Pre-Match Review | West Ham United (H)
Updated: Jan 10
Sheffield United vs West Ham United - 10/01/2020
English Premier League
The Blades will be looking for their first league win since the 21st of December whileWest Ham will be looking to continue their resurgence under David Moyes.
Last Time Out
West Ham United 1 (Snodgrass 44) - 1 (Mousset 69) Sheffield United - 26/10/2019
English Premier League
Lys Mousset continued his impressive goalscoring run to give Sheffield United a hard-earned point against a West Ham side whose wheels had started to wobble under manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Chances were at a premium in the first half with both sides struggling to make a breakthrough but with the Hammers having the majority of possession. Felipe Anderson had the games first shot in the 27th minute from 30-yards, however, it wasn’t on target and it went over the bar.
It started to feel like a football match was about to break out and the Blades started causing problems for the home side, David McGoldrick almost got his first goal of the season when getting on the end of a Jack O’Connell knockdown from a corner only for Roberto to save.
McGoldrick could have had another but headed it straight at their Spanish stopper and Robinson would then miss an open goal.
These missed opportunities would come back to haunt Chris Wilder’s side just before half time when a rare moment of defensive disorganisation from Sheffield United allowed Andriy Yarmolenko to get on the ball and make a pass through the Blades’ backline, man of the match Robert Snodgrass managed to put the ball past Dean Henderson and it meant that both sides of Sheffield had developed a disliking to the former Leeds United and Aston Villa midfielder.
Billy Sharp’s introduction sprung Sheffield United into life as they looked to salvage something from The London Stadium, Wilder complained post-game that his team were second best to every ball in the 1st half but the eagerness and desire returned in the first half of the 2nd period.
More risks were required and in the 63rd minute Oliver Norwood was withdrawn and Mousset was brought on, meaning that the Blades were playing with a trifecta of McGoldrick, Sharp and Mousset.
6 minutes later the substitution paid dividends, a George Baldock cross was cleared by Issa Diop but only as far as Enda Stevens, who nodded it onto Mousset in the left hand side of the penalty area, Mousset’s finish went across the box and into the bottom right hand corner, his second goal in a week after scoring the winner against Arsenal.
West Ham would then have chances to win the game at the end through Aaron Cresswell and Yarmolenko but it wasn’t to be and Sheffield United would take a well-deserved point back to Sheffield.
What has changed since the last time we played each other?
West Ham United have a new (or new old?) manager for starters, David Moyes has returned to the club to put out another fire in what has been another disappointing season for the Hammers so far.
After the game against Sheffield United, West Ham suffered 3 consecutive defeats and conceded 3 goals in each of those 3 defeats and the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini appeared to be inevitable. The team were looking stale, they had a hapless backup goalkeeper and Pellegrini looked to be a dead man walking (even more so than usual).
Bringing in the son of a former player and an away win over Chelsea looked to have given the Chilean coach a brief reprieve, but it did still feel like it was only a matter of time before he was sacked.
2 more defeats to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal followed and it started to feel more and more likely that they were sleepwalking towards a relegation battle. A 1-0 win over Southampton did very little to improve this and after 2 more defeats to Crystal Palace and a much-changed Leicester City side, Pellegrini was sacked.
Manuel Pellegrini isn’t a bad manager, but it never really felt like he was the right fit for the club. He doesn’t really say much that makes you sit up and take notice and towards the end of his time at Manchester City, journalists would stop going to his press conferences because they were that boring. The minimum expectation from a fan of a club from the hard-nosed East End of London would be that they want to manager to at least look like they have an idea of how to solve their problems and that they care. Unfortunately, Pellegrini had neither.
Some of the blame also has to go to the Director of Football, Mario Husillos who signed the disasterpiece that is Roberto as well as some of the other signings that haven’t lived up to expectations, at least time is on some of the player's side in that regard.
Moyes has joined the club on an 18-month deal and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was disposed of in the summer for another manager. It seems to be something that is happening all too frequently at West Ham. Hire an ‘exciting’ manager, bring in a firefighter or ferryman type character when it isn’t going well and repeat the process again.
Maybe 18 months of stability is just what West Ham need? Someone, to build a foundation and structure in preparation for a great manager who can develop a project? The Everton edition of David Moyes feels like it was a long time ago, especially what followed in his managerial career afterwards but it could just be what West Ham need right now.
"I spoke to him about three weeks ago about it, knowing what would come up in January, and rightly so. If I was in the Championship and needed someone to give us a boost in January and score us some goals between now and the end of the season and saw that Bill Sharp wasn't playing at Sheffield United then I would be asking the question.
Always the decision is with Billy. Obviously from an individual point of view, Billy is disappointed he's not playing.
The decision is with him and if he comes to me and says he needs to be playing then I will respect that. But we need him here as well between now and the end of the season so our need is just as big, if not bigger, as those clubs in the Championship." - On the Future of Billy Sharp
"I believe they will be a different proposition, they had a fabulous performance and result in their first game and then won away in the FA Cup.
Looking at the manager's CV and what he's done, he is a hugely respected figure in the game. LMA manager of the year twice, I think. His record from Preston to Everton for all those years was incredible - Everton were top six continually.
The vast majority of his career he has been successful. The attributes that David Moyes will bring to a talented group of players, I wouldn't bet against them staying up.
