Pub Talk: ‘If we get a European spot Moyes will stay. If not, we may look for a more expansive coach…’

David Moyes (West Ham manager) at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

Thoughts on our heavy defeats away at Man United and at home against Arsenal? What else did we learn from our games in February about our players and Moyes? 

Meirion Williams: Man United are not the team they once were so I expected a little better. As for Arsenal, well I know they are, and I say this through gritted teeth, a top quality side, but we were at home. We simply seemed to give up and just rolled over to have our belly tickled. Four points from a possible 15 was just not good enough. I predicted five points in February so even I over estimated. It shows that we are one dimensional and even at times against Brentford we looked worried until that third goal went in. We learnt that Moyes is good at getting the band aid out as was the case with Brentford but let’s make no mistake, we all know normal service will be restored in March.

David Meagher: I think we have been reminded how so-called ‘Moyesball’ can backfire horribly. If you allow sides to pass the ball about, they will get confident and if they get the crucial opening goal it can get ugly. I thought we played well at Old Trafford and could have won but everything went Man Utd’s way. Against Arsenal there was a sense that a spanking was imminent and the Gooners are merciless once they get momentum. The disappointing thing is that we have a very strong starting XI but very little in reserve for Plan B. It was good to see us bounce back against Brentford who have been a bit of a bogey team for us over recent years.

Chris Wheal: I have no problem with losing by six goals as long as we play dynamic and lively football. But when we play like a Sunday league side, it sticks in the gullet. The tactic of hunkering down, passing the ball backwards and sideways, having just 25% of possession and territory and getting one break every now and then that results in a goal was shown to be the Emperor’s new clothes. We had been kidding ourselves we were a top six club. We showed we were mid-table at best.

Bradley Holland: Man United have been shrinking violets for the last six years, and their wins are usually poor refereeing – i expect us to play better than them. Arsenal as well have only managed to beat us in the past few years by luck, and with our two wins against them in the first half of the season, I expected us to do better. Perhaps Arteta was still smarting from those wounds and performed a deep analytical dive to expose us the way they did. It hurt more than usual as i was revelling in the schadenfreude of Rice losing to the Claret and Blue. Both winnable games – poorly done.

Burnley, Villa, Newcastle and Spurs coming up in March; Do you fear the worst? How do you think we’ll get on?

MW: Last month I said five from fifteen and got pretty close. Three of those teams are chasing Europe and one is battling against relegation. But I’m being optimistic and believe we could come away with six points. Let’s not forget our squad is thin and the chances of qualifying for Europe through the league will be a tough ask. I believe we will focus totally on Europe and sacrifice the league. Let’s hope someone beats Liverpool in Europe. If they do, I think we have a chance.

DM: We are so unpredictable just now that we could get two points or nine. I think the Freiberg game must take priority. On our day, we can take on anybody in the Europa League.

CW: The Brentford triumph signalled a different way of playing. Some said Nolan, rather than Moyes, took charge. Only Zouma was a weak link – the way he played it’s hard to believe he kicked that cat. He’d miss it now.

BH: I agree with David – we’re unpredictable currently or as we always have been. I could see four points coming from a draw with Newcastle and a win against Burnley but who can say?  Freiberg is important – I’d love to see us end in sixth place, but is that a dream?

Do you think we’ll get through to the next round of the Europa League?

MW: It’s a disappointing draw as we have already played and beaten Freiburg twice already. Some will see this as an easy draw but the Germans were difficult opposition and they too will see this as a favourable draw. If we are not complacent, we should get through but if we are then we could be in for a shock.

DM: The draw looks favourable, and at home for the second leg is a big advantage. They struggled against our lively attack – if Paqueta, Bowen and Kudus are fit we should be too strong for them once again.

CW: Yes. Sullivan and Brady want our cash. My seat for the first Freiberg game was £30. Now the same team costs me £50, and was sold as being at 8pm but has been moved. The focus is on making money so they will want to win so they can sell me my seat at £70 next time.

BH: Is Freiburg a banana peel waiting to happen? I don’t know. Having beat them twice, are they due for a win this half, as Arsenal did? Are they studying every move we make, analysing every video to take back what they lost earlier? It’s an unfortunate draw for both sides I feel, as we will feel it’s winnable but unlucky, and Freiburg will see their chances unlikely due to history.

Remind us what your stance was on Moyes at the start of the season? Has it changed over the course of the season?

MW: My stance was that winning a European trophy saved him. I felt he would have left if we had lost that final. It’s a bitter pill that European football has meant that we have sacrificed entertainment and other competitions this year. My stance hadn’t changed. I felt Moyes had taken the team as far as he could and still feel that way.

DM: I think Moyes is a good manager and an excellent human being. His footballing philosophy has become less potent as forwards get so many soft free kicks and penalties that deep defence with turnover counterattack often falls short. If we want to be truly top six, we will need to adopt a more expansive style than Moyes can deliver. Style players won’t stay at the club under his management. 

CW: I’ve always been for keeping managers through thick and thin, like West Ham always did. Under John Lyall, we were down then up again like a bride’s nightie. But the key for me was great football to watch, win or lose. I am sick of the negative play that Moyes seems to enforce. You can see our players don’t believe in it. They want to play great football. We need a change, so either he changes or we change him.

BH: Three-quarters through last year’s season I wanted Moyes gone. With the trophy, I thought it unfair to doubt him though I was sceptical. I can’t forget history, and two salvations from relegation, and three seasons in Europe with some silverware, earns him credit. I think the worst part of Moyes – where most fans have issues – is not just the boring football, it’s that even through his strengths, his weaknesses are very obvious and he makes no effort to change them: late substitutions, diminishing players confidence and careers, and playing defensively after we’ve nicked one goal are all trainable attributes. If he were an employee, I would train him to fix these things, or train him out.

Do you think Moyes will be given a new deal before or at the end of the season? If we were to part ways with Moyes, who would you like to see come in as manager?

MW: It’s an interesting one. Sullivan hates to pay out and with Moyes’ contract coming to an end there would be little pay off. The risk is giving an extension and then things go awry and we have to get rid mid mid-season. Also who would we get in mid season? It’s pretty much now or never. Get rid at the end of the season or give a one season extension. As for next manager Xavi Alonso please, oh wait a minute he’s probably off to Liverpool. The front runner seems to be Will Still who is doing remarkably well in France. I think I would prefer Still over the other favourite Graham Potter 

DM: This season is far from over for us as a good Europa League campaign should go deeper and we are not far off a top six spot if we can recover our form. If we get a European spot Moyes will stay. If not, we may look for a more expansive coach. Our squad is so international that I suspect we will look to a foreign coach. 

CW: I think we’ll stick with Moyes.

BH: Moyes seems suited to bootcamping a team, making them sturdy and strong and pushing them through struggles to reach a state of consistency, but his talents end there. He is good for relegation and scraping through. I’d love to have a secondary manager who takes over when we’ve established a baseline that Moyes provides, to build on, and get expansive. It’s a shame you can’t use two different managers to hone and shape the team for different stretches.

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