Analysing David Moyes’ impact in his first game as West Ham boss as they lost at Watford.
Any hope of a ‘new manager bounce’ swiftly disappeared for West Ham supporters as Watford, who had lost their three previous games, beat them 2-0 at Vicarage Road in David Moyes’ first game in charge for the visitors. Goals from Will Hughes and Richarlison mean West Ham remain in the relegation zone and Moyes knows he has much work to do.
“I think most people would have expected something like that because that’s the way it’s been,” Moyes told Sky Sports afterwards. It was a true enough statement but precisely the sort of negativity that drew such criticism during his ill-fated season in charge of Sunderland. Moyes’ job is to change things from ‘the way it’s been’ not merely oversee its continuation.
But were there some positive signs for the new boss? While the result was a bleak one and the style of play was hardly inspiring, there was at least some evidence of change…
“The better team won the game, I won’t say different, but we had chances to change the outcome of the game,” added Moyes in his post-match interview with Geoff Shreeves. There can be no denying that. Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes produced a remarkable triple save to deny Marko Arnautovic during the first half to prevent an equaliser.
Moyes admitted he was disappointed with his side's finishing against Watford
Cheikhou Kouyate also spurned two clear-cut openings. Indeed, according to Opta, it was West Ham who had the game’s three big chances to score. That is more than they managed in all but one of their matches under Slaven Bilic this season, while they also became only the second side to prevent a clear chance for Watford at Vicarage Road this term.
Prior to the weekend, West Ham ranked last but one for distance covered in the Premier League and last for high-intensity sprints. Not everyone places huge stock in such numbers but Bilic himself felt it was an issue. “Especially at home,” he said last month, “our numbers of running is not what it should have been.” They had been outrun in nine of 11 games.
So were there signs of a little more appetite to get around the pitch under Moyes? Some of the running stats would certainly suggest so. West Ham covered 115.6 kilometres at Vicarage Road. That is five kilometres more than in any other game so far this season and 10 kilometres more than the 2017/18 average under his predecessor.
Not all of the tracking data was quite so encouraging, however. “We need to do more running that counts and that is high-intensity running and sprints,” Bilic had said. “We need to do more of that.” Instead, the number of high-intensity sprints was actually down. It would seem there is work still to do in order to make West Ham more competitive.
West Ham vs Leicester
November 24, 2017, 7:00pm
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Whether any of this will resonate with supporters who are disgruntled by the appointment of Moyes as manager and, more generally, about the direction in which the club is heading remains to be seen. On Sunday, there were chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” aimed at the players but also choruses of “sack the board” directed at those in charge.
“I said to the players, it’s tough to play when the crowd is like that,” said Moyes afterwards. The West Ham fans would doubtless argue it is equally tough for the crowd when the team plays like that. But it is unity that the club needs right now. And perhaps more than the merest hints of improvement – starting on Friday Night Football against Leicester.