With the World Cup official in the rearview mirror, attention turns back to the Emirates and Arsenal top of the Premier League. A fairly productive break with three friendlies, saw the Gunners lose Gabriel Jesus for the next few months after suffering an injury while with Brazil in Qatar. While Arsenal is dealing with numerous players returning from knocks of various degrees, they on the whole appear to be mostly fit outside of Jesus. The club returns with three Premier League matches over eight days leading into the suddenly more important January transfer window.
West Ham returns to Premier League action in 16th place with 14 points from 15 matches and just one above the relegation zone. Before the World Cup break, they suffered three consecutive defeats, 2-1 to Crystal Palace and 2-0 against Leicester City, with a Third Round elimination from the League Cup by Blackburn on penalties in between those two league matches. While squad health across the board remains up in the air as teams return, West Ham has been dealing with injuries to Michail Antonio, Aaron Creswell, and Gianluca Scamacca.
Once again we are talking with Brawley Darbon from The West Ham Way to discuss what the Hammers have been up to during the break, resetting expectations, the January transfer market & the upcoming match.
TSF: West Ham’s last competitive action was a 2-0 loss to Leicester City in the Premier League. During the past six weeks, what has the squad been up to?
The West Ham Way: West Ham have played three friendlies this World Cup break. They beat Cambridge 4-2, topped Udinese 3-1, and drew 1-1 with Fulham. Benrahma and Bowen have been the two stand-out performers during these friendlies, so that is promising to see.
I just hope the squad comes back recharged, refreshed, and ready to fight. I know nobody wants to admit it, but we are far too close to a relegation battle than we should be. The World Cup break honestly has been so refreshing to me as a fan, not having to deal with the drama and the negativity we’ve had this year as a club.
TSF: They enter Boxing Day 16th in the table, just one point above the relegation zone. Having seen the first few months of the season, reset your goals or expectations for the club for the remainder of the 2022-23 campaign.
The West Ham Way: For me, our squad is far too good to be where we are at in the table. This team shouldn’t even be within ten points of the relegation zone. My goal now is to finish in the top ten and make a serious run at the Europa Conference League, hopefully coming away with our first silverware since 1980. I’d even take finishing 17th and winning the Conference League at this point.
TSF: The biggest issue seems to be finding goals, having given up just 17 goals, which is tied for the fourth-best defense. It’s the 12 goals from 15 matches that see them struggling for points. How many David Moyes reverse that attacking pattern in the second half of the year?
The West Ham Way: David Moyes is well and truly on the hot seat. I wanted him out before the World Cup break. I believe he has taken us as far as he possibly can, and does not have the skill set to get the absolute best out of an attacking lineup. Specifically, he doesn’t know how to use a proper number 9 striker like Gianluca Scamacca. I don’t understand why we bought all of these players in the summer if Moyes can’t get the best out of them, and then they don’t even see the pitch! He’s already proven this with Sebastian Haller who was a special talent but “didn’t fit the system” and has gone on to prove that he is quality, and we’re seeing the same symptoms with Scamacca who is Italy’s starting striker!
If we are to improve this season and turn things around, Moyes HAS to stop playing his favorites and change his system to play players like Scamacca, Paqueta, and Benrahma’s strengths. Tomas Soucek has started EVERY Premier League game this season and continues to put in poor performance, after poor performance. That goes for Jarrod Bowen as well, who has been a massive disappointment this year. We’ve got to play our best 11 and drop players who are out of form.
TSF: Between the World Cup break and the extra time to evaluate squad needs, it should be an interesting January transfer window. What are the key positions that West Ham needs to address next month?
The West Ham Way: After spending roughly £165m in the summer, I cannot see us spending much at all in this winter transfer window. Which is another reason why this season has been such a letdown thus far. Positions that need addressing are definitely LB, RB, and probably another Striker seeing as both Scamacca and Antonio are dealing with injuries at the minute. The reality is we actually do have a decent squad. On paper, probably the best-ever West Ham squad we’ve had. Moyes has to start getting the best out of them. He bought these players and seems lost on how to use them. If we do invest in Jan. I suspect it will be exclusively loans or bargains.
TSF: And finally, give us your predicted starting XI for the Boxing Day match and a final scoreline.
The West Ham Way: As far as a starting 11 goes, I can tell you what lineup I’d pick, but Moyes will more than likely pick a different, more negative lineup.
I would go: Fabianksi; Kehrer, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Downes, Rice, Benrahma, Paqueta, Bowen; Scamacca (depending on fitness, if he isn’t, hopefully, Antonio will be fit)
Thanks to The West Ham Way podcast for talking ahead of the Boxing Day clash.