backs whilst Zabaleta offers a more stable footing if needed. Declan Rice competes alongside Mark Noble, Jack Wilshire and Pablo Fornals for midfield engine slots whilst Lanzini, Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko offer the creative supply for target man and record signing Sébastien Haller up front. That’s not even mentioning West Ham mainstays like Robert Snodgrass and Michel Antonio who always tend to end up on the score sheet when least expected.
Moyes can succeed where Pellegrini failed by making some minor tactical and formational changes. For example pushing Felipe Anderson more into a central role rather than on the wing should free him up to shine like he has done in past seasons.
Similarly placing a secondary striker upfront alongside Haller could release the towering Frenchman to find the form that encouraged West Ham to buy him in the first place. Haller played his best football at Frankfurt alongside the more technical Luka Jovic so a similar type of partnership at West Ham with Lanzini or Ajeti could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Restoring a sense of pride and regaining a higher level of commitment from his squad will also be high on his to do list.
There are fans who will be unhappy with Moyes return, someone jaded by the lack of entertaining football on show the last time. However when you are in a relegation dog fight, entertainment is often overruled in favour of grafting out a performance that nets you the three points. That approach worked the last time as Moyes saved them from the drop so more of the same is likely on the cards for the Hammers faithful whether they like it or not. With a 18 month contract, Moyes will spend the second half of this season papering over the cracks before setting about moulding West Ham into his image in the summer. That is as long as the owners don’t have another change of heart.
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