If there was ever a snap in the crunch weekend, then this is it…where fates will be decided and fortunes will be saved or indeed lost. As the rest of the fellow league flounderers make their plays for survival, West Ham welcome Manchester City to the London Stadium and the intention should be to give the Citizens a damn good thrashing, tan their hides and send them back up to the northern lands with their egos barely intact…but is that likely to happen?
“Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend them they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate, so that the injury done to a man ought to be such that vengeance cannot be feared.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
In David Moyes, West Ham have a manager who would fear the Grim Reaper and cower beneath the bedsheets rather than stand tall with sword and shield in hand and charge at the inevitable fate. Manchester City are, of course, a mighty attacking force to be reckoned with, however that does not mean that defeat is assured even before the first ball is kicked? The Hammers’ manager will undoubtedly man the battleship in defensive mode…but is there weight in that argument and can the visitors be beaten at their own game?
It would be absurd to go toe to toe with Pep Guardiola and the resources he currently has at his disposal but Moyes must set up the team to be ultra aggressive in the counter attack plays and ably support the front men if any kind of upset is desired. There has to be a leap into unknown territory for the Scotsman and to take the fight to the bringers of pain and death, because simply sitting back will assuredly result in inglorious defeat.
All season long, the Manchester City players have been allowed to joyfully play with the ball at their feet and rip shreds out of their opponents. Perfection in their innocence, as puppies that bound around the park…but as clinical and vicious as a female praying mantis after copulating with her mate! They are prepared for Moyes and his tactical formations, they know his plays and the players’ strengths and weaknesses…in their minds, there will be no surprises!
This is where West Ham have to think outside of the box, be improbable, be unexpected and launch a new battle plan that will confused and confound…and stun the opposition into submission…what is there to lose as most would already write off the game before it even starts?
Instead of leading the line with an isolated Arnautovic, Moyes should start with Carroll and Hernandez as a two man charge. The Austrian should be brought back into the midfield on the right with Lanzini on the left…and the centre ground to be protected by Nobel and Cullen as an alternative to the hapless Kouyate.
There is method is this madness as it affords potential in a long ball tactical game or to develop opportunities with creativity and industry from the midfield areas. The biggest threat to West Ham is to allow Manchester City to control possession and ball retention has been the major failing of the Hammers’ season. So to have a tall front man whom could accurately knock down balls and feed a goal poacher that is Hernandez…or to have Lanzini and Arnautovic who could drop deeper to receive the ball from a clearing defence or positively support any attacking intentions…could just be the answer to put the visitors on the back foot and usher in a surprise and a major upset.
It goes without saying that the defensive responsibilities of all the players must be finely tuned, however there must be the confidence and positivity to drive forward to relieve the pressure from the West Ham vulnerable defence and a ring rusty Adrian, who is deputising for Hart who is ineligible for the game but would also like to secure his own position in the starting line up for the rest of the season too.
There is a thin line between victory and defeat across the margins of Premier League football and the difference from the skeletal to the gluttonous is merely a matter of confidence, application and desire…with a sprinkling of talent and fortune thrown in for good measure. West Ham are not expected to win…in fact many would imagine anything other than a cricket score would be a decent afternoon’s toil…however, this is the perfect place to be as the opposition will not foresee this change in tactics and approach and may cause errors in their game too, which can be capitalised upon.
David Moyes must come out from beneath the bedsheets and put on his big boy trousers with his Gordon Gekko braces… “Lunch is for Wimps” and an attack at the jugular is the best course of action. Let him put on his Cruella de Vil demeanour; be vicious, vindictive and vulgar! Let him gather the Manchester City puppies as they joyfully play…and make a coat of their hides and send them back home battered, bruised and gloriously beaten!