Graham Keeffe > West Ham look as though they are ready to keep everyone guessing right up until the last day as to whether European football will be played at the London Stadium next year. After conceding to Brighton on Saturday, the Hammers have now gone 9 games without a clean sheet. While injuries have contributed to this poor return, game management appears to be a real problem for Moyes and the players.
Against Arsenal back in March, the Hammers raced into a commanding 3-0 lead with just over half an hour played. After a sublime opener from Lingard, West Ham took control of the game and made a sleepy Arsenal defence pay. Despite Arsenal pulling one back before half time, the game should have been a shutout. Instead, calamity ensued. An own goal and a late Lacazette equaliser saw the spoils shared at 3-3.
The inability to hold the ball severely cost the Hammers in the second half, as they repeatedly invited pressure by needlessly giving away possession and unnecessary fouls in their own half. The experience of holding on to a lead was simply not there. This topsy-turvy form continued in the ensuing games against Leicester and Wolves, only this time, the Hammers managed to outscore both opponents 3-2.
Yet, against Newcastle, the price for poor defensive form was finally paid. Having lost Rice and Cresswell to injury, the ball playing abilities of the centre backs were exposed for what they were. Without Rice building up the play and acting as the link between midfield and defence, Ogbonna, Dawson and Diop were pressurised to a much greater extent into making poorer passesand kicking it long to clear. Similarly, without the outlet and additional cover of Cresswell on theleft, the likes of Saint-Maximin and Almiron were able to wreak havoc and expose the lack of pace at the back. With Dawson seeing red, the Hammers were unable to get anything from the game and lost 3-2, making it 10 goals conceded in 4 games.
Over the past year, Moyes has taken the club leaps and bounds in the right direction. He was given a very limited budget and arguably made two of the signings of the season in Soucek and Coufal. Dawson, despite his recent shaky form, has also proven himself to be a key component of the squad and real value for money. His transfer was made permanent for a reported sum of £2-2.5 million. However, fans are under no illusions that the squad is extremely light. Injuries and player fatigue have exposed just how serious this issue is at the club. It is perhaps also time to look at the goalkeeping situation. Fabianski has been a stalwart servant to the club but at 36, a long-term successor to the Polish international is needed. It does not appear as though young Nathan Trott is preferred by Moyes so as such, this should be a priority for the summer transfer window.
With lacklustre displays against Everton, Chelsea and Brighton, West Ham have unfortunately missed out on the opportunity to play in the Champions League, but the dream of playing in the Europa or new Conference League is still very much alive. With the final home game of the season being played in front of fans, achieving this would truly cap off what has been a fine season for the Hammers.