You are the manager what would you do with each player?
Author: ExWHUEmployee. Published: 15 April 2018 at 9:39pm
Written by Michael Hughes
Having beaten Watford at the London Stadium back in February, for many the remainder of the season seemed full of optimism and the permanent appointment of Moyes back then seemed a nailed on certainty with Premier League football next season seemingly within touching distance. How quickly things change in football! Successive hammerings against Liverpool and Swansea were bad enough to stomach but then came the debacle against Burnley which left everyone it seemed at breaking point.
The subsequent three week break between fixtures after the Burnley game, in many ways came as a blessing. It allowed everyone to regroup and four points picked up against Southampton and Chelsea certainly makes for better reading when you look at the table with games running out and with difficult fixtures still ahead of us, the odds of us being relegated are lengthening as each weekend passes. Make no bones about it, West Ham needed somebody with the experience and knowledge of managing in the Premier League who could bring stability to a squad who were seriously underperforming and had lost their way under Slaven Bilic. Surviving the dreaded drop was Moyes brief and on the whole he has done a good job. If the club are to appoint Moyes as the next permanent manager it will never be met with a wide spread seal of approval. Supporters are constantly demanding a ‘bigger’ name and whoever gets the job, they have one hell of a task rebuilding. Lessons have to be learnt over player recruitment and while the Director of Football role has not been filled, it is crucial before the start of the next transfer window someone is in place along with the appointed manager to oversee what is arguably the most important transfer window this club will have for many a year.
We all profess to be experts when it comes to picking a team so here are my thoughts on who should stay and who should go and how they have performed so far this season.
Adrian; Found himself starting the season as number two to Joe Hart and by all accounts was angling for a move away from the club with interest shown both from Spain and a number of clubs in the Premiership. Got his chance when Hart was unable to play against Man City and was an ever present up until the Burnley game when Moyes bought Hart back in. Personally I still think he is prone to individual error’s which will cost you points over the season and whilst I would keep him if as it seems Hart will be moving on, a top class goalkeeper is a priority for next season. I see we are being linked with Ben Foster and I think he would be a fantastic signing as in my opinion he is the best of the current crop of English goalkeepers playing in the Premiership.
Joe Hart; A big disappointment for me that Hart’s signing hasn’t been a success. When it was announced he was signing I really thought this was a superb piece of business for the club. I think the Joe Hart we have now is nowhere near the Hart we saw at Man City. The instinctive saves he used to make went missing from his game. His confidence seemed to go very quickly, not aided by playing behind a defence that under Bilic was so porous and in many ways he carried the can for those early season failings. There were glimpses of the old Hart, most notably Palace away this season, when he so nearly won the game for us with an outstanding individual performance and I thought against Chelsea we saw what a top goalkeeper Hart really is. Gone was the nervousness and the fear of making mistakes and he was back to his very best. Moyes had gone on record saying Hart would play before the end of the season and he has kept to his word by giving him another opportunity. If the Joe Hart who performed heroics against Chelsea turns up for the rest of the season Moyes has a decision to make. The challenge for him is to now maintain that level of performance and make the decision easy for Moyes. Whether Hart would want to stay of course is yet another subplot to the goalkeeping conundrum facing Moyes.
Winston Reid; Reid has been a major disappointment this season. His season has been stop start with injuries and his injury at Swansea means his season is now over. While he was one of the stand our performers in the final season at Upton Park there has been a gradual decline in his form over the last eighteen months. He effectively committed the rest of his career to West Ham, signing a long term contract and on his day is an outstanding defender but the injuries seem to stop him in his tracks just when he is building up his fitness. He just doesn’t ever look 100% fit and gets found wanting in the final throws of a game. He is not the most accomplished of footballers and his distribution like that of his fellow centre back James Collins leaves the defence exposed as we don’t keep possession of the ball. The defence is an area of the squad that really needs addressing and a ball playing centre back is a priority. I would still keep Reid but the guarantee of a regular starting place is long gone.
Aaron Cresswell; Made the step up to Premiership with great aplomb when signed by Sam Allardyce from Championship side Ipswich Town and was outstanding for two seasons forming a great partnership with Payet in the unforgettable final season at Upton Park. Got his rewards with a call up to the England squad but again like Reid the injury picked up in pre season seemed to have a knock on effect last season when his performances never quite reached the same level. Been part of a three man central defensive unit employed by Moyes but I still think Creswell is a quality left back and is better suited to a flat four or as a wing back. A quality crosser of the ball he provides you with balance and with Stuart Pearce back at the club and arguably one of England’s finest ever defenders, along with Moyes who at Everton turned Leighton Baines into a outstanding full back, you hope under their guidance they can push Cresswell on again to reach those dizzy heights of two years ago.
