Our narrow 3-2 defeat at Anfield felt like a lightbulb moment for David Moyes and his squad of players who rarely have dared to be ambitious and brave at any of the so-called top six clubs.
It has set a level of expectation amongst the Irons’ faithful that the level of commitment, desire and flair needs to be shown week in, week out as the Hammers continue to fight against relegation. The loss on Merseyside came after an abject display at the Etihad that had many of us despairing and fearing the worst, and frankly losing patience with David Moyes.
While the majority still feel that Moyes isn’t the right man for the job in the long term, there were at least signs of life during their battling defeat. You could conceivably say that, but for two uncharacteristic errors from the usually reliable Lukasz Fabianski, the Irons probably deserved to win.
For Moyes and the players though, that level of performance must become the norm and not the exception. It is all well and good turning up at Anfield and playing to that level and picking up deserved plaudits from pundits but you then revert to type and crumble in games against the likes of Norwich, Aston Villa and Watford and find yourself staring down the barrel of relegation.
The set-up must remain the same for Moyes now, he must ditch the five at the back formation and now take it to the opposition, time is running out, and we need results now. There are winnable games coming up, particularly in April when the club play teams currently in and around them in the bottom six. Moyes will hope that is when the Irons pick up the point they require to survive. It is a dangerous game to play, however, and prioritising games can backfire horribly.
West Ham United as a club has historically always punched above their weight in the big games against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal, but come unstuck against the seemingly ‘easier games.’
The mentality has always, in my mind, been a massive issue at the club. This season, in particular, the squad seems so mentally weak – you only have to look at the body language of the players to see that. The moment a goal goes in, the head drops and the telling statistic in that is the fact the Hammers have dropped 22 points from winning positions.
That tells me that once the opposition equalises the player’s belief immediately falls. To put that into context, if we held onto those points, we’d currently be sitting in fourth. It is impossible to put the finger on why the club has dropped so many points from winning positions, but tactically there are a few tweaks that could be made to fix the issue.
One being obvious which is to continue to remain positive. Too often this season we have sat on a lead hoping to see it through, negativity breeds nerves. The old aged saying attack is the best form of defence rings true, you cannot concede goals if you are pressing and on the front foot.
That was the most pleasing aspect of the defeat at Liverpool. We gave it ago, we pushed the champions-elect all the way. You could see from the reception at full time from the travelling supporters that is ultimately all we ask for.
The second issue in this squad is concentration. I have lost count of how many individual errors have been made. You look at the draw with Brighton, two mistakes cost us two points, and two again at Anfield cost us at least one point maybe three.
That is without mentioning several made by Roberto, which cost us countless points.
These errors come down to several factors, confidence, fear and laziness in some aspects. Again though, these defensive errors do not happen if you breed positivity. Playing the ball forward rather than backwards and sideways is a starting point, but playing the pass with purpose is the key aspect.
Too often we dally on the ball which puts pressure immediately on the player and with no movement around him means inevitably the ball is going to go array.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season now the tactic has to be simple; we must play with pace. I like the look of Jeremy Ngakia at full-back – I feel he offers us something that Zabaleta cannot while Fredericks is missing.
Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio and Felipe Anderson have to be starting front three, they will allow us to break with purpose and also offer that ball out when we are under the cosh, while also adding vital goals to the team. In midfield, when Tomas Soucek returns from injury, I would drop Mark Noble (blasphemy I know) but with a midfield three of Soucek, Declan Rice and Pablo Fornals you have a lovely mix of aggressive, goals and flair.
The defence picks itself really, Angelo Ogbonna has been superb for large spells of the season, Issa Diop is more reliable than Fabian Balbuena, and Aaron Cresswell is a better defender than Arthur Masuaku.