Without a Premier League win since the end of September and firmly rooted in the relegation zone, West Ham United must have seen the fixture against fellow strugglers Everton at Goodison Park last month as the ideal opportunity to pick up a positive result to turn their season around.
The Merseyside outfit came into the clash with one victory in their previous 12 games, and they had just suffered successive 5-1 and 4-1 defeats against Atalanta in the Europa League and Southampton in the top flight respectively.
Confidence was at an all-time low for the Toffees and it was one of those situations where the players’ heads went down as soon as they conceded a goal, often leading to a collapse.
Despite the announcement that the huge match would be caretaker boss’ David Unsworth’s final one in charge before Sam Allardyce took the reins, the Irons players knew it was a great chance to pick up a much-needed three points and that they had to stand up and be counted.
David Moyes’ men travelled to Goodison Park on the back of a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the London Stadium, where they recovered from conceding an early goal to pick up a well-deserved point.
There were certainly shoots of recovery and even though they were missing injured trio Jose Fonte, Javier Hernandez and Andy Carroll for the trip north, there still would have been an expectation among their supporters that they could pick up a positive result.
With characters like Winston Reid, Joe Hart, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pablo Zabaleta in the starting XI you thought that West Ham had the players with leadership and experience to step up on Merseyside, but it never happened.
A hat-trick from Wayne Rooney and a late Ashley Williams header consigned them to a shocking 4-0 defeat, although they would certainly have been thinking about what might have been had Manuel Lanzini not missed a penalty when the score was 2-0, or Aaron Cresswell hadn’t have seen his fine effort hit the woodwork.
4-0 was how it did end however, and the poor performances from Kouyate, Pedro Obiang and Angelo Ogbonna among others showed that West Ham need to do some serious work to their squad during the January transfer window.
The display in the defeat to Manchester City on Sunday was improved, but the Irons lacked those leaders that could have helped them hang on when they went a goal up against the Premier League leaders. Someone that would have led them up the field when they were constantly dropping too deep in the second-half.
Mark Noble has this ability of course, but his showings this season suggest he isn’t good enough to be a starter anymore, and it means that Moyes will be looking for leaders with Premier League experience in the New Year.
The Scot will need to be backed by the board that has given him the task of helping the club to survive this season, and they shouldn’t be thinking about anything beyond that at the moment.
West Ham have already been linked with Bournemouth’s Harry Arter and West Bromwich Albion’s Jonny Evans, and those are the kind of leaders and players with battling qualities that they require to fight for results on the pitch and get the London Stadium crowd right behind them.
While Arter and Evans would be great additions in January, the east London outfit should also be looking at other strong individuals like Watford’s Troy Deeney, who hasn’t been a regular under Marco Silva at Vicarage Road, while players like Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross and Brighton and Hove Albion’s Lewis Dunk could also be effective signings for the backline.
Of course, buying those players certainly wouldn’t be cheap and Moyes is relying on David Gold and David Sullivan to give him the money that will prevent the club falling into the Championship, because that is a real possibility this season based on what has happened so far.
If the Scot has to sell players like Andre Ayew and club-record buy Marko Arnautovic first then so be it, but if he doesn’t buy some leaders and players that are willing to put their body on the line for West Ham before February 1, then it is looking increasingly likely that the Irons’ six-season stay in the Premier League will come to an end.
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