David Moyes became something of a laughing stock during his time as Manchester United manager. This was unfair. The Scotsman had established himself as one of the most consistent managers in the Premier League during 11 positive years with Everton, and the weight of expectation following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement would have been virtually impossible for any coach to handle.
While the damage was done during his time in the Old Trafford hot seat, brief and unsuccessful spells with Real Sociedad and Sunderland did not help improve perceptions of the 54-year-old. Now, as he looks to reignite West Ham United's fortunes, he will have to banish those recent memories and call upon the skills that enabled him to do excellent work at Goodison Park.
The circumstances surrounding Moyes’ latest role are similar to those he faced at Everton. West Ham fans can take courage from the fact he managed to steer the Toffees clear of the relegation dogfight to safety, then onto regular competition for a top six spot.
Ultimately, in his 11 seasons in charge of the Merseyside club they finished outside of the top half just twice, broke into the top six on five occasions and cracked the top four once, in 2004/05.
Moyes will want to repeat his work with Everton at West Ham, but does he have the raw materials to do so? Here, Football Whispers analyses the squad he must now work with and considers whether the players available suit his tactics.
RETURN OF THE BACK FOUR
Moyes has never been an advocate of high defensive lines, and so he has no real need for a sweeper-keeper or something similar. He tends to make good use of reactive goalkeepers, meaning Joe Hart should feel comfortable in his No.1 spot.
The Englishman’s stock has fallen of late with scrutiny over his ball-playing abilities only emphasising his distributive mistakes. But he remains a good shot-stopper with sharp reflexes and a commanding persona.
In front of Hart, Moyes will want to build a settled back four. He is highly unlikely to revert to the three-man defensive line his predecessor Slaven Bilić often experimented with; while the Scotsman is reactive, he does have a clear preference for four-man back lines.
He will be able to call upon three centre-backs who have perhaps been let down lately by the lack of defensive structure surrounding them as opposed to any overt individual weakness. Winston Reid, José Fonte and Angelo Ogbonna are all sound operators in the position, and it shouldn’t be hard for the new man in charge to pick a workable pairing from them.
Moyes has always liked his full-backs to provide support in the attacking phase, which is why Leighton Baines was such a vital component in his Everton side. The left-footer was an excellent crosser of the ball, and Aaron Cresswell should perform a similar function at West Ham.
On the right-hand side, however, there is a lack of quality. Pablo Zabaleta is short of the pace and energy to own the flank as he used to in his younger years, while Sam Byram has struggled to settle since joining from Leeds United. In the longer term, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the latter get the nod on account of his youthful vitality.
MOYES' WING FOCUS
Moyes’ attacking setup has often been wing-focused. This was particularly evident at Everton, where he liked to line up in a rough 4-2-3-1 system that involved the nominal wingers drifting infield while the full-backs overlapped.
Michael Cox elaborated on this in his piece for The Guardian in 2013, stating: “One of the key parts of Moyes's strategy is creating overloads – two-versus-one and three-versus-two situations – in wide areas.”
With this in mind, the Scot may be the right man to maximise the talents of Marko Arnautović. Signed from Stoke City for an eye-watering – and club-record – fee of £20million plus add-ons, the 28-year-old has failed to impress at the London Stadium with some fans questioning his work ethic and decision-making.
Moyes should see him as a genuine attacking threat, cutting in from the left, running at defences and combining with the lone striker. However, the player will also have to prove he has the correct mentality and perform his defensive duties, getting back into position to help his team-mates without the ball.
Manuel Lanzini will remain an integral piece within the West Ham puzzle, acting as the main link around which attacks are built. Not only will he drop deep to combine with the two central midfielders, but he will move laterally to offer support to the wide players.
Perhaps the most pressing concern for Moyes will be deciding on who starts up front. At Everton he often preferred players who could combine clinical finishing with brute strength, hence his signature and selection of the likes of James Beattie and Yakubu. However, a similar outlet does not exist in the current West Ham squad.
Javier Hernández is a nippy poacher who comes alive in the penalty box. He has reasonable pace and is an outstanding finisher, but he lacks the strength to hold up and lay off. Alternately, Andy Carroll is an aerial force capable of outmuscling any marker, but he doesn’t have the precision of his Mexican team-mate. The former may get the nod on account of his better all-round game.
Moyes needs to do well at West Ham in order to rejuvenate his managerial career. And, on the basis of the circumstances and the squad at his disposal, he has the tools to succeed.