Taking Declan Rice to the next level, transforming Angelo Ogbonna into one of the Premier League’s best and clearing out deadwood… David Moyes has West Ham dreaming of Europe again – here’s how he has done it
- Two wins in one week has seen West Ham go within two points of Liverpool
- David Moyes inspired little confidence taking over but he has since impressed
- West Ham were 17th when Moyes returned to replace Manuel Pellegrini last year
- The Scot is trying to change the targets from firefighting to pushing for Europe
David Moyes was unequivocal before facing West Brom that things were different now. West Ham, he said, are a different side to the one he inherited from Manuel Pellegrini in December 2019.
That side was slumped in 17th, awkward in and out of possession and with little winning mentality to draw on as defeats piled up and fan enthusiasm waned. That has all changed – and much of it is down to Moyes.
‘We’re not the old West Ham any more, we’re the new West Ham and we’re going to try to become even better,’ he said prior to Tuesday’s 2-1 win.
David Moyes (middle) returned to West Ham without much fanfare but is thriving right now
Victory over West Brom on Tuesday saw West Ham rise to seventh, two points off Liverpool
Michail Antonio secured victory with an improvised finish from Andriy Yarmolenko’s header, lifting the Hammers to seventh in the Premier League, just three points shy of Manchester City and two shy of Liverpool, who sit fourth.
Not only is Moyes developing a winning culture he is rewriting history in the process.
Tuesday’s win took them to 32 points from 19 league games this season (W9-D5-L5) – the club’s highest-ever points tally at the halfway point of a Premier League season.
What Moyes is trying to do more than anything is normalise success. That takes time. In the eight previous seasons since their return to the top flight they have ended up with bottom-half finishes in five of them, last year proving to be their worst with 39 points from 38 games only good enough for 16th.
‘I want to be ambitious and try to get us as far up as the league as we can,’ Moyes added.
‘I want my players to not see that this is where we should be, but to compete at the top. We’re happy at the moment but I want this to be regular. Not halfway through the season but right until the end.
‘The players are doing a great job, I’m thrilled to work with them. I want to keep driving them on and not just be a flash in the pan.’
And so the question is, just how has he turned around what at one stage seemed a certain sinking ship? Sportsmail looks at the changes Moyes has made to give fans a team they can believe in.
OGBONNA SETS THE TONE
One of the things Moyes deserves an immense amount of credit for is for taking players he inherited on his return to the next level.
He believed when he arrived back as Pellegrini’s successor that he had a group of players better than the group he had on his departure. The issue was they were performing nowhere near their best – that had to change.
Angelo Ogbonna is perhaps the best example of a player Moyes has transformed.
The Italian has missed just two Premier League games since the start of 2020 and has only been absent for 27 minutes of this campaign after he was forced off against Fulham.
Moyes (right) has transformed players but few improved as much as Angelo Ogbonna (left)
Ogbonna (right) has rid inconsistencies from his game and has developed into a real leader
What Moyes has done is rid the inconsistencies that hampered Ogbonna’s game under Slaven Bilic and Pellegrini. This was a player who was runner-up to Declan Rice in the 2019-20 Hammer of the Year award. He could be the unanimous pick this time round.
‘His levels have gone up,’ Moyes said after the win against Burnley with Ogbonna celebrating a fourth consecutive clean sheet. ‘His level of play, concentration levels and his own ability. He was called into the last Italian squad in the last window, that gives you an idea of where Angelo Ogbonna’s performances have been.’
The biggest compliment that can be paid to Ogbonna is that he is a model of consistency in this side. He’s grown into a leadership role, seen his football IQ develop but more than anything he plays with a calmness now that has seen him become one of the league’s most in-form defenders.
RICE BECOMING KEANE-ESQUE
If Rice can improve his shooting he may well become the best all-round talent in the Premier League.
Clubs are already circling – Chelsea and Manchester United are two of them – and it comes as no surprise to anyone who watches him every day at their Rush Green training facility.
Rice seems to possess the innate ability to make visible improvement every single game. One of the big developments to his game has been a Roy Keane-esque ability to penetrate the lines to drive West Ham forward.
He has always been an able screener of the back four, comfortable slotting in at centre-back if needed, but Moyes has been able to unlock another dimension to his game – and to great effect.
Declan Rice has elevated his game since Moyes took charge and interest in him is immense
Rice has added the ability to drive through midfield, much like Roy Keane (left) used to do
‘He’s doing great for us, he’s a big leader now,’ Moyes said.
‘He’s taken a lot of the weight off Mark Noble. He’s turning out to be a really good player but also a really good boy and good around the club.’
Rice hasn’t shrunk since taking the captain’s armband, in fact it appears to have taken him to greater heights than those that earned him international recognition with England.
He has played every minute of Premier League action this season and is one of Moyes’ most trusted lieutenants out on the pitch, dictating from the middle of the park and maintaining the standards that have led to their greatest halfway points haul in the top flight.
Not the finished article yet but he is a class act and is only getting better under Moyes’ tutelage. Will cost a fortune if he is prised away in the summer.
