David Moyes may have fulfilled his remit and led West Ham to Premier League safety but today the Scot is looking for his fifth club in the last four years.
Moyes met with senior club figures on Monday to discus his future amid reports that co-owner David Sullivan hosted Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fonseca for 75 minutes at his home at Essex.
Given Fonseca is just one name on a shortlist that also includes Rafael Benítez, Manuel Pellegrini and Unai Emery, it was no surprise to learn Moyes’ time in east London was ended on Wednesday afternoon.
But have Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady jumped the gun over the 55-year-old by getting ahead of themselves in terms of where West Ham are? Or are they right to be seeking a more exciting and adventurous appointment to take the club to where they feel it belongs?
The case for Moyes
When Moyes took over, West Ham were 18th after 11 games, a point from safety and averaging 1.0 goals per game, 2.09 conceded and 0.81 points a game. They finished the season nine points clear of the bottom three with 1.26 goals per game, 1.79 conceded at 1.1 points a game.
The bottom line is this. Results under the Scot showed an improvement and without his input they could well have been relegated.
We don’t know how a different coach might have fared, but we can only work with the evidence in front of us and Moyes did exactly what was asked of him and enhanced the team as a result.
This ignores a number of factors which further boosts the case for holding onto Moyes.
He is fundamentally a defensive coach. It’s what made Everton such a tough-as-teak side throughout his time on Merseyside when he produced his best results as a manager. There are other nuances to how he works but, above all, he is a motivator and an organiser.
His best teams were always built around solid foundations in the centre of defence – Alan Stubbs, Joseph Yobo, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin – added to a strong spine. Yet, from his appointment on November 7 to the end of the season he had West Ham’s best defender for just nine league games.
Winston Reid’s season-ending knee injury sustained on March 3 was a potential Hammer blow to their top-flight hopes but Moyes was able to reorganise and reshuffle and got Angelo Ogbonna playing his best football in a claret and blue shirt and unearthed a rough diamond in Declan Rice.
At the other end of the field he was also, at various times, without one of his most creative outlets in Manuel Lanzini and the striker who fit his style of play the most in Andy Carroll.
The best managers adapt but in 6ft 4ins Carroll, Moyes had his star who was a lover of crosses. Except the 29-year-old was fit for just 405 Premier League minutes after the new manager took charge.
Carroll did secure a crucial three points against West Bromwich Albion and a point against Stoke but was largely ineffectual and forced Moyes to look to a forward who really didn’t fit his traditional model in Marko Arnautović.
The Austrian was being used to highlight Sullivan and Gold’s recklessness in the transfer market. Paying £20million for a maddeningly-inconsistent forward whose goal return at Stoke (22 in 145 Premier League games) was modest and whose career has seemingly been built on potential rather than production.
Except, Moyes took the mercurial Arnautović and made him his attacking centrepiece and the result was 11 goals in 20 games from December 9, and he also served as a mascot-like figure for fans in the stands. He brought entertainment in a season where dourness had reigned. How very un-Moyes.
Other individual improvements could be witnessed in Arthur Masuaku whose best position was unlocked and the Congolese could, over time, develop into one of the best attacking full-backs in the division.
He brought Rice into the picture – albeit with some slightly questionable man management – and also revived the path between the academy and the first team with Josh Cullen, Tony Martínez, Domingos Quina and Nathan Trott all included in matchday squads.
Despite West Ham’s standing as by far the richest club in the bottom half in the table, Moyes had no money to play with in January and was only permitted the loan signing of João Mário and the low-key arrivals of Jordan Hugill from Preston and Patrice Evra on a free.
He was also working against the backdrop of a fiercely divided organisation with poison in the stands directed at the board and spilling onto the pitch with neither Sullivan or Gold fronting up to discuss the fury. Each week it was left to Moyes to deal and try and deflect the animosity.
His reward for that is an early dismissal.
The case against Moyes
Being a football fan is supposed to be fun. Supporters turn up each week to stadiums around the country to essentially have a good time and be entertained.
Unquestionably, West Ham fans would prefer their club to be in the Premier League than the Championship. But what the anger directed towards Gold and Sullivan has masked is a reaction even more dangerous: apathy.
It has, bar the debate over former head coach Slaven Bilić and supporter vitriol towards the board, been a desperately dull campaign. And while the result is top-flight football secured for another 12 months at least, what enjoyment has anyone really got out of it?
Moyes deserves credit for what he ultimately achieved but there is no getting away from the fact West Ham were a desperately forgettable side (along with much of the Premier League in 2017/18, it has to be said).
Arnautović’s moments of magic were glimmers in leaden displays on the field as West Ham averaged the fourth-fewest shots per game (9.8) and, while their haul of 48 goals actually puts them a remarkable eighth in the Premier League, they considerably over performed in front of goal.
As per Understat, their 37 goals scored during Moyes reign was 9.78 more than their xG of 27.22. No other club had a greater differential in the Premier League during that time. With Manchester City at 8.53 (68 scored against an xG of 59.57) and Liverpool at 8.48 (63 scored against xG 54.52) in second and third. Did Moyes get lucky or, like City and Liverpool, was he blessed with incredibly gifted individuals able to score goals most footballers are unable to?
In terms of his role as arch-organiser and shaper of defences, West Ham only managed seven clean sheets in the 27 league games Moyes took charge of. They also underperformed in terms of goals conceded, shipping 45 against an xG against of 39.59.
Granted, a large proportion of that can be laid at the generous door of Joe Hart but West Ham still conceded three goals against Burnley, Newcastle and Brighton and four against Swansea. That quartet are all in the worst ten attacking sides in the league.
Only two teams conceded more than the 16 goals West Ham let in from set-pieces (Brighton – 21 and Watford – 17) and just three allowed more than the 41 the Hammers shipped in open play (Everton – 46, Stoke and Bournemouth – 45). It was just too easy to score against the Irons.
The notion of glorious survival is also tempered by the fact that until May 5 and their 2-0 win over out-of-form Leicester (one win and one draw from their final seven league games), the Hammers were very much in danger of dropping back into the bottom three.
Their little unbeaten run of two wins and a draw from their final trio of matches added a nice gloss to the season but it also papered over some severe cracks.
Moyes unquestionable succeeded in keeping West Ham in the Premier League but what determined his future is exactly that: what comes next.
Arnautović aside, his brand of football was regressive, he is no longer the strict defensive organiser of old and his work in the transfer market post-Everton would have worried Gold and Sullivan whose own record in that department is patchy.