Those expecting David Moyes to turn West Ham’s dwindling season around instantaneously were left disappointed on Sunday. The Irons showed greater resilience and industry than in recent weeks but still succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Watford, who found the net after just eleven minutes and then extended their lead midway through the second half.
But as is always the case when there’s a change in regime, Moyes’ first ninety minutes highlighted how some have benefited and some have suffered from him taking the helm. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from Moyes’ first game in charge.
With Javier Hernandez absent through injury and David Moyes clearly taking a more organised, direct and defensive approach than his predecessor, Andy Carroll was given the perfect opportunity to prove he can be the new Hammers gaffer’s attacking focal point. But after just a matter of seconds, the towering striker made it abundantly clear he lacks the temperament to be relied upon in that role, catching Martin Zeegelaar with his elbow.
After another aggressive aerial challenge shortly after, Moyes had to call Carroll over to the touchline and instruct him to calm down. In fairness, Carroll was isolated for large periods and occasionally worked wonders to try and bring the team forward.
But it was the moments where he let frustration get the better of him that were the biggest concern; West Ham have the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League this season and their current standing doesn’t allow for any more liabilities. Diafra Sakho may well get the chance to start next time out.
It may have ended in agonising pain after what looked like a rather vicious hand injury but Sunday represented easily Marko Arnautovic’s best Premier League performance in a West Ham shirt.
The club-record signing still struggled to impact for significant portions of the match and he missed two glorious chances to finally open his account for the Hammers. But the good news is that the Austrian forward at least found his way into scoring opportunities and he was a crucial figure in arguably the best attack of the match as the Irons passed their way through a Watford defence to force two brilliant saves from Heurelho Gomes.
There remains a long way to go before Arnautovic wins over disappointed supporters and justifies his price tag, but the performance against Watford was a clear step in the right direction. Moyes will be slightly concerned with his reluctance to track back at times, though.
West Ham’s setup suggested Moyes is ready to sacrifice Manuel Lanzini’s undoubted technical and creative qualities for the sake of the team.
The playmaking Argentine is unquestionably at his best playing centrally, tasked with linking the midfield to the attack, but Moyes’ first game saw him pushed out onto the left wing, in a position that doesn’t particularly flatter his skills set and saw him take just one shot at goal and create only one chance in the space of ninety minutes.
That may well force Moyes into a tactical rethink but considering the new emphasis on solidity in the engine room, it’s more likely Lanzini will have to adapt his game rather than the manager. Those feeling particularly gloomy might even fret it pushes Lanzini closer towards a move away in January or next summer.
Moyes’ decision to throw on Arthur Masuaku for the final twenty minutes shows the Frenchman is at least in his thoughts, even more so considering the Scot had other more attacking options on his bench but still opted to give the full-back a runout on the wing.
It was another decent cameo from Masukau who has impressed from the bench before, creating one chance, completing one dribble and whipping five crosses into the box – two hitting their target. That late flurry will surely put some pressure on Aaron Cresswell who, in contrast, was incredibly passive once again for the Hammers.
The England international has rarely come close to matching the form of his first season in east London and the theory that Moyes’ focus on organisation would give him the platform to start impressing again already seems flawed. Masuaku will feel he’s done enough to at least ask the question of who should start at left-back against Leicester.
David Moyes knew the West Ham job wouldn’t be an easy one before taking it but the performance on Sunday highlighted how difficult it truly is.
There were significant steps in the right direction – West Ham at least resembled something like a cohesive unit for the majority of the match and had it not been for some wayward finishing they could have realistically hit the net three or four times. But Moyes’ post-match comments were telling of the situation – namely, big players with big reputations failing to live up to them for the east Londoners
. If he can’t rely on those for the rest of the season, West Ham will struggle to get out of the dogfight. With Leicester City due at the London Stadium on Friday, there’s plenty of work to be done to turn the Irons’ wayward form around in such a short space of time.
Moyes, however, will feel one moment of good fortune could quickly breathe life and confidence back into a somewhat shell-shocked squad.