Premier League
Wolves 1-0 West Ham United 

Saturday, 14th January 2023
by Chris Wilkerson

Joint bottom, one point from the last possible 21, and no win in the league since October. It’s now a run of form worse than any faced by Allardyce, Bilic or Pellegrini, with today’s 1-0 defeat putting David Moyes in the kind of company no manager should ever be keeping: comparisons with Avram Grant.

In a display littered with the same problems that have dragged the side down all season, there were signs of something good sitting in a sea of issues that never seem to be fixed.

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The manager has been criticised by many within an increasingly angry support who feel his comments about deserving a point, if not a victory in this game are out of sync with reality. In his defence - which there will be little of within this report - he isn't wrong. West Ham were not good, but they were good enough for a point. Wolves were as abject as The Hammers, often worse, but whilst they are making positive changes under a new manager, West Ham are a stark contrast.

Yet it doesn't mean his points are without merit. For the manager, he will feel there is only so much he can do. The side got into and wasted many dangerous moments or openings, whether it was a poor shot, a poor touch or a poor pass that ruined them. He cannot finish for them, however, this is really no defence for Moyes. Eventually, if the points don't come, it doesn't matter how well you go down, you still go down.

The match itself, for those who want to relive any moment of it, was a fairly typical one when looking back on Moyes's time at the club. Neither side was open, both looked shaky in defensive areas and preferred to double up numbers to cover it, hoping to make transitions and counter-attacks vital.

Managing risk has always been a key part of the Moyes philosophy, and this game was one that highlighted the flaws of such an approach. In many ways, it felt a microcosm of our season, with defensive responsibility taking priority over attacking fluidity, a team that can create openings but can destroy them even better, and cannot use the defence to suffocate games any more.

Where once the defence made very few errors and always had a spare player in the right space to cover holes, they are now individually and systematically exposed.

One might argue that the decision - which has not been explained yet as the manager's or the player's - for Craig Dawson to not even be a part of the squad today wasn't a problem. His form has plummeted and his usefulness is practically worn out, yet there is something truly shambolic about a regular starter suddenly disappearing amidst a relegation fight.

He was replaced by Ogbonna, leaving West Ham forced to push Aguerd over to a more unfamiliar right-sided centre back role, and meant a rare occurrence of three left-footed players making up the back four.

The game was pretty level for the opening 45, Wolves looking a little more dangerous, but no-one dominating the play. It was, of course, rather dull, as have the majority of West Ham games been for quite a while.

West Ham lacked any cutting edge, and as mentioned before, managed to find a way to ruin openings, rather than threaten with them.

To his credit, the much-maligned Antonio worked hard in his lone forward role, but lacked a turn of pace or a hint of guile to actually scare a defender when he got on the ball.

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The only real chance of the half for the Hammers fell to Coufal, after a looping ball into the box by Paqueta was smartly flicked on by Soucek. The ball deflected and bounce to Coufal, but the defender made up the ground to it just as fast as the Czech right back, and his shot was deflected wide before bouncing back off a defender and into the goalkeeper's hands.

The rest was either Wolves half chances, a few too many openings for Neves on the edge of the box, or West Ham players finding simple ways to ruin moves. There was just a zip missing to their moves, to their passing. It needed someone with an eye for a pass to go early and move the team up at speed, but either that pass wasn't found or the reactions to follow were slow.

After the break, West Ham could have scored instantly, and maintained pressure for the opening couple of minutes.

The chance came when a high press forced a sloppy pass right to Bowen, but the winger was wasteful. A minute later, a corner fell nearly to the feet of Rice in the box.

Instead it broke away, and from their own corner, West Ham were suddenly a goal down.

Where luck has not followed Moyes's side, it fell for the home team here. The break found Matheus in space on the right, but his low cross was cut out by a retreating Cresswell. Unfortunately, the ball fell to the edge for Podence, who buried it sharply into the corner to give his side the lead.

They hadn't quite deserved it, but they had taken their chance. West Ham were never going to.

On around the hour mark, Benrahma was introduced, and he was introduced for Soucek, to some surprise. It moved Fornals central and Benrahma wide left, and it did bring some life to the side.

Not only did Fornals work hard centrally, he also drifted wide to link with Bowen and Benrahma in a way that we hadn't done beforehand. Not only that, he was finding those direct passes from the West Ham half, the Spaniard finding Antonio quickly, which relieved pressure, helped the side counter and got more out of Antonio, who was now getting the ball against an unsettled defence and finding a team that was forced to match the tempo Fornals was injecting.

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It is also worth mentioning how well Benrahma and Fornals linked up. Often, it feels our players don't really read Benrahma well enough to combine with him, but both players looked better for having the other to pass and move with.

