In Aesop’s Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, many would look to the story of the tortoise who persisted in the face of adversity and eventually capitalised upon the errors of others. However, the only reason he won the race was because the bloody Jack hare stopped off by a tree to chomp down on some Cadbury’s Caramel whilst being seduced by the hare Jill…tempting and distracting as she was!

“Weren’t you always distracted by expectation, as if every event announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you going and coming and often staying all night.)…” – Rainer Maria Rilke

West Ham faced off against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon at the Emirates stadium and eventually succumbed to the attacking might of the Arsenal attack, however they were in the game for nearly the whole match…so what went wrong? Many fans would not have expected a win although Arsenal have been suffering with a vulnerable defence for some time and they might have been distracted by emotions after Wenger had announced his parting the previous day.

Wenger’s line up was less focussed on the Premier League encounter but more looking forward to the Europa League semi final later in the week and certainly in the first half West Ham did fashion some good chances from long balls over the top of the last defender. It was a pretty even affair although Arsenal were misfiring rather than West Ham capitalising.

Moyes had set up defensively once more with Arnautovic a lone figure up front but ably supported by Mario just behind, however there was still a big gap between the attack and midfield, however this was unimportant as long as those long range missiles continued to trouble the Arsenal back line. Fortune can only last for so long and indeed in the second half as West Ham failed to rise from their half time slumber, the Gunners took great delight in steam rolling the possession statistics in the first fifteen minutes. It was only a matter of time before they took the lead through Monreal…West Ham were at sixes and sevens, the defence was being torn apart, a failure to clear the lines and retain possession became the yard stick of the performance, whilst Masuaku, Fernandes, Mario and Kouyate were having troubling times of their own.

This is where the match was lost!

As soon as the goal was conceded, Moyes needed to react a lot sooner than he did, but he persisted with Fernandes and Mario for too long. Eventually he brought on Hernandez and Lanzini on 60mins and almost instantaneously it was having the desire effect, then Arnautovic pulled away and fired home to equalise. All was well again in the West Ham kingdom…but this is where the Jill hare came along with her skinny jeans and low cut top, wafting her delights in front of the players and they all got distracted on the task at hand.

The intensity dropped and one could sense that Moyes would be content with the draw and a point but this is exactly what Arsenal were hoping for as they continued to probe at the West Ham defence. Kouyate was lethargic and failed to clear lines, Masuaku continued to make criminal errors, but the whole team were ineffective in defence and in attack. This invited the Gunners to roll the dice with a chance to get sixes and eventually West Ham folded after a Ramsey punt which saw Rice duck out of the way and fooling Hart to let the ball fly past him. 

Up to this point Hart had pulled off some amazing saves and reminiscent of the Chelsea match…perhaps this is what Moyes was sensing and would hold out for the draw…but his luck was running out fast.

As soon as Arsenal took the lead again it was all over and the other two goals by Lacazette were inconsequential in tactical terms. They were expected as the players lost their heads, shape and form…even Carroll coming on late in the game did nothing to change the fate of the match…the damage had already been done!

West Ham lost this match because of a failure to capitalise on a weak defence and build momentum after equalising. Although Arnautovic had scored, he was starting to tire quite quickly, becoming ineffective and the team was starting to lose its shape. Moyes should have reacted to this sooner and brought on Carroll earlier to act as a foil to Hernandez but also to help retain possession. The long balls had already started to fail in the first half and Arnautovic…was again isolated whilst the supporting cast played too deep.

This has been a lesson that Moyes has failed to learn all season and the players have been unable to defend against too. When the call is to drive forward, then the call must be to continue driving forward and not rest on the laurels. Being negative only attracts increasing pressure on the defence which will eventually crumble as it did on Sunday. There is one simple message here…”Tell the hare to keep on running!”


By Gonzo

West Ham fan for as long as I can remember. I was flukey enough to watch The Irons beat Bury 10-0 in my first ever game . . . True to form, West Ham then went out and signed their central defender 😬

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