Many wouldn’t have guessed that West Ham would be in the midst of a title race this season given their lackluster performances over the past few years. However, thanks to some great player development and tactical choices from David Moyes, West Ham is three points off the top currently. West Ham are amongst the most impressive clubs of this season and they look like they will continue to exceed expectations.

When David Moyes returned to coach West Ham in December 2019, the club was in a dire state, staring relegation in the eyes after the failed managerial reign of Manuel Pellegrini. In a weird situation, Moyes had already been the manager of the club a year earlier. After guiding the club to safety in the 2017-18 season, the club didn’t extend his contract and decided to go with a different manager.

Photo: Getty

Despite the awkwardness of that situation, Moyes has proven his chops in the Premier League once more and forced many to reexamine his failures at Manchester United in 2014. With his time at United being a failure in terms of player development and results, it is quite striking to see how he has transformed West Ham to this point.

In another interesting twist, Moyes has been given the one thing that United refused to give him despite being in relegation battles and that thing is time. One of the big failures of United’s handling of Moyes was that they expected him to be the next Sir Alex Ferguson and refused to give him the time that he needed to build a squad and environment. United has seemingly learned from this mistake and has given subsequent managers a longer window, but one has to wonder how his time at United would have looked had he been given the proper amount of time.

West Ham has given Moyes the time that he has needed to meld this team into a surprise title contender. This time has allowed him to find the perfect formation to get the most out of the players and further their development. 

Since January, West Ham have been in excellent form with the club going from the bottom of the table to a contender for spots in European competitions. This has been largely due to the formation that Moyes has perfected and the players he has played.

Moyes has his West Ham playing a 4-2-3-1 with the team being able to shift from being in total control of possession to hitting on the counter depending on the opponent. This is seen in the club being in the middle of the pack in terms of possession control per game with an average possession being at 49%. By being flexible from game to game, it allows for the team to remain able to mold their approach, rather than being stringent in their tactics.

Caption: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Furthermore, Moyes has created a team that is amongst the best in the league in terms of offense, keeping pace with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. With 23 goals scored so far, West Ham sits third in the league in goals scored while still remaining efficient when considering goals per shot. Not only do they score in bunches, they are second in the league in assists, showing the creativity found in the team.

While never being seen as a defensive team historically, West Ham’s defense has stood against some of the toughest opponents in the league, giving up only 13 goals. A lot of this can be attributed to the choice to play with two defensive minded midfielders who are good enough to cover for both attackers and defenders.

With the tactical side of the team set up, it was up to Moyes to fill the team out with players that could follow his tactical choices. The choices that he has made in terms of player selection has allowed for certain players to blossom.

Arguably the most important part of the formation are the two holding midfielders in Declan Rice and Tomáš Souček. Both players are excellent defenders who are able to recycle recovered balls and launch attacks. This allows for the attacking players to remain higher up the pitch, awaiting their chance to attack without being too concerned about defending.

Moyes has the three more creative players playing as wingers and the attacking midfielder and they have been incredible this season, with a few players improving considerably. Pablo Fornals, who had struggled since his move from Villareal two years earlier, has been in great goalscoring form with Saïd Benrahma also in great form, developing into a top class attacking midfielder. The other surprise has been Jarrod Bowen going from a highly rated youngster to a productive Premier League winger.

Photo: West Ham United

Michail Antonio has played all across the pitch in his career and has never been seen as more than a mid table player who would never be anything more than dependable. Under Moyes, Antonio has been moved to striker and he has scored over 16 goals in two seasons since. This great form has allowed Antonio to be called up to the Jamaican national team and winning the Premier League player of the month twice

With Moyes having completely changed the fortunes of the club, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season turns out for West Ham. In the early stages of the season, Moyes has changed the perspective of many on his own career, as he has again proven himself to be a top Premier League manager. The next team awaiting West Ham are Wolves on November 20th, as Moyes will look to keep his team performing at their current level.


Featured Image: Getty

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