Has time run out on Moyes’ West Ham project?

Our manager was backed heavily in the summer as part of his masterplan but why has it backfired so badly?

David Moyes (West Ham manager) speaks to Jan Thilo Kehrer (WHU) at the West Ham United v Leicester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on November 12, 2022.

Taking charge of a Premier League club is no mean feat. The modern game is ruthless – there’s little loyalty left in football these days, and there’s even less time available for managers to properly implement their systems and hit the ground running.

If results don’t come quickly and consistently, managers find themselves in the firing line. Of course, different managers have their own unique specialities.

Some are proven winners, brought in by the top clubs in the world to compete for trophies each season. Think of your Guardiola’s, Ancelotti’s, and Zidane’s. There are the relegation specialists, and we’ve certainly had our fair share of those, from Big Sam to Alan Pardew.

Then there are the project managers, those who take their time to build up their systems and foundations at a club and slowly work towards competing at the top level. Mauricio Pochettino and Jürgen Klopp are perhaps two of the best examples of this, while Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Manchester United’s Erik ten Hag, and Newcastle’s Eddie Howe are also currently proving their mettle at project management in the Premier League.

The big question at West Ham at the moment is whether David Moyes is truly the right man to guide us to that next level. Moyes’ first spell at the club came to an end when the Board deemed that former Manchester City and Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini was better suited to the task, a costly error which saw us almost relegated from the Premier League.

With his tail between his legs, David Sullivan asked Moyes to re-join us as manager, and the Scot proved himself to be fully capable of steadying the ship and keeping us in the top division. Since then, we’ve enjoyed back-to-back European qualifications, which has taken us from mid-table mediocrity to exciting continental campaigns.

Moyes clearly had a vision when he returned to the club in 2019 – he had spent time learning about the Red Bull model with both Leipzig and Salzburg after his first period with the club. He seemed invested in the idea of bringing academy players into the first-team squad, complemented by a smart recruitment policy designed to scout top footballers for reasonable prices.

We invested smartly in players like Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Souček and built a solid spine, shoring up our defence, while implementing a system designed to hit our opponents with fearless counter-attacking football. Fast forward to now, however, and that model seems to have dilapidated. The promise of offering our young talents game time seems to have been largely forgotten outside of dead rubber European fixtures, and some of our most promising youngsters, such as Sonny Perkins, have moved on due to a lack of first-team opportunities.

We have become a side devoid of ideas, and it has made us perhaps the most predictable team in the league, having scored half as many goals than we had at this stage last season. We invested £182m in the squad this summer (the third-highest amount in world football, no less), and look no better for it.

Moyes was abundantly clear that he felt this was a transition season, a chance to bring in internationally-acclaimed players to bolster our thin squad, get everyone settled, and then push on again next season. But questions have to be asked about Moyes’ ability to get the best out of new arrivals including Paquetá and Scamacca, who have looked troublingly missuited to our current style of play.

Contrast this to some of the other project managers in the league. Eddie Howe has taken a distinctly average Newcastle side and got them firing on all cylinders. He has smartly brought in experience and talent in players like Trippier and Pope, but more importantly, he’s got the likes of Almirón and Joelinton playing like Champions League quality players.

Obviously, the injection of Saudi money has played its role, but for comparison, they spent just under £60m less than we did this summer. Manchester United are another team who have started to turn their fortunes around.  

Ten Hag seems like a fantastic fit at United so far, bringing discipline and structure to a club which has been run like a circus since Alex Ferguson left almost 10 years ago. To be clear, I am a big fan of David Moyes – he is keenly aware of our history and culture, and has created an atmosphere of positivity and optimism that has been missing from the club for a long while now.  

It would be a real shame to see his tenure ended in such disappointing fashion after such a fantastic two and a half years. But football is a cruel game, and we simply cannot risk dropping down to the Championship, losing all the progress we’ve made as a team over recent years.  

I’d love to see him turn things around, go for it in the Europa Conference League, and then push on again next season. But if our fortunes don’t change immediately, there will be no choice but to find someone else to step in. David Moyes may well become a victim of his own success at West Ham.

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