Pablo Zabaleta; Zabaleta has been fantastic for us this year. His commitment and desire to win has shone through like a beacon and you sense his influence in the dressing room is another key attribute he has contributed since arriving at the club. However asking him to play as a wing back when those 34 year old legs are no longer what they were in his heyday is too much of an ask. He is still a wily old fox and there are few wingers who get the better of him one on one as a full back in a four but he has been exposed at times this season playing the wing back role. He has another year on his contract and I think just having him around the squad with his professionalism is a big positive.
James Collins; Fans favourite but the cut throat nature of the Premier League suggests Collins second spell at the club is coming to an end. He has been an example to any young footballer of how to get the most out of a career through sheer hard work and determination, giving his all for the cause on numerous occasions. He puts his body on the line every time he steps on the pitch and his passion for the club is clear for everyone to see. Like Reid though, whilst you could never criticise his qualities to defend, his lack of pace and poor distribution is a problem at this level as are the constant injuries he has picked up this year. Will always hold a place in the heart of West Ham fans and it wouldn’t surprise me in years to come when he has hung up his boots we see him back at the club in some capacity or other. Whether he has any aspirations to go into coaching, I have no idea, but let’s hope that the passion he has for the club, he can be persuaded to pass onto the next generation of players coming through.
Angelo Ogbonna; Since Moyes has taken over Ogbonna has been outstanding. The fact he confirmed recently he is now playing pain free has been crucial to his improved level of performance. Of all the central defenders available to Moyes he is the one who is the most comfortable on the ball and is happy playing either in a three or as a pairing. Dominant in the air in both boxes he has a knack of scoring important goals. I’ll never forget the extra time winner in the cup against Liverpool two seasons ago or the winner against Tottenham this year at Wembley. He is the one we should build the defence around for next season. Young Declan Rice will have learnt so much playing alongside him and if we could get someone like Evans or Mawson in to play alongside the two of them, playing the three centre halves being Moyes preference, only time will tell, but Ogbonna is the complete defender for me. He comes with the complete package, quick and strong, brilliant in the air, good in possession and a worthy contender for Hammer of the Year.
Sam Byram; I’ve always felt with Byram there is so much more to come. We haven’t seen the best of the boy, yet in his defence Bilic never seemed to give him a run in the team. He was injured when Moyes arrived and has played a few games, mostly at wing back and I honestly think there is a player there. He is quick, has the legs that Zabaleta hasn’t got and if only he had the nous of Zabaleta when it came to defending you have a quality player on your hands. The defensive side of his game, some would say is a work in progress, but still relatively young he has a bright future ahead of him. My concern would be if we sell him he could go on to be a top player and we will rue the day we didn’t give him enough opportunity to prove himself. Keep him for next season and let’s hope we see him push and become a regular performer in a position that has long been a problem at the club.
Arthur Masuaku; Moyes quickly came to the conclusion Masuaku wasn’t a defender and his best attributes, pace and trickery, are suited for a more advanced role. You have to question why he was bought in the first place as a defender when it is quite clear to see he can’t defend for toffee! Been a revelation going forward and even though when watching Masuaku he either has you jumping out of your seat or pulling your hair out in equal measures we missed him terribly and as soon as he came straight back in against Southampton you realised what an asset he is to the team. Full marks though to Moyes for getting the best out of him.
Patrice Evra; Only really signed as cover for Cresswell with Masuaku on his ban and while no one can ever question his abilities as a world class full back during his decorated career Evra extending his stay beyond the end of the season would not win Moyes any plaudits with a crowd he desperately needs to get on side quickly. Another one to leave
Reece Oxford; There’s something not right in my eyes with how Oxford, having arrived in a blaze of glory on his debut at Emirates has almost been frozen out of the club. Some have questioned his attitude and I have it on good authority he must have been taking tips on timekeeping from Michail Antonio the number of times he was late for training! Someone with as much talent as Oxford clearly needs good people around him. I question his agent’s influence in allowing him to behave in a manner that at times seriously questions his commitment to football. Here is a young man who is earning serious money, but if he isn’t careful will waste his career if he doesn’t wake up and smell the coffee. A prodigious talent you hope someone can get hold of him before it’s too late and guide him along the path to a successful career and avoid the pitfalls and mistakes others like him have made. Reece Oxford is the future of West Ham United and to allow him to leave could turn out to be a monumental error of judgement the club will live to regret,
Declan Rice; There’s nothing more exciting for a West Ham fan than seeing a young player come through the ranks. Rice has broken onto the scene this year and is an exciting prospect. He never seems fazed no matter how big the occasion, something he illustrated this season with starts against Man City at the Etihad and Tottenham, twice at Wembley. Playing alongside experienced players like Ogbonna, Reid, Collins and Zabaleta has aided his development and with Moyes in charge, who has a reputation for developing young talent, he will get plenty of opportunities to learn his trade. The recent performances against Southampton and Chelsea show you just what an outstanding prospect this kid is and a massive positive this season seeing him break through like he has.