We will be playing a West Ham team that has designs on climbing the table and I'm sure they will do that under David Moyes. It will be a different type of game to the one in London. There's a different manager, a different message going into the players.
It would have still been a difficult game under the old manager but now, with that new manager bounce, it is totally different." - On David Moyes
"It does take time, I don't think it’s an effect, it takes time to implement what he wants to do. Mid-season it is not easy to get a hand on things quickly. Getting wins helps but ultimately we have to make sure when problems do come up, we have to cope with them." - On the 'New Manager Bounce' effect
"I have to say I didn't see their success coming immediately in Premier League, but I shouldn't have been surprised because the manager's done a brilliant job.
They've all come up from the lower leagues and shown that they can play in the Premier League, and I think that comes from having a really good team and manager, and they all know what's expected from them.
I quite enjoy seeing managers who have to earn their stripes, prove themselves in the lower leagues, and then they move up. It's not a fluke, and that's why we shouldn't be surprised with how well Sheffield United have done." - On Chris Wilder and Sheffield United
West Ham’s Recent Form
Since Moyes took over on the 29th of December they’ve played 2 games and won both of them, the former Manchester United manager couldn’t have wished for an easier start. A 4-0 home win over a Bournemouth side who appear to be in deep trouble can be seen as the perfect way to start getting fans and players back onside or for the more cynical of those reading this, a waste of a new manager bounce.
The FA Cup probably won’t be too high on the Hammers’ list of priorities whilst they’re in the middle of a relegation battle but Sunday night’s 2-0 win over Gillingham will have helped in terms of gaining momentum. Whilst also avoiding another shock defeat to lower league opposition after being beaten 4-0 by Oxford United in the Carabao Cup back in September.
Friday night’s fixture looks to be the toughest fixture of Moyes at West Ham 2.0 so far and in an upcoming run of fixtures that sees them play Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, Brighton, Manchester City and Liverpool. Moyes will have to start getting results at teams that West Ham aren’t expected to if they want to avoid a relegation battle in March.
Opposition Style of Play
It’s hard to see what Moyes at West Ham is all about after only 2 games, especially ones in such unique circumstances. Bournemouth are Bournemouth at the moment and Bournemouth currently means hopeless and Sunday evening’s game at Gillingham was one where you were going to have to adapt to your surroundings and break a team down who are going to try and make your life difficult for 90 minutes.
During his time at Everton, Moyes was renowned for being an excellent coach who could make a team greater than the sum of its parts. Everton didn’t really have much to spend during his time there but they consistently challenged for European Places.
His Eveton side were organised, kept their shape and every player knew what they were doing. Of course, Football has changed a lot since this period but it was relatively simple, the team defended as a unit. But with players like Mikel Arteta, Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar, they could play a bit too.
They were also a difficult side to defend against, especially when Marouane Fellaini joined the club in 2008 from Standard Liege. At one point during Fellaini’s first season, Everton found themselves without a conventional centre forward, Moyes decided to play Tim Cahill upfront with Fellaini operating as a number 10 playing as a second striker, with both players being very dangerous in the air, it gave them an outlet to get the ball up the pitch quicker as well as a threat from set-pieces.
At Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad, Moyes played a 4-2-3-1 formation but this changed when he managed Sunderland in 2016 and in his initial spell at West Ham. A back 3 was very much in vogue at the time due to the likes of Antonio Conte and most of the division played 3 at the back at some point even if it was only a one-off for some of them. You could also argue that at the time 3 at the back was the best option for Moyes himself due to the quality of defenders he had on Wearside and a more defensive back 3 or 5 can be harder to break down.
In their home win against Bournemouth and Moyes’ first game in charge, he deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation. Had 43% possession and played more long balls than the away side and favoured getting crosses into the box, something that the Blades should hopefully be relatively comfortable playing against.
During his time at West Ham in February 2018 against Watford (a team at the time who were in the top half despite being touted by many as certainties for relegation), they lined up in a 5-4-1 (3-4-3 going forward) and sat back and gave Watford the ball and defended deep, something which we’ve struggled with in the past and something that might be in Moyes’ thought process on Friday. They also played with 3 centre-halves against Gillingham in the FA Cup.
Player to Watch - Mark Noble
Noble appeared to play a big part in the dismissal of Pellegrini and the return of Moyes, in his column for The Evening Standard the central midfielder openly spoke of how they needed to shift away from the tactics of Pellegrini and focus on being more defensively solid and how his words weren’t getting through to the other players in the squad.
Mr. West Ham himself produced a stand out performance against Bournemouth last week scoring 2 goals for his new manager and has been a mainstay in West Ham’s first team since the 2007-08 season.
He’s a no-nonsense midfielder who likes to keep things simple and a leader on the pitch, sticking to the basics to allow the more technically gifted players to express themselves and a player who will champion Moyes’ ideas of being a difficult team to beat before they look to expand on that, after all, Noble himself should be aware of ‘The West Ham Way’.
Noble missed Sunday's win over Gillingham with a knock but is expected to be back in the fold on Friday.
I don’t think it’s going to be a classic by any means but I think we’ll just get past them, 1-0.
Sheffield United to Win and Under 2.5 goals at 11/4 (SkyBet); John Lundstram to be Carded at 6/1 (SkyBet)