Up for the fight - on and off the pitch

David Moyes presented the West Ham fans with what many considered to be the club’s best starting XI when he sent out his team to face Olympiakos on Thursday night.

It was a virtual repeat of the starting line-up that faced and defeated Arsenal in the Carabao Cup (with James Ward-Prowse coming in for Tomas Soucek). A similar result to that night would suit us just fine.

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"Bowen’s on fire", so he was up front and in the middle again, which allowed our new hero in waiting, Mohammed Kudus the opportunity to work his magic down the right. It also provided Lucas Paqueta with a more central role – rather than being stuck out on the left – giving him more opportunity to pull the strings and showboat his full array of flicks and tricks.

Like Paqueta, Alvarez was back from his Brentford suspension to provide athleticism and bite in front of the back four.

Michail Antonio and Danny Ings, two players who have come in for plenty of criticism recently – for different reasons – were confined to the bench (and in the event never actually got on the pitch). As it turned out there was even a late cameo for Divin Mubama, although some claimed his late introduction was an insult to the player and simply an exercise in Moyes bowing to fan pressure to give the player more game time.

Mind you if anyone really thinks a manager of Moyes’ experience and stature would do anything simply to appease the fans they are living in dream land - along with an inflated opinion of their influence.

So at 8pm the pieces were all in place and all we had to do was sit back and enjoy a night of football played the West Ham way. Sadly our social media managers had overlooked an important factor – Olympiacos.

The Greek side have been frequent participants in European football – including the premier competition, the Champions League. They hadn’t come simply to make up the numbers. They came to frustrate. To disrupt. To anger, even. In short to make the night as uncomfortable for West Ham as they could.

They did all of those things in a thoroughly efficient and professional way. The so-called pushovers were anything but. They clearly hadn’t read the script we had mapped out for them. Thankfully David Moyes had never thought for a moment the game was going to be as straightforward as some had envisaged. He was prepared for a battle.

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It proved to be a tough night. Hard work for all concerned – especially those watching! In the end of course Moyes and his team found a way. Yet another JWP assist, expertly embellished by our Brazilian magnifico with a timely run and finish - with a bit of help from VAR for a change, which overruled the Referee’s Assistant’s enthusiastically waved offside flag.

The win doesn’t guarantee us a place in the next stage of the Europa League, but it maintains our position at the top of our group giving us an excellent chance of continuing to bring European football to the east end into 2024.

What it won’t do of course is put a stop to the continued speculation around Moyes’ future, or what in some instances from certain areas is a spiteful and relentless campaign to undermine the man, his authority and position at the club.

The win – as it did when we defeated Arsenal, somewhat disrupts the speculated match countdown Moyes was said to be facing to save his job. So expect the supposed power-struggle between Moyes and DOF Tim Steidten to continue to take centre stage in their assault.

Moyes of course, being the professional he is, will have eyes firmly fixed on Sunday’s visit of Nottingham Forest – and gaining a valuable three points to start us climbing up the Premier League once again.

Steve Cooper’s side will come every bit as determined to frustrate and disrupt as Olympiacos were. Cooper is very much a manager in the Moyes mold. A dinosaur some might say. A believer in hard work and resolute defending. It won’t be easy and more than likely it won’t be pretty. But the manager will be hoping the players who got the job done on Thursday will be up for doing a repeat on Sunday.

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