West Ham United

West Ham United

Premier League • England

David Moyes: Sack or stay? Reasons for and against West Ham making a change

David Moyes looks despondent during the defeat to Arsenal with a prominent Arsenal badge alongside him.

David Moyes is coming under mounting pressure at West Ham United, but should the club stick or twist?

It was the moment the West Ham United fans’ patience with David Moyes finally snapped.

As Arsenal scored a third goal in the space of six minutes to establish a 4-0 lead on the stroke of half time on Sunday, thousands of West Ham supporters headed for the exit.

It was a damning reflection of how Moyes’ tenure has rapidly drifted since securing West Ham’s first major trophy in more than four decades in 2023. But should the club act now? Here are the key reasons for and against sacking Moyes…

For: He lacks ambition

A 6-0 defeat at home to Arsenal may have been the tipping point, but in the eyes of many supporters most of the damage to Moyes’ reputation was done in December – and all of it was self-inflicted.

The Carabao Cup quarter-final tie away at Liverpool represented another opportunity for West Ham to dream, yet Moyes’ decision to rest a number of key players was inexplicable and left him exposed to intense criticism when a 5-1 defeat swiftly followed.

Supporters do not tend to take kindly to such wilful acts of subordination, not least after paying to make the trip to Anfield just five days before Christmas.

It was a curious decision by Moyes, surely aware from his experience of last season just how much joy a cup run – let alone lifting the thing – can bring to a support base.

Moyes would no doubt point to West Ham’s consecutive league victories over Manchester United and Arsenal over the busy festive period as evidence that his decision to rest first-team players for a mere cup tie was justified, but that would miss the point.

All the fans want, all they really ask for, is a reason to dream.

Against: He delivered a European trophy to West Ham

Oh, but how fickle those fans can be.

It was only eight months ago, after all, that Moyes ended West Ham’s 43-year wait for a trophy, beating Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final in what was the crowning glory of his managerial career.

West Ham United, European champions: who’d have thought?

Yet Moyes was the man who made it happen.

Some, of course, will argue – and with some justification – that the Conference League is a third-rate European competition and that silverware amounted to a sticking plaster over a tenure already turning stale.

His achievements last season entitle Moyes to a certain level of respect, though, even if his stay at West Ham may well be nearing an end.

For: Style of play is too cautious

Moyes’ instinctive caution not only manifests itself in sacrificing league cup quarter-finals, but on the pitch too.

In the modern era, a well-coached attacking team will almost always overcome a well-coached defensive team.

It is why Jose Mourinho, for all his achievements, no longer finds himself in contention for the top jobs and why the fans’ frustrations with managers like Moyes – see Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace too – tend to rise to the surface so much faster.

Dinosaurs?

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A little harsh, maybe, but the greater ambitions shared by clubs and fans today mean managers of Moyes’ more conservative mindset are increasingly persona non grata.

People just want – no, now expect – more from their clubs.

At worst, there is an air of resignation – of getting out of there with the lightest possible beating – when survival teams like Moyes’ West Ham turn up to play the bigger clubs.

And on the occasions when one runs riot, as Arsenal did at the London Stadium on Sunday, what really is there to cling on to, to believe in?

There lies the great peril of low-risk football.

Against: What do West Ham fans expect?

Haven’t you seen the Premier League table lately?

Even though they are yet to register a Premier League win so far in 2024 – a run of five games and counting – West Ham still sit eighth, level on points with Newcastle United and ahead of Brighton and Chelsea.

With the possible exception of Aston Villa, flying under Unai Emery this season, there is no reason to expect West Ham to be above any of the clubs currently ahead of them.

If eighth in the Premier League, a domestic cup quarter-final and five wins from six in their Europe League group is no longer good enough for West Ham, then what is?

Could it be that the expectations of fans have been blurred by the success of last season?

For all the doom and gloom surrounding the club right now – it is never far away – West Ham’s season is going just fine.

For: West Ham’s squad is capable of more

The Aston Villa comparison is a particularly uncomfortable one for Moyes, for when compared directly the West Ham squad is no worse – and arguably even more talented – than the players Emery has to work with.

With such stars as Lucas Paqueta, Mohammed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen, there is a convincing argument that West Ham have some of the most gifted creative and attacking players outside the Premier League’s elite clubs.

Which raises the key question: could a more offensive, expansive, Emery-level coach achieve more with this group of players, potentially even putting West Ham in a position to intrude on the Premier League’s top four too?

Having assembled an impressive squad, there persists a nagging suspicion that West Ham’s vast potential is being wasted with Moyes in the dugout.

A more progressive appointment might just harness West Ham’s flair and let that talented team off the leash.

Against: Moyes effectively guarantees Premier League safety

West Ham have been here before, of course, steady as they go with Moyes but with a keen eye on a more thrilling ride.

Moyes was previously let go by West Ham in the summer of 2018 after steering the club away from relegation, only for the club to turn back to him 18 months later when his replacement Manuel Pellegrini – not exactly anyone’s idea of excitement – was sacked.

It would be understandable, then, if the West Ham hierarchy are wary of letting Moyes leave so freely a second time.

Nobody in the Premier League wants to find themselves in the same situation as Crystal Palace, now back with Hodgson in the dugout almost three years after wishing him a happy retirement.

Over recent years West Ham and Palace have both been stung in attempts to become more adventurous, quickly reverting to the tried and tested after their grand plans backfired.

The story of last season is instructive for West Ham, whose Europa Conference-winning squad – Paqueta, Bowen, Declan Rice and all – only avoided relegation from the Premier League by six points.

Historically, West Ham have had a relatively high ceiling but an equally low floor and the riches available in the Premier League are much too great for clubs to gamble unnecessarily.

The fear of a post-Moyes misstep going horribly wrong – the image of that stadium sitting half-empty in the Championship wilderness – could be enough to convince West Ham to stick with what they know.

The upside of sacking Moyes could be great; the consequences for getting the next appointment wrong risk being even greater.

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