Ciaran Judge > Be honest, what West Ham fan felt completely comfortable when Tomas Soucek made it 3-0 on Sunday? I would wager not many. This season David Moyes has brought a togetherness out of a squad that is greater than the sum of its parts, and that has masked some significant shortages in the squad. This season a number of players have been outstanding and it’s clear that on form West Ham have a system and the right players to implement the plan set out by Moyes and his team. The issue arises where West Ham suffer injuries or need a change of system. The lack of a Striker is clear and obvious; Michail Antonio has played brilliantly and his commitment cannot be questioned but he is being pushed hard and with his history of injuries that is only going to have one outcome.
In Midfield with Fornals injured, options are limited. Moyes clearly doesn’t trust Lanzini and the inclusion of Noble completely changes the dynamic of the team. With Noble in the side West Ham keep the ball better, but lose the thrust of Rice and Soucek which is so essential to the way West Ham play.
This season we have seen Ryan Fredericks and Ben Johnson played further up the pitch, we have seen Benrahma and Lingard played as a Striker, and Coufal as a third Centre Half. It’s clear West Ham have done brilliantly to be fifth in the League in March given the obvious shortcomings in the squad. The problem is organisation and togetherness will only take you so far. Put the squads from Sunday against each other and ask yourself dispassionately how many of their team would improve ours. The truth is West Ham have massively overachieved and at the same time Arsenal have underachieved.
Money paid for a player does not necessarily equate to a good player, but it does show the difference in the resources of the clubs. Nearly 20 years of Champions League football means that Arsenal have access to the resource to have £72 million Pepe come off the bench. Arsenal had four players they paid 30 million + for in the starting line up on Sunday; West Ham’s resources are incomparable, whether they should be or not is a different point.
Sunday, while exposing our shortfalls, also highlights how well West Ham have done this season. Moyes has squeezed every last ounce out of this team and deserves huge credit. Longer term West Ham need to build on these foundations; we can’t rely on the team over achieving at this rate to compete. Look how often a team has a very good season then follows it up with an average one or at worst a disastrous one. West Ham only need to look at the 2016-17 season as a cautionary tale.
2015-16 West Ham had a standout year. Anyone who had the pleasure of seeing us play that year would have been looking forward to more of the same in our new home. It didn’t turn out that way at all. Some underwhelming signings combined with off field in-stability led the club to the brink of relegation. West Ham are competing with the bigger teams this season and it’s great to see, but in order to do that consistently we need to be smart with our recruitment, pragmatic in our tactics and realistic in our expectations.
West Ham could be on the verge of something great, but we need to move ahead with cautious optimism. I take huge pride from the fact we are competing in every game. How many times have we seen West Ham simply roll over and get battered by teams, this is happening less and less. On numerous occasions this year West Ham have gained points where they would have lost them previously, that change of mentality is essential moving forward.
Sunday was frustrating no doubt – for a while it looked like we were at last going to get the better of Arsenal, a club let’s not forget we have only finished above 10 times in history. It didn’t happen but we need to be realistic in our comparison. West Ham aren’t Liverpool, City, United, Spurs, Arsenal or Chelsea but we are competing with them and hopefully closing the gap while keeping ahead of those around us in the middle group of Premier League clubs. With some more shrewd recruitment I am confident better things are to come for us. In the meantime look at the table and dream….