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When Manuel Pellegrini was fired on December 29 last year, West Ham looked like a team that had bought a one-way ticket to the Championship.
A 2-1 loss at home to Leicester was the Hammers’ ninth loss in 12 games, leaving the club just one point above the relegation zone in 17th place, and legitimately marking the end of the reign of 19 months of Pellegrini in charge.
The Chilean’s failure to elevate the club to the next level was not only disappointing, but potentially catastrophic given the financial ramifications that the Premier League relegation could bring. West Ham seemed devoid of ideas, devoid of inspiration and a disgruntled fan base, long unhappy with the ownership of David’s Sullivan and Gold, inhaled a smorgasbord of toxic fumes engulfing the club.
West Ham then reappointed David Moyes, the man who had been left adrift in favor of Pellegrini in May 2018, as coach on an 18-month contract.
Turn back the clock and there was initial joy when the Scotsman was replaced after his initial six-month ride in the hot seat, due to Pellegrini’s previous title-winning credentials with Manchester City and the fact that he had managed Real Madrid. .
But it quickly became apparent, despite the fact that his presence probably convinced the luxury players Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko to join the club, that Pellegrini was out of practice to improve a team that obviously needed training and technical development. His tenure was a checkered one to put it politely, offering brief spells of positivity but always retaining that underbelly that has been associated with the West Ham sides for as long as everyone can remember.
Another thing you never understood is that Pellegrini completely understood it. At press conferences, he was pleasant in his demeanor, blurted out the old phrase “we have to focus on winning the next game” and was always flawless; but he seldom appreciated the fact that West Ham, despite the beautiful football they could play by stroking the ball back and forth, was often bested and surpassed by teams that were more hungry for success.
Furthermore, Pellegrini, in the end, only seemed to know one way, and the glaring shortcomings in the West Ham squad were exposed in his final months in charge, as a relatively promising start to the 2019/20 campaign soon turned into a total chaos.
Now, all of this is not to say that Moyes is the messiah, or a mischievous boy for that matter, nor is it to say that his return was a popular decision; in truth, it was the opposite. But what we’ve seen over the past 11 months under his leadership is an evolution of West Ham.
It has taken time, as evidenced by the slow start the Hammers made after their return, but what Moyes has been gradually working on, and working with the players, is an identity and a style of play that adapts to what he has to. your disposition and helps prop things up. .
As for recruiting, you have been right. A lot of comparisons are made between Tomas Soucek and Marouane Fellaini, simply because they are 6’5 thugs in the box, but who the hell cares? The Czech is an accomplished midfielder from frame to frame, adding a bit of spring, dynamism and most importantly, threat in the opponent’s area.
There’s also the rapid progression of championship upstart Jarrod Bowen, who was initially designated as a player who could, and perhaps should, level up and score goals. Those haven’t flowed very well, but the 23-year-old has started to find his shooting boots in recent weeks and his straightforward run and pace on the channels, as well as his tenacity and defensive work pace, have helped West. Ham improve in areas where they were previously weak.
There’s also Moyes’s masterstroke decision to turn Michail Antonio into Marko Arnautovic’s second coming. Long ago, the Austrian went from a left wing misfit to one of the most feared center-forwards in the Premier League, due to an incredible pace of work (never seen before, by the way) and a desire to get behind. .
Antonio wasn’t exactly a misfit, but he was a player who had previously been forced to play several different positions, infamous as a winger, by his own choosing, by Slaven Bilic. He is now the center of West Ham’s attacking efforts, and Moyes’ belief, as well as the inclusion of hardworking players like Bowen and Pablo Fornals around him, has made him one of the Premier League’s biggest threats.
For what seems like the first time in an eternity, West Ham has a coherent plan. Angelo Ogbonna is the leader of a solid three-man defense, Vladimir Coufal, another fabulous signing, and Arthur Masuaku’s look fits perfectly in the role of winger and the high-intensity press, led by Antonio and complemented by the likes of Soucek. and Declan Rice, he’s been relentlessly good.
West Ham is far from the finished article, everyone knows it. But a record of eight wins, five draws and five losses, three of which have been against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, since the bland post-lockdown loss to Tottenham in June shows the progress that has been made.
The weekend’s loss to United hurts, but not to be confused with the West Ham teams of yesteryear that can’t cope with the pressure. This is not just a functional site that is now good to look at, but one that can cope with falls, strengthen your resolve, and bounce back.
For that, Moyes deserves a lot of credit – this is a truly amazing change from a team that had hit rock bottom with Pellegrini.
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