The season was just one game old but already West Ham United appeared to be in disarray. A 2-0 home defeat by Newcastle United on the opening weekend was bad enough. Worse still was that the revolt seemed to be spreading from the terraces to the dressing room.
David Gold and David Sullivan are yet to win over West Ham fans 11 years on from their takeover. Unsurprisingly, their decision to sanction the sale of Grady Diangana, a highly-rated academy product, provoked the ire of the supporters. It also irked club captain Mark Noble, who took to Twitter to explain that he was “gutted, angry and sad” that Diangana had been allowed to join West Bromwich Albion. Amid the infighting, West Ham’s relegation odds duly dropped.
Yet since that day, West Ham have enjoyed an uncharacteristically serene season. This time the calm has succeeded the storm. At the midway point of the campaign, the Hammers sit fourth in the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace on Tuesday night, albeit with the sides below them possessing games in hand, and are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in five years.
Most of the credit for this unlikely rejuvenation should go to David Moyes. Neutrals and West Ham fans alike were underwhelmed when the club reappointed the Scot in December 2019, having concluded the previous year that he was not the man to take them forward. By the start of July 2020 Moyes had won only two league games and West Ham looked set to drop down to the Championship.
A late-season upturn, kick-started by a thrilling 3-2 triumph over Chelsea, saw West Ham finish five points clear of the relegation zone, and they have maintained that upward momentum this term.
Moyes has succeeded in getting his ideas across, and he has not been shy in jettisoning those players who are not part of his plans. Sebastien Haller was sold to Ajax this month. Felipe Anderson is on loan at Porto. Jack Wilshere was let go in October.
Moyes has fashioned a team in his image. West Ham are dogged and determined. All of their last seven wins have been by a single-goal margin. They have kept clean sheets in five of their last six matches in all competitions.
The spine of the team is strong. Lukasz Fabianski is one of the best shot-stoppers in the division; Angelo Ogbonna has recaptured his best form; Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek have struck up a fine midfield partnership; and Michail Antonio, having previously struggled to nail down a defined position, is thriving as a lone striker. The full-backs, Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal, have excelled, as has Jarrod Bowen on the right wing.
If West Ham do climb up to fourth on Tuesday, it is likely to be temporary. European qualification is still a big ask, but the Hammers are patently in a much better position than they were 12 months ago, when Moyes had recently taken over from Manuel Pellegrini.
Reports suggest the Scot will be offered a new contract in the summer. That would be richly deserved. Not many people saw this coming, but Moyes has rebuilt his reputation at West Ham this season.