Returning from a two-week hiatus, Everton journey to London on Sunday to face old boss David Moyes and his gritty West Ham outfit, hoping to put a halt to the club’s appalling away form. Most of the squad has been working intensely with Frank Lampard and his coaching staff at Finch Farm, so here’s hoping the manager has put this opportunity to work the players to good use, as they’ll surely need to be at their best in order to secure points at the London Stadium. Moyes will be a familiar face to the visiting Everton fans, but let’s take a look at how his new charges have been performing this season.
In his second stint in charge of the Hammers, Moyes guided them to a very creditable sixth place last season and qualification for the Europa League. This campaign, despite the added rigours of midweek European competition, the team has fared very well, currently sitting in eighth spot in the Premier League. They started the season very impressively, winning eleven of their initial 17 matches in all competitions, losing only twice. A poor patch followed towards the end of the year, as they were defeated in six of nine games, but they picked up again after Boxing Day.
They’ve scored some good results so far this term, including wins over the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea and Sevilla. Entering Sunday’s match their form has been a little weak, with only two victories set against four losses.
Style of Play
Blues fans will know what to expect from their former long-serving boss, even if Moyes left Goodison Park almost nine years ago. The Scotsman has a well-established style of play that values character and discipline, but flair players have always had a place. This season West Ham have largely relied on a 4231 formation, with Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek ever presents in central midfield. Moyes has of late drifted away from this tried and tested formula; probably in an attempt to cope with a congested fixture schedule in March and possibly to match up formations in several matches, with mixed success. Coming off a break it is almost certain he will revert back to the 4231.
The former Blues manager sets up his team in a low, compact block and looks to press energetically in the middle third of the pitch, in order to spring direct counterattacks, often balls into the channels, or based off driving runs through the centre from Rice. They spread the goals around the team and have bagged eleven off set-piece situations. West Ham will look for crossing opportunities whenever possible. Defensively they are stout, aerially strong and aggressive in the challenge. The Hammers are rarely caught out high up the pitch and have only conceded one goal from a counterattack situation all season. Moyes is meticulous in his preparation, so will no doubt have a game plan tailored to what he expects from Lampard’s team.
Rice earned rave reviews as he bossed Everton’s midfield at Goodison Park way back in October and the 23-year old continues to develop into a classy all-around player, capable of defending and orchestrating play. The England man has no obvious weakness to his game currently and with the visitors deprived of the services of Allan, they will be worried about letting the West Ham captain dictate the game.
The impressive Jarrod Bowen remains an injury doubt for this game, so in his likely absence much of the attacking threat will fall on the broad shoulders of Michail Antonio. The powerful striker started the season on fire, though his goal return has slackened off since the New Year. However, he’s played a lot of minutes already, so will no doubt feel reinvigorated after the international break. On form he is a real handful for defenders, with his physicality, aerial threat, running ability and sheer persistence.
Lampard has patently failed to get Everton playing effectively away from Goodison since taking over at the end of January. The team have scored only a single goal away from Goodison under his tenure and have leaked like a sieve at the other end. West Ham are essentially a reactive team and no doubt Moyes will set them up to punish mistakes by the visitors. The Blues must not go chasing the home side far up the pitch and leave themselves exposed, but would be better served playing a cagey game and challenge the Hammers to try and come on to them. Everton have enough pace in attacking areas to hurt Moyes’ outfit on the break, so long as they avoid dwelling on the ball. It is just possible that the Londoners will have one eye on their big Europe League Quarter Final against French side Lyon on Thursday, so if the Blues can raise their game and keep their heads a valuable point is surely within their grasp.