David Moyes must beware the Premier League copycats threatening to hinder West Ham United’s progress under him.
Moyes has worked wonders at West Ham over the last 18 months.
The Scot has turned a relegation threatened side into a genuine top six outfit.
But a pattern is starting to emerge which threatens to thwart West Ham’s progress amid rising expectations.
West Ham’s meteoric rise under Moyes built on fast break counter attacking
Last season much of West Ham’s success came from counter attacking.
In fact only Manchester City have scored ‘more fast break goals’ in the last year.
The reason West Ham could counter attack so effectively is that the majority of sides were either expected to beat them and therefore played on the front foot or fancied their chances.
There were a few exceptions, though, with the likes of Everton, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton well and truly parking the bus against West Ham in matches with some success.
Southampton repeated their tactics from the same fixture last year when the Hammers visited St Mary’s at the weekend.
West Ham must beware the copycats as Saints show how to thwart Hammers
And it was the same result, a 0-0 draw. Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl admitted frustrating the Hammers was their goal after seven defeats in the last nine meetings between the two clubs.
Teams and managers are all too aware of the threat West Ham pose now. And the opposition will be increasingly reluctant to ‘have a go’ against David Moyes’s side – particularly sides outside the top seven or eight.
That means West Ham have to find a way to break down two banks of deep lying defenders.
It is what the country’s elite clubs face almost every single week. And that’s why the players who can unlock the door and get the goals are so expensive.
Moyes is shrewd, though, and he will have seen this coming. That is why he has spent £33 million on bringing someone like Nikola Vlasic to West Ham.
Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio will be marked men week in, week out. Teams will feel that if they stop those two then West Ham’s threat is significantly diminished.
Battering rams Antonio and Soucek will be marked men so creative midfielders and Rice have to step up
So Vlasic, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals have got to step up and offer something different.
Indeed Declan Rice must chip in with more goals and assists as he is given licence to get forward.
Fornals touched on it in his post match interview with West Ham’s website, admitting the match was ‘boring’.
Well the Spaniard and his teammates had better get used to it because the Hammers are a scalp now.
Opposition managers will have watched the way Southampton – and to a lesser extent Crystal Palace – set up against the Hammers.
And many will copy those tactics in a bid to frustrate Moyes’s men.
It’s a totally new challenge and Moyes and his players will rise to it as long as fans show patience and understanding.