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Hard to beat, now make us difficult to stop

Filed: Thursday, 14th December 2017
By: Graeme Howlett

David Moyes may have put a stop to West Ham leaking unnecessary goals - but now he has to find a way to start scoring them again.

The new boss has been widely praised - and rightly so - for making West Ham a "hard to beat" side following the recent matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and runaway league leaders Manchester City in which the opposition have mustered a total of just two goals in four-and-a-half hours' play.

However since taking over from Slaven Bilic six matches ago, the Hammers have scored just three times - in the 1-1 draw at home to Leicester, the narrow 2-1 defeat at Manchester City and against Chelsea. And that HAS to improve if West Ham are to stand a chance of avoiding relegation.

West Ham: efforts at goals under David Moyes
Total shots (on/off target in parenthesis)

v Watford 10 (6/4)
v Leicester 8 (4/4)
v Everton 7 (3/4)
v Man City 7 (4/3)
v Chelsea 5 (2/3)
v Arsenal 6 (0/6)

Totals: 39 shots, 19 on target (average 3.17 per match)

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Of course, the calibre of opposition has to be taken into account when assessing these statistics and there are few teams that would be expected to go gung-ho against a side such as Man City, blessed as they are with a team capable of destroying opponents on the counter attack.

However whilst Moyes is being lauded for engendering a new resolve within his team, this weekend's trip to Stoke will provide a different test altogether - one in which the Hammers will now be EXPECTED to get a result following their recent marked improvement (and do it without the inspirational Winston Reid, who is banned having accrued five bookings).

In some ways it'll prove an even tougher test that the recent derbies against Chelsea and Arsenal - whilst the rejuvenated and freshly-inspired Marko Arnautovic is likely to have all his buttons pressed by a Stoke side who are acutely aware of every flaw in his character.

On paper, the Hammers have a plethora of striking options to choose from. But Michail Antonio has appeared less than enamoured (again?) at being asked to play outside of his comfort zone, and whilst serving a purpose up front in the last two games doesn't appear comfortable as a sole striker.

Elsewhere there's Andy Carroll, though unfortunately he's about as reliable as a Brexit campaign promise. Diafra Sakho, despite looking our best option given his pace can't wait for January to come around so he can finally up and leave whilst Toni Martinez simply isn't ready to be thrown in at the deep end.

Meanwhile Andre Ayew continues to frustrate, despite showing occasional signs of being worth the market-rate £20million West Ham shelled out in order to acquire his services last season. Finally there's Javier Hernandez, who is currently scoring at a rate of one goal every 3.5 games - hardly prolific, although it is of course early days for him still at West Ham.

West Ham's mis-firing strikers: 2017/18

Andre Ayew: 18 appearances, 5 goals
Javier Hernandez: 14 appearances, 4 goals
Diafra Sakho: 15 appearances, 3 goals
Michail Antonio: 13 appearances, 1 goal
Andy Carroll: 9 appearances, 0 goals

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Altogether, those five have scored just 13 goals this season from 69 matches - an average of just one goal ever five games or so, which is patently insufficient for a team hoping to stave off the threat of relegation.

Yet Stoke have been even more generous to their opponents that West Ham, having shipped 36 goals already this season. Even though defensively they were dreadful under Slaven Bilic earlier in the campaign, the Hammers have conceded four fewer at 32 - albeit enjoy a slightly inferior GD, as the Potters have found the net on 19 occasions compared to West Ham's 14.

And there's the other albatross West Ham will be carrying into the game, namely being only one of two Premier League teams yet to win on their travels this season (the other being the equally-troubled Crystal Palace).

All of which tends to point towards the game being a stalemate, or being won by a single goal - as has been the case in the last six meetings between the two sides (five draws plus one 2-1 win for our hosts last year). Hence the importance of scoring first is magnified, intensely.

In addition to addressing the chronic lack of goals Moyes has to find a way to successfully incorporate Manuel Lanzini, one of few players capable of unlocking a defence, into his team. The Argentine midfielder has been a virtual spectator in recent weeks and is one of a handful of players to have made less of an impact, post-Bilic.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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