Mitchell Hall > West Ham have found themselves in consistent scoring form of late, registering 3 goals in 3 consecutive matches despite the absence of striker Michail Antonio for the majority ofthose contests. The concerning factor that seems to plague these results however is the tendency of the hammers to leak multiple goals towards the end of the tie, with Wolves and Leicester getting 2 consolation goals and Arsenal successfully completing their second half comeback. A clear cause for concern going into the last few fixtures of the season, such liabilities could realistically mean the difference between European competition or not next season.
Obviously, David Moyes has done and is doing an incredible job with his role at West Ham, however this does not exempt him from all criticism automatically. The team’s tendency to drop off their opposition and invite pressure once they are ‘safely’ ahead by 3 goals is typically what shifts the game in the other teams favour. Whether this be Moyes’ instruction or the team being uncomfortable with such a lead, it falls upon Moyes to drill this instinct out of the team before it costs more points. Even with the 3 centre-backs we currently use, the squad clearly ship late goals when playing that way and jeopardise their points without reason.
One silver lining when looking towards the last games of the campaign is the imminent return of defender Angelo Ogbonna, who has missed recent games due to an ankle injury he picked up in February. Before the injury Ogbonna had been a standout in every configuration of West Ham’s back line and is almost certainly the club’s best and most consistent centre-back. His inclusion in the back line of 3 central defenders (most likely accompanied by Dawson and Diop due to Cresswell’s recent injury) should provide valuable leadership and stability in a consistently shaky setup, and hopefully plug the persistent leaks to keep the European charge afloat. Even if Moyes does not change tactics as he has done, Ogbonna may provide the core of a defensive structure that can effectively seal out the opposition until the end of games, using his experience and ability to marshal his defence and fill those costly gaps.
Ogbonna may be the saviour of West Ham fans’ stress levels when he returns, hopefully before the biggest remaining test of the season against an in-form Chelsea, who themselves are pursuing a top 4 finish, but need every point they can get from a difficult fixture list coming into the final stretch. It is West Ham’s opportunity to squander now, and they must find a way to stop 3-nil from becoming a truly scary score line to hold.