WEST HAM FINISHES SINCE PROMOTION
2012-13 – 10th (46 points)
2013-14 – 13th (40 points)
2014-15 – 12th (47 points)
2015-16 – 7th (62 points)
2016-17 – 11th (45 points)
2017-18 – 13th (42 points)
2018-19 – 10th (52 points)
2019-20 – 16th (39 points)
2020-21 – 7th (32 points)*
*19 games played
SIGNINGS PAY OFF
There is no handbook in taking over a side mid-season that is down on its luck in a relegation battle and transforming them into one that is now five points off the Premier League leaders.
Every boss would like a formula and it may be Moyes they go to if they need someone to write it.
Not only has he improved players like Ogbonna and Rice, he has also made astute signing after astute signing, all while turning a profit.
Unlike his predecessors Moyes has gone back to what he knows, gone back to what worked so well for him at Everton.
Moyes has targeted run-through-brick-wall type players such as Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen.
Changing the mentality of a football club requires a few key elements: new personnel and a total buy-in for his methods.
Too often in previous regimes at West Ham there had been an overindulgence in flair players that seemed devoid of the necessary fight when the going got tough.
Moyes has addressed that and can say that all of his arrivals have made an impact.
Soucek and Vladimir Coufal arrived together from Slavia Prague for a combined £20m and now look a steal given their immediate success in England.
Soucek, who has five goals already, has played every league game this season. Coufal has missed just one.
Jarrod Bowen (right) arrived in January 2020 and is maximising his potential under Moyes
Vladimir Coufal has made a case to be considered one of West Ham’s best right backs in years
Moyes has gone for signings that make an impact on the pitch, rather than social media.
Take Craig Dawson as a perfect example of this. The 30-year-old joined on loan from Watford in October and since being put into the side alongside Ogbonna against Southampton, West Ham haven’t lost.
Four games. Three wins. One draw. One goal conceded.
Bowen has proven a clever pick-up from then-Championship Hull City a year ago. Moyes needed quick relief as he staved off relegation and Bowen, who scored on Tuesday, looks ready to elevate his game to even greater heights.
At 23 he is an asset for the future and his buy-in to Moyes’ methods is reaping rewards.
CLEARED OUT LAZY STARS
As clever and as shrewd as his incomings have been, key to his regeneration of this side has been those he has sent through the exit door.
Too many showboating stars had found their way to east London and, as Bilic and Pellegrini found, they are not the players who take accountability when results slide.
For every Mark Noble and Declan Rice there was a Felipe Anderson or a Sebastian Haller. That wasn’t going to do it for Moyes and so he cleared the decks.
It spoke volumes that Haller was waved off with a blessing to join Ajax. Anyone would have thought West Ham had made a profit instead of the £15m loss they took firmly on the chin.
Sebastian Haller (left) and Felipe Anderson (right) both failed to win the trust of Moyes
Said Benrahma (right) must show he has grit to his game as well as flair to thrive under Moyes
Haller’s exit leaves Moyes with just one striker in Michail Antonio and yet he felt comfortable to see him move on.
He didn’t work hard enough, plain and simple. Moyes could not trust him to lead the line and so he was of no use to this rebuild.
While Soucek, Coufal and Bowen have quickly become hits with supporters, their hard work every game recognised by all, the signing of Said Benrahma seemed to go against the grain for what Moyes appears to be doing.
The trickster arrived from Brentford on deadline day and while it remains early days, it is unclear if Benrahma has the trust of the manager.
Benrahma has completed 90 minutes in the Premier League just once and the onus is on him now – he has seen what happens to those that don’t commit to the Scot’s philosophy.
Michail Antonio is tireless pressing from the front and Moyes prioritised him ahead of Haller
The Algerian would be wise to listen to Pablo Fornals. The midfielder summed up brilliantly just how Moyes has galvanised a group that were en route to becoming serial losers.
‘It is a little bit of everything [that has convinced us it works],’ said Fornals.
‘Everyone, not just the ones who are playing more minutes, the subs when they come in and the people who are playing not as much as they would want, we are training hard with the desire to do good things.
‘This is the only way to compete and be alive in this tough league.’
Take note, Said.
NO FANS RELAXES PLAYERS
It’s too small a sample size to truly judge but in the one game West Ham were able to welcome some supporters to the London Stadium they lost 3-1 to Manchester United.
It was the Hammers worst home defeat of the season, one of two – the other a 2-0 opening day loss to Newcastle.
Manchester United are Manchester United and so fans or not they could have lost that game. But in lots of home matches no fans has levelled out the playing field and rid players of expectation.
Four home games have been won by a single goal – Fulham, Aston Villa, Burnley and West Brom – and the lack of fans has certainly rid the nerves that inevitably swarm around supporters when matches are in the balance.
Playing in an empty stadium has lifted the pressure of the players, particularly in close games
Moyes’ side are far better organised now to grind out results but there is a freedom that seems to come from playing inside an empty stadium.
The silence, rather than suffocating, seems to be breathing new life into the Hammers.
Of course players, owners and management will be glad to see supporters back, a much-needed normality restored when the pandemic eases.
But few are benefitting without them quite like West Ham are and the freedom with which players are playing with has the dressing room dreaming of Europe.
‘He spoke to us and said there is no reason why we can’t push for the top seven European places,’ Bowen told BT Sport on Tuesday.
‘From where we came last season it’s probably a bit hard to understand but after looking at the performances and the team we’ve got and the results we’ve picked up there’s no reason why come the end of the season we can’t finish inside the top seven.’
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