15 minutes after the change, Fornals was hooked for Scamacca, moving to a front two. It came not long after Wolves came close to putting the Irons out of their misery.

How Neves managed to stroll into the box unmarked, one has to wonder, but he was found by a ball to the left corner of the area. He cut inside, easily beating the defenders who rushed to pressure him, and was unlucky to see his curling effort bounced down off the underside of the bar. The rebound was smashed against the post, too, but was offside.

And so Scamacca came on for Fornals, and out went the passing. A basic 4-4-2 was installed, with Paqueta desperately throwing himself forward to get involved. It achieved nothing but opening West Ham up.

Oh, there were chances, little moments of hope to keep you clinging on. A clinical team would have scored more than once, but we know by now that this team is far from clinical.

Scamacca stole the ball off a Wolves defender in the corner and quickly passed to Benrahma in the box, but the Algerian took a touch that got him off balance and his shot was poor.

Rice, Bowen and Benrahma all wasted opportunities on the edge of the area, whilst there was a late headed chance for Scamacca from close range that the Italian could only nod wide.

In the end, it was Wolves who put the ball in the net one more time, with The Hammers saved by the barest of margins thanks to VAR.

For now, West Ham are joint-bottom on 15 points, with relegation battling Everton, only behind us on goal difference by one, waiting to visit the London Stadium. They're even more unhappy up there, and it looks as if Moyes will be in charge to face them.

How much credit you want to give him for beating the only side currently playing at a similar level to us is a whole different matter, and there is little evidence that he will even do that.

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Manager's Rating

David Moyes: 3/10
Unforgivable today. That was not a Wolves team playing well, yet he couldn't attack it and used his substitutions in such a simple and lacking way. There is little outside the set plan, no imagination and very little creativity.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Handled his easy tasks comfortably and then beaten by a pretty unstoppable effort.

Vladimir Coufal
Got up and down the flank, as he always does, and defended reasonably well. Solid, he seems to have been able to re-find a consistent enough level.

Aaron Cresswell
It may not be his instructions, but he has got to overlap more if he plays. Without it, attacks down the left remain favoured but will always be the same. It is easy to defend against.

Nayef Aguerd
Covered well around the defence, with one clear example where he just galloped over from across the pitch to chase a ball instead of leaving the closer Ogbonna to do it.

Angelo Ogbonna
Solid enough, certainly good enough to mean he can handle the game time if Dawson is sold quickly.

Declan Rice
The thing is, his standards are higher than the rest, but he cannot pull off the stuff that seemed both superhuman and incredibly easy in the last two years. He is making more lax touches, missing tackles he?EUR(TM)d usually win, and whilst it doesn?EUR(TM)t make him as bad as the rest, he looks out of his own form.

Tomas Soucek
Worked hard, mostly kept out of the build-up and played passes in their half, not ours. But wasn?EUR(TM)t having a positive impact and was rightly replaced. Sadly, he?EUR(TM)s also the player Moyes would have wanted to bring on in the last 10 minutes.

Lucas Paqueta
He did try to press at times, and he does pass it better than most our players, but it wasn?EUR(TM)t something that really worked today, and he looked lost as we went chasing.

Pablo Fornals
A baffling change, just as Fornals looked to be getting to grips with the middle of the park and helping shift his team forward.

Jarrod Bowen
Another who did work hard, but gets let down by his lack of killer instinct in and around the box. That said, he looks more likely than anyone to create something for himself, and might actually be the best shout to play up top at the moment.

Michail Antonio
He was never a wonderful technical player when on form, but he?EUR(TM)s horribly lacking when out of form. Needs quicker play, but also looks to have lost a burst of acceleration and an ability to turn quickly and trick a player.


Said Benrahma
(Replaced Soucek 59) Brought some life into things, until Fornals went off and he was left as a standard left winger in a 4-4-2, which doesn?EUR(TM)t suit him.

Gianluca Scamacca
(Replaced Fornals 75) It makes sense that he didn?EUR(TM)t start, what with his latest niggle, and he looked better than Antonio. Should start next weekend.

Darren Randolph

Ben Johnson
Did not play.

Thilo Kehrer
Did not play.

Emerson Palmieri
Did not play.

Kurt Zouma
Did not play.

Flynn Downes
Did not play.

Manuel Lanzini
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Nayef Aguerd, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Lucas Paqueta, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: None.

Booked: Nayef Aguerd 70 Declan Rice 90        .

Sent off: None.

Wolves: Sá, Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Bueno, Moutinho (A. Traoré 73), Neves, Hwang (Lemina 73), Nunes, Podence (Aït-Nouri 64), Cunha (Jiménez 64).

Subs not used: Sarkic, Jonny, Toti, Hodge, Campbell.

Goals: Podence (48).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Simon Cooper.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Nayef Aguerd.