Apologies, this was written a while ago, so there is some jumping around as I update bits and pieces.
Even though I went to the Arsenal game way back when I didn’t blog as it was a bit of a dull 0-0, punctuated by good defending from West Ham and a chance for Hernandez towards the end, which could have snatched us the win but ultimately it was a nice point well needed for us. This was followed up with a very decent win against a fellow strugglers Stoke yesterday. Bottom line is we have gained 7 points in 6 games and Slaven had 10 in 12 . Moyes has also faced Everton, Man City, Newcastle and Chelsea. Since then we have beaten Huddersfield and West Brom and got a credible bus parking draw against Spurs.
So what has changed ?
The main complaint with Slaven was the constant changing of the team and formation. Moyes has found one that seems to work for now and stays with it whoever the opposition. 3 centre backs, wing backs, a compact midfield and oddly a midfielder up front. This is one area I disagree with. Why is a clearly unfit Antonio is charging after balls, when we have Hernandez or Ayew on the bench? Personally I would play Carroll in a lone role but understand the reasons not to. UPDATE Looks like a I was proved right with Antonio being unfit as now we are trying to get Snodgrass (our own player !) back.
Antonio and Arnie seem to swap regularly now which has improved things but in reality a midfielder by definition will always be to close to their defender to make the run a player on his own up top would. At this rate we will be lucky to hold onto Hernandez post January which is really frustrating for me. He really doesn’t look happy. I think in Jan we will have a clear out of strikers because the boss obviously thinks it’s acceptable to have 4 on the bench , which for payroll alone is madness. But a striker on the pitch means that either Antonio or Arnie have to drop out of the starting line up, which is painful as well. Up until yesterday I would have happily dropped Lanzini, as he was offering nothing. He was MOTM yesterday against Stoke, and involved in all 3 goals, even if he dived for the first (apparently not according to Sky this morning, madness again, EDIT. Now has 2 match ban, so we will see a striker against Newcastle !). So he stays as well. You can see the issue and without dropping a midfielder and popping Antonio into a no 10 (still swapping with Arnie) I don’t not know the answer but am happy to debate it here. Anyone ? Arnie is pretty untouchable at the moment and is slowly becoming cult hero especially after the Stoke game antics. Obiang and Noble both keep their place as they are covering the defense well.
UPDATE, the answer seems to be push Lanzini forward, and bring in Kouyate. Only problem with that seems to be Kouyate. The boy has really lost his mojo. Hopefully temporarily.
The return of Adrian between the sticks has been well documented and you cannot argue with 3 consectutive clean sheets (UPDATE and more). Does this affect Joe Harts England hopes for the WC? Of course it does but the FA don’t pay our bills or run our club, so tough. Adrian brings a confidence to the back line through constant communication, and they seem more comfortable with him there. And he can cover his bottom corners !
So we have everyone is their right places, with the exception of the strikers. Step One Complete.
Step two was the get them confident and believing in themselves for a change. You could see under Bilic that the belief had gone with the Upton Park lights.
Moyes has taken them back to basics and beyond. We all laughed at the video of him showing Obiang how to pass a ball. The guy’s an International midfielder. Sometimes in any walk of life you have to get people to examine the fundamentals of their trade to see if they can still do it in their sleep. We couldn’t, so it was a worthwhile exercise. And has paid dividends in line with the square pegs in square holes philosophy. The ability to do the simple stuff well breeds confidence for the harder activities, and you just have to look at some of the quality passing out of the midfield to see the improvement.
Step three was fitness. we were bottom of pretty much every stat available and still looked knackered. This has been improved immensely and once again the proof has been demonstrated on the pitch. Chief beneficiary for me is Mark Noble, who is starting to look his old self again, and no longer the target of the crowd’s vitriol. For now, still Mr West Ham. You could see how much it means when he scored the pen against Stoke UPDATE and stroked in a goal anyone would be proud of against Huddersfield. . Arnie was probably lazy rather than being unfit, but all of a sudden he is covering ground as well. All down to training ? Some improvement maybe. I think we are not accounting for the influence of Stuart Pearce. Not the best coach in the world but he has played at a level that no one in that squad has, and his will to win, pure passion and rallying of the troops will lift them in both training and the game.
Step Four. Manage. I have mentioned before that for all Slav’s good points, I thought he was trying to be friends with the team, player to player. This will bring short term results but long term, familiarity breeds contempt. From what I understand DM is playing the role of a real manager, and although he is outside with the team during the week, he’s not in their pockets. He leaves that to Pearce and Irvine. Don’t forget we had Slav’s mate and Julian Dicks, we we have upgraded in the back room department significantly
The last step is luck. Every Manager needs it. How about taking over a team and finding out your back up left back is one of the most skillful players in the team. Or actually realizing that Slav built a team that was punching way below it’s weight and you just need to kick them into shape.
So, can Mr Moyes keep this going ? I don’t know, but he knows it’s his last chance. Newcastle at home this weekend should be 3 points in current form, which will give us 20 before Xmas. In Allardyce terms, OK. UPDATE. Carnage and a loss, since been rectified !
Hopefully the board will let him spend (don’t forget he is on a very short term contract) and don’t be surprised if we get some unexpected leavers in Jan. I don’t think he will allow Mr Sullivan to buy players for him either, which has to be a bonus.
So far , so good, and the good ship WHUFC sails on with a canny Scot at the helm, and for now, long may it continue…… Till next