A glance at the watch, a clasp of housed pea, a sharp intake of breath…puckered lips and blow…This is the end! The match on Saturday against Southampton was to be the judgement day for both teams as each vied for supremacy, salvation and hope…there could only be one victor and West Ham lay in wait to don the winner’s wreath.
“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” – Thomas Aquinas
For three weeks, David Moyes had been prepping his boys to become men, to rise to the occasion and to have clarity of purpose. Injured doubters regained, recovered and applied, whilst returning national treasures prospered beneath homely gaze. Whilst off the field tensions were palpable, the players shrugged off the inquisitors and set mind to task, whilst Noble soared and Arnautovic roared.
This was the performance that would right many wrongs of the season, that would put the club back on track and would bring order to the chaos in the stands. However it would not appease dissenting voices and it would merely delay inevitable inquisition of the three swines sat upon lofted sty.
Many of the claret and blue faithful would question why such a performance could not have been delivered in so many failed incursions throughout the season? How is it that Moyes could field a depleted team and still produce a solid display both in defensive stances and attacking probings? The answer lay in those whom had not featured in the previous games or whom are just starting to find their groove in a tune committed to vinyl ears.
Declan Rice was invited back to play amongst the adults and he taught them a lesson or two of his own. He was neither intimidated, nor likely to put a foot wrong. He linked up well with Zabaleta on the right hand side, whilst he teamed up gloriously with Ogbonna who maybe courted by Italian suitors come the summer…a player whom is very much admired in the Italian national team and by many Serie A clubs too.
Masuaku returned to league action after his six match suspension…almost forgetting what an entertaining talent he has developed into this season. Whilst transgressions are not forgiven, they are locked away into distant memories never to resurface again, he moves on as do the fans. He repaid the club and the support with his superb advances along the left hand wing, linking well with Cresswell and Mario on numerous occasions and notably delivering decent crosses into the box…one such early delivery set up Arnautovic for his second.
This is the kind of end product that fans had been calling for all season, even when many sang his praises for his developing skills and dribbles…this was possibly the first time his delivery matched his ability to receive and go past players…an outstanding return to the fold.
Mario had been improving with each match and would seem to favour less testing battles. With West Ham on top, he showed greater confidence to go on the attack and link in with his teammates; Kouyate and Masuaku in the first half. His positional play was vastly improved on previous outings and his right foot drive from the edge of the penalty area to open the scoring was a work of art. Although in the second half he became muted, there was enough in the first 45mins for him to warrant another outing against Chelsea next weekend.
Moyes will have to ponder carefully for the next match…whom to keep and which to discard. The team is still a mismatch of talents although in the game on Saturday there appeared to be more cohesion amongst the players and improved balance in the performance too. The manager will want to get his players to huff and puff…and blow the Chelsea house down, but may resort to battening down the hatches and hold out against the blue winds carrying missiles.
There would be opportunity to take the game to Chelsea, but the fortunate sons may only be able to extract positive results out of the battle weary and those devoid of tactics and talents. Against Chelsea, this might be a naive attempt to go toe to toe with the current league champions, hence a more mature and muted approach may serve the finest wine at the end of the game. Of course a win would be tremendous but the singular point from a draw would be just as valuable…not losing is the goal in this encounter.
The manager and his coaching staff have to play a formidable game of chess now. They have sacrificed their pawns in too many games…the bishops got rolled over and the knights were knocked off their saddles, so now it is up to the kings and the castles to save face and protect the undeserving queen.
Momentum is calling now with louder voice and Moyes must grasp this opportunity with both hands. He cannot rely upon another spirited performance against Stoke in a couple of weeks as he must aim to take points in each game. He has to be positive as do the players and fans! The performances must reflect the player’s drive to want to survive and entertain the fans both at home and away.
He needs to entrust the starting players to come alive in each match and deliver on promises not of their own…and he needs the fans to support with unflinching praise even if goals are conceded and they become overrun in crucial areas of the pitch.
Moyes must gather his men this week and instil a mentality that is ferocious and will be unrelenting in its quest to find salvation. He must show their fangs and howl at the moonlit sky…they must be the big bad wolf and their wind machine must blow all houses down.