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Dublin: 0°C Friday 16 April 2021

David Meyler: Unfancied Moyes and West Ham one of the success stories of this season

In his latest column, the ex-Ireland midfielder discusses the high-flying Hammers and gives his predictions for Chelsea v Man United.

David Moyes and the rejuvenated Jesse Lingard.
David Moyes and the rejuvenated Jesse Lingard.
Image: PA

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest piece, Meyler discusses the excellent job David Moyes is doing at West Ham ahead of their trip to face runaway leaders Man City, before calling Sunday’s meeting between Chelsea and Man United. 

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Man City v West Ham, 12.30pm Saturday

Who’d have thought that West Ham would be sitting in the top four at this stage of the season? 

A lot of Hammers fans were left angered when David Moyes was appointed manager for a second spell in December 2019. 

Having originally arrived on a six-month contract in November 2017, the Scot achieved his main objective by pulling them out of the relegation zone and securing their Premier League status. 

However, he wasn’t offered an extension — with former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini seen as a bigger name that would excite fans. 

But the Londoners came calling once again when the Chilean was sacked 18 months into a three-year deal. 

West Ham lay 17th in the table at that time, but Moyes repeated the trick by steering them to safety. They have really kicked on this term and currently occupy one of the Champions League spots. 

He has done incredibly well to build a solid team in this strangest of seasons. It’s not as if they just drop back and play deep-lying football either — they try to make things happen.

After offloading some of the expensive deadwood and making a number of astute signings, the entire squad appears to be working for each other and everyone seems to know their role in his system. 

Craig Dawson and Vladimír Coufal were brought in at the back and people raised eyebrows but they have been superb.

Jarrod Bowen was a smart buy from Hull City a year ago, the talented Saïd Benrahma joined from Brentford earlier in the campaign and Jesse Lingard has found a new lease of life since arriving on loan from Man United last month.

The biggest success story must surely be Tomas Soucek, however. The Czech international has been immense in midfield — scoring eight goals this season and showing great positional play alongside captain Declan Rice.

He has been compared to Marouane Fellaini. The impact Fellaini had at Everton under Moyes was unbelievable and earned him that move to United. 

Soucek has some similar traits in that he pops up late in the box with headers, and is a central figure for set-pieces — whether that is offensively or defensively. The 25-year-old has been one of the best players in the Premier League.

We’re quick to single out the likes of Ruben Dias and Ilkay Gundogan because they’re at the club who are top of the table, but if you look at the past 18 months, Soucek has been key to West Ham and scored some very important goals.

everton-v-west-ham-united-premier-league-goodison-park Tomas Soucek has been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season. Source: PA

People have questioned whether Moyes was in touch with modern-day football after what happened at his recent jobs, but this season has shown that he still knows what he is doing.

He did a fantastic job at Everton with limited resources and was chosen to take over Man United because of that. It was always going to be extremely difficult to succeed the great Alex Ferguson and you get the feeling that whoever did was doomed.

Even the likes of Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho had their problems, although they both won silverware.

Moyes went to Real Sociedad and found it hard as a British manager trying to learn a new language.

Unless you are fluent in Spanish, it is going to be tough to get your message across. A lot of the managers who come to the Premier League from abroad have perfect English. You can see why Moyes struggled as he didn’t speak the native tongue.

At Sunderland, they had good players but there were bad eggs there who would have caused issues too.

The club made the wrong type of signings over a period of time and that is part of the reason for their demise. If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary you could see there were certain players around the squad that you wouldn’t want at your club.

I felt some sympathy for Moyes so to see him go back to West Ham and drive them on has been great.

There are still 13 games to play but they will be knocking on the door for the Europa League spots. One big thing Moyes will have to face will be when fans are back and the pressure is on again.

If you asked any West Ham player, I’m sure they would say they’d prefer to be playing with supporters in the ground but suggestions have been made that an empty London Stadium may be benefitting them.

Hammers fans have always been really passionate and demanding, which is understandable because if they’re out working hard and paying to watch their football club they are going to want to see the team putting in effort.

I remember playing at the Boleyn Ground and it was horrible as an away player because the fans were so close and in your face. They were hungry for their team to win and there was almost a hatred in them towards opposition players.

I loved it and enjoyed playing there because you knew it was going to be hostile as the result really mattered to them.

That is one thing I found when I went to Sunderland too. The fans really cared, and what happened on a Saturday would either make or break their week.

Only time will tell if no fans has made a significant difference to West Ham. 

arsenal-v-west-ham-united-premier-league-emirates-stadium Darren Randolph. Source: PA

From an Irish point of view, it’s disappointing that Darren Randolph only gets games in the cup competitions these days as he is second choice behind Lukasz Fabianski.

That said, I’d certainly stick with Darren as Ireland’s number one for the upcoming internationals. We have a number of good young goalkeepers, but I think Caoimhin Kelleher is next in line and knocking on Darren’s door.

If Caoimhin was playing week in week out at Liverpool he’d undoubtedly have a case to be picked but right now I feel Randolph’s experience puts him in pole position.

He has 50 caps for Ireland and is a cool hand. He’s very laid back and doesn’t get too high or too low. He isn’t the type of lad who will be panicking about not playing for West Ham. Knowing Darren the way I do, I’d imagine he will be doing extra work to ensure that his sharpness hasn’t dropped.

So I’d stick with Darren but there is no doubt that Caoimhin is coming and he will know that.

On Saturday, I expect West Ham to cause Man City some problems and it should be a fascinating match-up between Dias and Michail Antonio. 

He is Rolls Royce defender and has had a similar impact to City as Virgil van Dijk had at Liverpool. I’ve no doubt that in the next few years he will be the best centre-half in the world because he is only 23.

It will be interesting to watch a powerhouse like Antonio go up against him as the West Ham forward is one of the strongest players in football and looks to manhandle opponents.

I expect City to control the game but I think West Ham will put up a fight. I’m going 3-0 City.

Chelsea v Man United, 4.30pm Sunday 

I think Tuchel has brought Chelsea on a level from Frank Lampard. They seem more organised and a few of the more experienced players have returned.

There was much talk of Calum Hudson-Odoi being brought on and then subbed off last weekend. Tuchel came out and said he didn’t feel his attitude was right. I’ve no problem with that and if a lad isn’t pulling his weight then don’t leave him on the pitch.

britain-soccer-premier-league Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel. Source: NEIL HALL

You have to put a mark down. People will say he’s a young player and it’s not right but the football business is cut-throat and the most cut-throat club in the Premier League is Chelsea. We’ve seen that with the amount of managers they have had.

Tuchel knows he needs to get results and maybe that was just a little message to remind the squad that they need to be on it everyday.

They had a great win over Atletico Madrid and that will stand them in good stead heading into the second leg.

Man United were 3-1 winners over Newcastle on Sunday but didn’t perform at their best.

With Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford in the team you’ve always got a chance though. It will be interesting to see if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plays Mason Greenwood with Anthony Martial short on confidence of late.

United concede too many goals and I think that’s the big difference between them and City. It’ll be a tight game but I see goals in a 2-2 draw.

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