Cheikhou Kouyate; Kouyate seems to have become the scapegoat for many supporters, many frustrated at his performances this season. I think this is a little unfair on Kouyate who always gives 100 % every time he pulls on a shirt. He has been asked to play in different positions, such is his versatility and to question his commitment to the team, as I have heard various times, is fundamentally wrong. No player is immune to criticism but when you look at the effort Kouyate puts into a game and compare that with some of the rubbish served up in previous seasons by others, you question the ability of people to be objective. It hasn’t been his most consistent of seasons but I still feel with Kouyate in the team he offers you something different from what the likes of Noble and Obiang bring. Midfield is another area that is a priority to strengthen for next season. We are very pedestrian in there and the two midfield slots are up for grabs next season. Still though I would keep Kouyate at the club.
Manuel Lanzini; Some would say he is our ‘Jewel in the crown’ supremely talented and was as instrumental as Payet in my opinion for the sheer enjoyment they provided in that momentous last season at Upton Park. My one criticism of Lanzini is he doesn’t take a game by the scruff of the neck often enough. There have been occasions this season when he has been sublime, yet others where he has drifted in and out of the game. He has so much talent. I remember that goal against Palace last season when he ran the length of the pitch, took the pass from Antonio, drew the keeper and dinked it over him. Only special players are capable of that and he has that in his locker. There were rumours Liverpool wanted him to replace Coutinho, that doesn’t surprise me as he is that good. Absolutely crucial we hang on to the little maestro but again a challenge for the manager is to get those stellar performances out of him on a more regular basis.
Robert Snodgrass; There are occasions when you wish David Sullivan would keep his gob shut and not spout off about certain things. The signing of Snodgrass being one of them! However, whilst I don’t agree airing your dirty linen in public and openly criticising the player, Snodgrass was a poor signing. It was always going to be the poisoned chalice for anyone trying to replace Payet, but Snodgrass, good honest pro that he seems, was never going to appease fans that’d just seen their idol leave in such acrimonious circumstances. He has done very well at Villa, but it’s no coincidence the standard of the Championship is way below the Premiership and whilst he is doing well surely now it would be sensible to negotiate with Villa a fee for a permanent transfer. Word is though both player and manager are keen to hook up next season and give it another go in the claret & blue of West Ham. Let’s hope Villa make it back up because that may just give them a bit of leverage in negotiating with Snodgrass.
Pedro Obiang; Obiang is a player who clearly has ability. I question though whether his game is suited to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. If you want a holding midfield player he is tidy and efficient and will win his fair share of duels but N’golo Kante he certainly isn’t! That ability to transition play from defence into attack quickly isn’t there. Having said that, Obiang hasn’t got the quality of players around him Kante has. I was keen to see the Kouyate Obiang partnership as I felt their physical presence as a pair was important but they have struggled together this season and it seems either or alongside Noble works better and provides better balance. Obiang is a player I would look at moving on, he would command a reasonable fee and should be replaced with a more dynamic midfielder who combines the defensive duties with other qualities. Anyone spring to mind? Sporting Lisbon midfielder I hear is pretty decent!
Mark Noble; Noble has bounced back from a very poor start to the season. Great servant that he has been, there is a predictability about Noble’s game now. Never blessed with pace he has always been good at linking play and being the pivot man in that key midfield role. You get what it says on the tin with him, total commitment and while his faithful and loyal supporters will point to the fact that every manager he has played for has picked him regularly, his detractors -which there are many- will ask what else does he bring to the team? There is no doubting his leadership qualities and he will doubtless still be here next season but Noble being a regular starter could be a thing of the past moving forward.. The lack of pace in those central areas when teams break through us leaving the defence exposed has been a problem for a while which will need addressing and I can see a real shake up in there with Noble and possibly Obiang suffering most.
Joao Mario; Still early days for the Portuguese loan signing from Inter. I was impressed with him against Palace when he made his full debut but I think he still needs to adjust to the pace and intensity of the Premier League. Been off the pace slightly the last couple of games but came back with a bang against Southampton and with only six games left this season the question remains, will we see enough to turn the initial loan signing into a permanent deal? Personally I can’t see Sullivan paying £35 million for him whatever he does between now and the end of the season but he clearly has ability and word is he’s really keen to stay. Unfortunately I think another likely departure come the end of the season unless our ‘still to be appointed’ Director of Football can negotiate a better price.
