I was at the Spurs and Man City games as part of my role as a matchday Club London ambassador and both were fantastic days for West Ham. What struck me after the City game is just how strong we are with our squad depth at the moment – particularly in defence.
For the Spurs game, we had Zouma and Ogbonna at the back but against Man City it was Dawson and Diop. I honestly don’t think there’s a lot between all four of them but I think most would have Zouma plus one of the others. I think these two games, clean sheets and performances show just what good pairings we have. It’s a great position for Moyes to be in that he’s able to swap players and partnerships and still keep clean sheets – particularly against one of the top sides in Europe.
The combination of Zouma and Ogbonna is working right now for our Premier League games and I don’t see any reason to break it up at the moment because we’re doing so well, getting results and actually everyone is getting decent game time anyway with the Europa League and League Cup.
Aaron Cresswell is having another good season and I think he plays an important role not just on the attacking side of things – his corner for Antonio’s winner against Spurs was excellent – but also his defensive work and work for that back unit is testament to how many clean sheets we’ve kept. On the other flank we’ve got Coufal, Fredericks and Ben Johnson. It was good to see Coufal get on the pitch against Man City and I liked what I saw from Ryan before his injury but Ben has taken full advantage of both being on the sidelines.
Being a young lad, he just wants to get a run of games and you can see that with every game, he just gets more comfortable and confident and this is really helped by the results. When things are going well, it helps you settle in easier. Don’t get me wrong, Coufal is a class player but the fact we’ve had good results, and clean sheets, since Ben has been there says to me that Coufal hasn’t been as much of a loss as we might have thought.
It’s been good that Ben has also been getting game time at right back which is his preferred side. I know what it’s like when you’re young – you’re happy to play anywhere and whilst he did well at left back, he’s really showing what he can do at right back. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had essentially two defences like this. Have we ever? It’s a huge positive in my eyes.
One thing that has really helped our squad as a whole has been our Europa League campaign but also getting through to the quarter finals of the League Cup. If we had been knocked out of the League Cup that’s two or three games that some of the squad players wouldn’t have played in.
Now everyone has had plenty of game time already so people are in a much better position to slot in should someone get injured. Some people have suggested that Moyes hasn’t been taking the League Cup seriously with his selections but every team now makes changes in this competition.
However, no manager wants to put out a side that gets beat and have people asking why certain players were rested but because we are doing so well, it’s not as much of a risk. And the way we’ve managed both games says to me that Moyes has wanted to win each game and has drilled the players on a particular game plan and it’s worked out for both games.
We defended really well against Man City and once it got to penalties, it’s a lottery but I felt our penalties were great. It was the ideal scenario for us. As for Nobes’ pen, I don’t think the Man United miss would’ve been playing on his mind too much.
But when you look at Cresswell, Bowen and Benrahma, they all scored their penalties and that’ll hopefully give all three confidence that they can score again should we get a penalty in normal time any time soon. I think in most sides there are others who can take penalties but sometimes don’t get the chance because you have someone like Noble and his record.
But now we know if we get to another penalty shootout in the League Cup or the Europa League, or even the FA Cup, that we’ve hopefully got players on the pitch who can dispatch them as well as the players did against City. We’ve got an interesting run of games coming up and it’ll be interesting to see how we navigate our games particularly against Liverpool, City and Chelsea.
I’m sure Moyes will be asking himself how many points we can realistically expect from November and early December, but I’m sure he’s also telling himself that we are in a good place to take on these three sides.
Take the Liverpool game for example. Normally you might not fancy us to get anything but I think we could get a point – certainly if we go into it with the positive mindset we’ve had recently. We’ll need to take each game as it comes and not put ourselves under too much pressure for the games against Wolves and Brighton.
We need to avoid getting hammered by Liverpool, City and Chelsea as that could really knock our sky-high confidence, but I’m confident we’ll give all three a good game.