For many parts of the 2016/17 season, West Ham manager Slavin Bilic was under constant speculation of losing his job. What he needed coming into the 2017/18 was a strong summer transfer window and a nice early fixture run. The window seemed meager to many, and the opening fixture run was a nightmare.
Many Hammers fans were hoping to see an eye-catching set of summer signings to launch their new season, but what they got were the following four players;
Pablo Zabaleta (free)
Arrgh Joe Hart Arrrgh (loan)
Marko Arnautovic (25M)
Javier Hernandez (16m)
Not the most inspiring summer window, and four players where each previous club was content to allow a move to happen. All four do offer Premier League experience, but none of them are players moving in an upward direction.
Eleven games into the season with just two wins, it’s no surprise to see Bilic sacked. The club has moved quickly since, appointing David Moyes as the new manager on an initial 6 month contract. Impress, and a longer deal may be on the table.
Already it seems the majority of the fan base are not showing enthusiasm for the appointment. Fresh in their minds are the problems Moyes faced at Real Sociedad, Sunderland, and (of course) Manchester United.
Moyes moved to United with a reputation for building sides and bringing through talent. His profile matched the aspirations at Old Trafford, but given the big-team helm following a title-winning season, he failed to meet expectations and lost his job before season’s end. [In retrospect, United’s slide now looks like the new normal for EPL title holders, but that’s cold comfort for Moyes or his reputation — Ed.]
At West Ham, Moyes is looking to prove that he still is the manager who was good enough to get that golden chance as the Red Devils’ boss. Simple put it won’t be easy. West Ham fans demand a very particular way of playing, wanting an attack-minded approach full of flair, the so called “West Ham Way”. Playing tactically efficient football isn’t to many Hammers fans’ taste, losing Sam Allardyce his job a couple seasons back. Many fans see Moyes as a variation of Big Sam, and that’s not going to help give him time in the role.
The 6 month contract may be sensible, but it doesn’t smack of faith in the new appointment. Perhaps the board already have plans for the summer, but the appointment allows them a plan B. Moyes himself could believe that should he provide a successful spell, he would become attractive to other Premier League sides and maybe even West Ham themselves.
The most commented factors in West Ham’s demise have been the lack of work rate, lack of organization, and many players’ lack of enthusiasm. There are numerous stories regarding these points from both fans and observers.
Chairman David Sullivan commented directly on these issues when explaining why Moyes was given the role: "We need somebody with experience, knowledge of the Premier League and the players in it, and we believe David can get the best out of the players. He is highly regarded and respected within the game and will bring fresh ideas, organization and enthusiasm.”
The reality is that his new club is in a relegation battle, one it could pull clear of before the spring, but maybe not. To avoid relegation, West Ham will be looking for the Everton version of Moyes. Moyes’ spell at Everton proved he could get the best out of his players; they demonstrated work rate and drive consistently. Whether the fans and the board see this as their requirement for the summer onwards is a conversation for the end of the season.
The question now is how we think this will affect the current players and their fantasy returns. Under pressure, you would think David Moyes will look to use what worked well when he successfully managed Everton. Let’s take that version of the man and see what we can predict:
A well organized, hard working unit when without the ball
The Hammers have been so disorganized that it will take Moyes a few weeks to establish a starting 11. A defense that conceded 3 at home to Brighton clearly needs plenty of work. The obvious move will be to play his most experienced defenders. In addition, just playing with fundamental basics such as assigning players to their natural positions can be expected. Though they tried, Kouyate asn’t his best at central defender, nor was Michail Antonio at wing back.
While many teams have moved to the fashionable back 3, I expect Moyes to return the Hammers to a more solid back four. If that happens, the Winston Reid/Angelo Ogbonna duo should start with Collins and Fonte sitting out. At full back, Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell will get the nod.
Supply from wide areas
My memories of watching Moyes’ Everton was of a side whose style was to supply their forward line with a consistent set of crosses over subtle pass-and-move attacking plays. Both crosses from the wings and diagonal balls from deeper areas may be considered by some as a little old school, but many a modern day defender, keepers in particular, panic before such a tactic.
From full back, Zabaleta hasn’t got the legs to get up and down the pitch the way he once did, so Cresswell should be the player given more license and responsibility to go forward. In midfield, Antonio would look likely to return to a wide role when fit.
Goals from the sky
If you are putting crosses into the box, then you need someone who can dominate with his feet off the ground. At Everton we saw a very effective Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini win many games for Moyes. The obvious benefactor in the current West Ham side is the fantasy player who suckers many fantasy managers into buying him, season in, season out: Mr Andy Carroll. Carroll’s current cost is a very tempting 5.9m.
Option two is Chicharito at 6.9m. The Little Pea is good in the air and a real buzz saw of a player. Moyes could chose to play both forwards, with Chicarito running off of Carroll’s flicks and hold-up play. An old fashioned 442 works well, with the big man / little man double in attack.
With Kouayte, Noble, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Redi and Ogbonna, Moyes’ West Ham has a set of players you would think of as hard workers. With Carroll and Chicarito, Moyes has goal scorers with differing, complimentary attributes. What they need is a little injection of quality service, and in Manual Lanzini they get just that. The Argentine is the standout player at the club and is being eyed by the likes of Liverpool.
Lanzini’s return to fitness couldn’t have come a better time for the new boss, and getting the best from him will be crucial. He is a great price in both FPL and Fantrax where he is under 7m. In FPL in particular he opens up options for those of you planning ahead or about to use your wildcard.
We had thought we may be at the point in the season where the explosive elements are to be found in midfield. We have already seen great starts by Mo Salah, the City boys, and big point potential with Paul Pogba, Phillipe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Christian Eriksen. With Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard also back in their sides, many fantasy managers have been trying to find a 3rd cheap forward and haven’t felt comfortable doing so.
As an alternative, along with Wilfred Zaha (6.8m) and Richarlison (6.2m), Lanzini could see you field one heavy hitting midfielder and allow you to field a trio of heavy hitters in the forward spots.
Sam Allardyce wasn’t a great fit for West Ham, but he did the job they wanted him to do. Perhaps David Moyes, unpopular or not, can do the same and reclaim his former reputation.
Do any of the Hammers players grab your attention for the fantasy period to come? Let us know your thoughts in comments below!