David Moyes: Manchester City, Manuel Lanzini, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and European ambitions
During his eleven successful seasons as Everton manager, David Moyes consistently had the Blues challenging for European qualification.
The Scot led Everton into Europe on four occasions, with impressive performances against the Premier League's top sides helping the Toffees finish in the top seven on no fewer than eight occasions.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's visit of Manchester City to London Stadium, Moyes discussed his ambition to build a similarly successful future for West Ham United.
The manager also discussed the improvements his squad has been making in recent months, last Sunday's hero Manuel Lanzini, Mark Noble's future role and Said Benrahma's integration during a wide-ranging, insightful press conference...
Has it been difficult to bring the players down to Earth after the euphoria of last Sunday’s comeback at Tottenham?
“I’d rather my players high than low because we didn’t get anything out of the game. I’ve got to say the players were magnificent to score three goals in the last ten minutes, to score a goal like we did, so we should enjoy it and why shouldn’t we?
“We’re always very honest and on this occasion we should be talking well about it. It only got us a point so we’re not daft as we know we wanted to get three points, but we got one from something which didn’t look like we were going to get any.”
West Ham have lost their last eight Premier League matches against Manchester City. How do you end that run? Do you need to change the mentality of the players?
“We have to change it. We have to do better, change it, but we think we’re playing well and we’re an improving team.
“You would also have to say that over that period Manchester City have put in incredible investment and they’ve changed to become one of the best in the world, if not the best, in that period, so it’s not been easy for any club playing them.
“But we’ll try and play them, I’d like to give them a good game if we can and see what we can do.”
How do you approach a game against Manchester City? Do you balance risk against reward?
“At this time of the season, we’re not sure exactly how the results are going. I mean, we saw Leicester get a really good result against Manchester City, but Leicester played deep, counter-attacked and got three penalty kicks and won the game. It’s the way football is at the minute.
“As we’ve seen, Manchester City are improving at this moment in time from the start of the season, but so are we. I think we’re improving all the time and our games have shown there is an improvement from the start to where we are now. I would even that from before lockdown, I think we’ve been improving.
“We hope to give them a really good game. They make it difficult for you, but I hope we can give them more problems than we maybe have done in the past.”
Are Manchester City as good as they were two or three years ago?
“I think Manchester City are still one of the best teams in the world. They’re in a slight transitional period. They lost Vincent Kompany a year or two ago and the lost David Silva [at the end of last season], so they’re trying to add to and get the level of those players that they’ve had over the years. They’re looking for that.”
You have managed against Manchester City and your next opponents after that, Liverpool, in derby matches, so do those rivalries linger in your mind?
“Yes, when you look back, they will do, but I’m only really concentrating on the group we’ve got. I’ve got to say how well the players have played here and the improvement in them. That’s given me a great lift and real confidence we can go and try and take them on.
“My idea of coming to West Ham was not to be challenging around the bottom. I want to do what I did in the past where nearly all the teams I’ve had have been challenging and competing in and around the European places.
“My aim for the future and my ambition is to get West Ham into a similar situation.”
Would you prefer not to be playing another one of the top sides again this weekend?
“When we’re played the so-called bigger teams we’ve actually done well. We got a good result drawing at Old Trafford and we beat Chelsea at home, so we have to go in with the intention of getting something from the game.
“I think our wins against Wolves and Leicester showed we’re not far off competing against a lot of the teams around the top, but teams like Manchester City and Liverpool can do it consistently and when other teams think they’ve got a chance, they knock them over.
“We’ve got to try and stand up and make it as difficult an encounter as we possibly can, but in the same breath we want to play well and show them we’re improving as well.”
What has changed since the opening-day defeat by Newcastle United?
“We didn’t play well against Newcastle, I accept that, but I think we were much better and we felt good from a period long, long before that. We had a short pre-season, we played well in the friendlies. We were one of the better teams after lockdown, so I think there has been a growing change, but obviously the recent results have been terrific and coming back from 3-0 down against Tottenham showed the never-say-die attitude amongst the players and a real commitment to try and keep going.
“So there have been a lot of improvements but we’ve still got a lot to do. We’re a long way away but the point I made about Europe was that at Everton, we had tried every year to be competing in European football, and my ambition with West Ham is where I’d like to go, but we’re a long way from that at the moment.”
Said Benrahma could face his fellow Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez on Saturday. What similarities do you see in them? And how might Said fit into the 5-4-1 formation that has been so successful for you recently?
“I think there is a difference in the comparison as Riyad Mahrez came from the champions of England at the time, who were Leicester City. We’ve got Said Benrahma coming from the Championship and we’re bringing him on, we’re developing him and we’re looking to see him step up to the levels which are required.
“From what we’ve seen at the moment, I think there are good signs. We’re trying to get him a little bit quicker and ready for the Premier League and what’s to be expected. As I said before, I’ve done this with quite a lot of Championship players over the years so I’ll take my time, bring him on when I’m ready and hopefully get him in the right condition to start and play well when he does.”
With Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice forging such a strong partnership in midfield, what is the future for Mark Noble?
“Mark Noble has got a massive part to play here. Tomas and Declan have played ever so well but after lockdown, Mark was arguably probably our best player. He’s got plenty more games in him and he’ll be involved in many more games in the future.”
Have you had an impression of how the West Ham fans are feeling about the recent performances?
“What would it have been like to see the fans when we got the third goal at Tottenham, coming from 3-0 down? I think we’ve shown them what we’re trying to do. We’ve got a great team spirit going on at the moment and that showed by the boys coming off the bench and scoring or making a difference.
“It’s probably as good as we’ve had it here, certainly since I’ve been here in the two times and we’re trying to build on it. We’re only at the start. We’ve got loads and loads to go so we’re certainly not getting carried away with ourselves.
“We’re excited by the wins, the levels of performance and our football is improving. We’re scoring goals in all the games and we’re looking as if we can score goals in all the games. We know we have to stop conceding goals but overall, I think there are an awful lot of good things going on.”
Manuel Lanzini has had injury issues, but do you think he can get back to his best form now?
“When I had him the first time, he was terrific. No doubt, the injury has had an impact on where he is in different ways but I don’t see it as a reason for him not to get back to those levels. His training has been improving and he’s got competition and he realises that. He’s not the number-one pick.
“When you’ve got competition the best thing you can do is do what he did the other night. You have come on, have an impact in the game and that’s the way you work your way back to it. There can be no guarantee given to any player, certainly not at West Ham at the moment.
“We’ve got really good competition for places and we want Manu to be part of that because he is a talented football player.”