Edimilson Fernandes; Been injured this season and only really played a bit part last year. I’m still struggling to work out his favoured position. Played well when he replaced Antonio against Southampton but was very poor against Chelsea, continuously giving the ball away. Very much on the fringes of the squad and you have to question his signing. Another one who’s future is very uncertain and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was moved on next season.
Marko Arnautovic; Where do you start with him? Jekyll & Hyde springs to mind! Started the season atrociously and we were left wondering what an earth we had signed. The transformation since Moyes came has been sensational. He now looks every inch a £25 million pound player. Keeping Arnautovic fit and firing for the run in will be crucial, whilst a fully focused Arnautovic is a sight to behold. Not since – dare I mention his name – Payet and the genius that was Di Canio have we seen someone with the ability to almost singlehandedly win games. My one concern with Arnie is if he continues in this rich vein of form the ‘big boys’ will be circling and his head will be turned and we’ll be left to pick up the pieces once again. Like other football mavericks he is so unpredictable and part of his appeal and why the supporters love him. To be spoken in the same breath as Di Canio says just how far Arnautovic has come from those early season performances.
Andy Carroll; It’s a crying shame that Carroll will be remembered more for the games he has missed rather than the ones he has completed. I read somewhere in five seasons he has played under a hundred games. Like many other supporters, I listened with great interest to Julian Dicks and the boys on the podcast when Dicksy spoke about how Carroll was so desperate to play and never once questioned his commitment. It shed new light on Carroll and for some will come as a surprise because I know his commitment to training and playing has been questioned before by many, including ex team mate Craig Bellamy on Sky’s Debate programme. We all know on his day Carroll is an asset and brings a whole different dimension to the team when he is fit and playing. He is about to enter the final year of his contract and you can’t imagine a new one will be on the table which tells you why he and the club seemed keen to push through the transfer to Chelsea in the recent transfer window. £20 million was being suggested and would have been good business for the club and player and you wonder now what the future holds for Carroll. Realistically you can’t see Chelsea coming back in for him, especially if Conte leaves at the end of the season as expected. A return to Newcastle could be on the cards but don’t expect us to get anywhere near the £20 million on offer in January. We have never seen the best of Carroll but surely now his number is up and he will be moving on. Let’s hope he goes out with a bang if he’s back for these final six games as has been suggested.
Jordan Hugill; There is a bit of Carroll about this lad physically. He looks big and strong, looks like he has some pace, and all be it although we have only seen him used sparingly, only time will tell if he is a good signing for us. The jury is very much out and with Carroll due to return it’s unlikely you will see much of him this year. I watched him train at the recent Open training session and I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw. Seemed a strange signing at the time and I haven’t changed my views three months on.
Chicharito; A proven goal scorer, something we have been crying out for. Chicharito will score goals. Very few players would have scored that goal he did against Chelsea. Absolute quality. Even though it’s been very stop start for him this season he has still found the net and his predatory instincts are still there for everyone to see. The biggest conundrum is where does he fit in and what system do you play to accommodate him? The emergence of Arnautovic as the focal point of the attack has seen Chicharito’s appearances limited to little cameo’s and you can understand the player’s frustrations when he came here to be the main man himself. Having said that with him and Arnautovic in the team against Watford they both scored and seemed to feed off one another well so they can play together. Lanzini will play when he is fit and it seems from afar that Mario maybe the one to miss out. I can’t see the player himself being content to be a bit part player and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is off to pastures new next year. I hope that isn’t the case because getting someone in to replace him will be difficult and above all take a large chunk of next season’s transfer budget.
Michail Antonio; Huge disappointment for me this season. Just hasn’t fired and we have missed his goals as well. It’s clear he came back to quickly from injury at the start of the season and he is now paying the price. His energy and pace are his greatest strengths and you take that away from his game and he becomes a liability. You need a fit fully focused Antonio running at defenders and creating chances. I still think he is best coming from wide and doesn’t have the football intelligence to play as an out and out front man. Still has a big part to play for us next season, fully fit, and we look a much more dangerous team, particularly away from home when we can use his pace to hit teams on the break.
Eight, potentially more could be on their way come the end of the season. Hart, Collins, Obiang, Snodgrass, Fernandes, Carroll, Mario and Evra. Who do you replace them with? Foster as a replacement for Hart with Adrian as a number two. Evans and Mawson are potential centre back options, although the chances of getting either are quite low, particularly Evans who will have a number of clubs after him. William Carvalho is a readymade replacement for Obiang and I would certainly have no objections if we went in for Jonjo Shelvey or the lads from Fulham, Tom Cairney and his teammate Fredericks who have been muted for some time now. Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, rest assured over the summer changes need to be made to the squad. Six games remain and with Stoke up next, three points and I think we can start planning for next season in the Premiership. Lose and we are bang in it again and I can see it going right to the end of the season.