As Norwich City host West Ham United at Carrow Road tonight (12:30pm KO), canaries.co.uk spoke to a man familiar with the Hammers to find out more on the opposition.
Sam Inkersole covers West Ham’s journey for Football.London and spoke on their recent form, their appointment of David Moyes and more.
canaries.co.uk: What’s the mood amongst the fans after the defeat to Burnley on Wednesday?
SI: It feels like it’s kind of gone back to where it was prior to the previous week, before the win against Chelsea and draw against Newcastle. There was quite of lot of optimism and positivity going around, then all of a sudden it came crashing back down to Earth with a bump.
We were beaten by a Burnley side who got themselves ahead then just stifled West Ham until they ran out of ideas and couldn’t break them down and went away with a 1-0 win. I think that the fact that we’ve got such a favourable run-in, at least on paper, is what is keeping the fans going in terms of them staying up.
We’ve got Norwich and Watford in the next week and then Aston Villa on the final game of the season, who could well be down by then as well. It’s almost like they could stay up on merit of being the best of the bottom five, which isn’t anything to necessarily be proud of, but it’ll at least keep them in the division for another season.
canaries.co.uk: Games have obviously been coming thick and fast across the division, how do you feel West Ham have coped with that?
SI: They looked absolutely exhausted heading into the last 15 minutes against Burnley in the week, some of their players looked really tired, dead on their feet. Michail Antonio even after the Chelsea game said he was blowing in his post-match interview, they had to work really hard.
This’ll be their fourth game in ten days coming up, that’s a stretch for any team, even if you hadn’t been off for three months and been told to play four games in ten days if you had your usual training regime. David Moyes isn’t trying to use that as an excuse, but I think it is a valid one and plenty of other teams will be feeling the pinch soon now we’re halfway through the restart.
They’ve been relatively lucky in terms of injury, they haven’t had too many ones to contend with, but I do think fatigue is looking like it was starting to set in.
canaries.co.uk: What has David Moyes come in and changed when he took the baton from Manuel Pellegrini?
SI: That’s a very good question, he’s obviously tried to instil a bit more of a discipline in the squad in terms of formations and tactics, but it’s not really worked. West Ham haven’t kept a clean sheet in the last 14 Premier League games, which says a lot.
They haven’t kept a clean sheet since December against Southampton under Pellegrini. Whilst he’s tried to make them a little more rigid defensively, it’s not particularly worked well. They have been scoring goals though, especially since the restart. They’ve looked a lot more threatening going forward than they were prior to lockdown.
I feel like that’s down to personnel, Jarrod Bowen has really come into his own since the lockdown, he had a bit of a slow start because Moyes was reluctant to play him, but since he’s been given more time he’s become very influential.
What’s changed? Not a lot has changed because West Ham’s league position hasn’t really changed that much, I think they’re only one place higher than they were when Pellegrini was sacked, so not a lot!
canaries.co.uk: Last time out to West Ham, Norwich took an unfortunate defeat, what are your memories of that performance?
SI: West Ham have very much been a counter-attacking team for the majority of this season and that’s my memory of it. A lot of pundits and observers will say Norwich are one of those sides that look really easy on the eye and they’re a good addition to the Premier League because they play the right way, but they can be too exposed.
It can be true of West Ham too though. The attacking talent they have got, they shouldn’t be where they are in the league considering the weapons they have at their disposal, but they haven’t been able to defend at all. Under Pellegrini that was down to tactics and under Moyes I just think the defenders have struggled for form, so they’re two very similar teams.
canaries.co.uk: Do you think it’ll be like Norwich are playing a different team to the one we faced at the start of the season?
SI: Yes, I do think it’ll be different because they won’t be as gung-ho in an attacking sense as Pellegrini was. He had a plethora of attacking midfielders at his disposal that day and he clearly intended to use them all and it did work.
This team is more disciplined and in it’s shape, especially defensively. They work a lot harder than under Pellegrini. I think it’ll be slightly different, but the counter-attacking football will still remain, as that is how Moyes likes to play as well. He’s having to use what he inherited, so he’s pretty much playing the same way just a little more restrained.
canaries.co.uk: With just four games left of the season it may be slightly obvious, but what are West Ham hoping for with the rest of their campaign?
SI: It’s just staying in the topflight, that’s all it is at the moment. You try to ask Moyes about plans for next season, but even he’s not thinking about it ahead of this weekend’s fixture. Until West Ham remain a Premier League team and it is confirmed, then maybe you can start looking ahead, but they’re certainly not out of the woods by any stretch.
That three-point cushion that they have could be massive come the final game of the season against Aston Villa, if it gets that far. That game could be the six-pointer to end all six-pointers, but next season I think Moyes will certainly want to put his stamp on the team, he should be given the chance to actually do that.
He’ll probably have to sell to spend, but he’s already started to do that with the signings of Bowen and Tomas Soucek, whose loan will become permanent if West Ham stay up. He wants to build a more young hungry squad, those were his exact words, and try take West Ham out of their stigma of signing flamboyant players who may not contribute much to the league, but considering how it’s gone this season, how much time he could get next season to do that, remains to be seen.
You can follow Sam on Twitter @Sam_InkersoleTM.