(written by Ross Daggett)
On the 29th of December 2019, David Moyes was announced as the manager of West Ham United for the second time, taking over from former Premier League winning manager Manuel Pellegrini.
The Hammers were in 17th position, just one point above the relegation zone.
A little over a year on, Moyes has guided his side to 7th place, three points above Chelsea and just two points below last season champions, Liverpool, each having played nineteen games.
From relegation fears to dreams of playing against Europe’s elite, the Scotsman, tipped by Sir Alex Ferguson to replicate his success at Manchester United, has performed remarkably so far. But, how has he achieved this dramatic revolution in West Ham’s fortunes?
Establishing an identity
From his time managing Everton, Moyes gained a reputation amongst Premier League fans for creating a robust, hard-working team which, despite not always pleasing to watch, was effective as he guided the Merseyside club to consistent European places.
His first spell at the East London club reiterated this notion, playing a five at the back formation and relying on Marko Arnautovic to lead the attacks with his strength and relentless pressing.
This system was deployed to help concentrate on their defensive performance, as it was the defence that was particularly lacking when Moyes took over. The system also drew out some of the best performances seen from Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell in a claret and blue shirt.
Now in his second spell, Moyes’ West Ham are enjoying much success from a similar style which focuses on making themselves difficult to break down.
The beginning of the season saw the back five system work wonders for the Hammers, picking up unexpected emphatic wins against Wolves and Leicester, as well as taking a point away from Manchester City.
Although an injury in November, which required knee surgery, to Arthur Masuaku disrupted the system, the transition to a back four was seamless and West Ham maintain one of the best defensive records in the league so far.
This can be attributed to the workman like identity Moyes installed into the players, a vast contrast to the West Ham players under Pellegrini, who were often accused of being lazy and easy to play against.
One of the key factors that have contributed to West Ham’s rise in 2020 have been the transfers.
Previously, the East London side have had difficulties in the transfer market, spending large fees on players such as Sebastian Haller and Felipe Anderson with very little to show for it.
Haller and Anderson did not show enough desire and hard work to fulfil the role Moyes expects of them and have quickly been moved on to Ajax and Porto respectively.
The Hammers boss seems to have taken up a new methodised strategy, rather than the old scatter gun approach, when it comes to the transfer market.
The signings of Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek were vital to West Ham’s survival in the 2019/20 season, being bought in from Hull and Slavia Prague in the January window.
Bowen has added extra drive and much needed goals in the Hammers attack, having a direct hand in 12 Premier League goals since his arrival.
Despite Bowen’s added impetus in attack, the signing of Tomas Soucek was arguably the smartest piece of business done by Moyes.
Soucek has added much needed cover to defensive midfield as club legend Mark Noble heads well into has thirties. Alongside Declan Rice, they have provided excellent defensive cover, for both a back four or five.
The Czech Republic international has also added a different dimension in attack, his 6ft3 frame means he provides excellent aerial threat, scoring eight crucial goals since his arrival.
The summer transfer window also saw two great additions in Said Benrahma from Brentford, Vladimir Coufal, also from Slavia Prague, and Craig Dawson from Watford.
Although being a flair player, Benrahma has done the job Moyes expects of him well, putting in excellent defensive shifts from attack whilst also adding bits of creativity in attack.
Soucek’s Czech Republic teammate, Coufal, has been an excellent signing as well, performing as one of the best right-backs in the league offensively and defensively.
Watford’s Craig Dawson was a signing that didn’t turn many heads as he was expected to play as back up to the back ups. However, he has played remarkably so far for the Irons, conceding just one goal in 5 matches and forming a formidable partnership with Angelo Ogbonna.
Through Moyes’ careful squad rebuild, he has improved the overall quality and depth of players able to play the way he wants them to.
Whilst the players he’s brought in have been essential to the rise of West Ham this last year, Moyes has improved the likes of Declan Rice and Ogbonna to be producing consistent performances.
The most notable player improvement has been Michail Antonio, who before Moyes’s second spell was somewhat of a handy man, he filled gaps in attack but never had a nailed-on position.
Similarly, to his dealings with Arnautovic, Moyes has transformed Antonio into a reliable striker, who is crucial in allowing West Ham to build and finish attacks.
The job Moyes has done cannot be undermined, turning the atmosphere at the London Stadium completely upside down.
Rather than looking worryingly below themselves, The Hammers are only looking up for the rest of the season and with the foundation laid by David Moyes so far. The future is looking bright for West Ham.