This coming Saturday, the club will face it fiercest test yet as the team battle against Southampton who are in similar predicaments themselves…the battle is for survival in the Premier League and for the souls of the supporting masses. David Moyes is in the unenviable position of trying to find his best starting eleven for the task at hand and deciding whether to continue with his defensive formations or to change tack and go hell for leather.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy
The friendly against Dagenham and Redbridge revealed some home truths for the coaching staff and for the rest of the fans too. Within the ranks there are some very talented prospects who are not only eager to please and desperate to play, but they also demonstrate a composure more associated with the elder statesmen in the game.
Of course this was not a true test of their metal, however it was a good indicator that the future may not be as awful as many might fear. There are those who would dismiss this appraisal and would be reluctant to even discuss the notion of injecting the youth into the upcoming matches…surely there is too much at stake to entertain such frivolity?
There are undisputed truths that cannot be ignored…there have been team performances all year that have not made the mark, and individual displays that have left a sour taste in the mouth. Even Moyes has hinted that if it were not for such a thin squad, then a few of the senior players would have been dropped a lot sooner, however there would also be able replacements at the ready if only Moyes were brave enough to employ them.
Declan Rice has already shown this season what a talent he can be and is one of those utility players that can slot into most positions and perform really well. He alone should be in every starting line up now and replace the perpetual underachieving Kouyate. The club have reached a point in the season where there be no time nor room for sentimentality…it is too crucial to persist with players and formations that simply are not working, so the change is a necessity!
Josh Cullen also deserves a spot, at least on the substitutes bench, if not in the starting line up. He is not the child that many would assume he is…and if he is good enough for an international call up, you might think he is good enough to feature in the first team squad too.
For the last three or four seasons it has been notable that many of the youth players have not featured in as many games as people would like, especially those who believe in developing and nurturing a youth system within a club. I too believe that over a period of a season, any club must drip feed youth into games…if only for a remaining ten minutes or so. The long term benefits outweigh the short term goals.
As opposed to spending £30million on a player or chasing foreign players that would rather go shopping as opposed to putting in a shift for the club, why not embrace the youth and make them the focus in the future of the club? Of course there has to be a balance…and that balance has been lacking for some time, both in terms of age distribution and talents too.
The current team has too many deficients within it and the step up that Moyes injected has started to ebb away since the Watford victory. The Liverpool result was almost expected but it could and should have been a lot tighter, however Swansea and Burnley were simply not good enough…irrespective of what distractions there might have been…and let’s not forget this has been a whole season of underperforming…not just a few recent games, so the players and management cannot excuse themselves so readily.
West Ham have become a team that have housed the ‘skillers’ and the ‘trickers’ but have neglected the fighters and the no nonsense ballers. Apart from Mark Noble, possibly James Collins and Zabaleta, each and every player could be accused of lacklustre performances…however in some of their defences…they have been played out of position on too many occasions. Cresswell has come under much criticism in recent months, however for the most part he has performed well in a position that is not his own. Of course he is likely to make mistakes, but he should be judged when in familiar territory or moreover the manager should burden the blame for making these decisions and continuing with his three central defender back line.
Big questions need to be asked now of all the players…young or old, those who start and those who languish on the bench. However, Moyes has to conceive a plan that will bring back some steel to the play and make it a more effective attacking outfit whilst being more resolute in defence. There is only one option in that regard and that is to change the formation and to bring in the youth and squad players in central positions. Play four at the back, Rice, Cullen as defensive options whilst Hugill as a ‘back to basics’ striker who could partner up with and feed Hernandez to net a few goals.
The midfield must be stronger and more purposeful but more willing to play higher up the pitch too and support the strikers in their endeavours. Every player who wears that shirt knows of the importance of such encounters and how fans emotions will be running riot, but they must be clear in focus and not play as the failing individuals but rather as a cohesive unit. The fans must look to the club captain; Noble, to be the leader on the pitch that every knows him to be. He can drag everyone forward, encourage and console from the centre of the park and lift the spirits of both player and fan. Moyes has to look within himself and make aggressive changes to his starting positions and in his substitutions…play the young and work the old!