David Moyes: The transformation from a year ago to now is great
David Moyes believes the turning point for his West Ham United squad came exactly a year ago.
The Hammers travelled the short distance to Arsenal on Saturday 7 March 2020 and were somehow beaten 1-0 in a game they dominated for long periods, giving the manager belief his struggling side could stave off relegation.
The following week, the 2019/20 Premier League season was suspended due to the spread of COVID-19, and football took a three-month break before returning in late June.
During the uncertain days of that first national lockdown, Moyes and his staff ensured the players kept fit and focused, despite the huge logistical, physical and psychological challenges they were all facing.
The result, when the Premier League season did resume, was a strong finish that saw Moyes’ men collect 12 points from their final seven matches to beat the drop.
That momentum has continued into 2020/21, with a strong and confident West Ham heading into Monday’s home fixture with Leeds United knowing victory would take them back up to fifth place and keep them right in the race for European qualification.
I’m hoping that we can change the mentality at West Ham which is determined, committed and winning all the games
“I remember the feeling after that game, and every game, was ’how are we going to get a result?’ but I had probably started to sense that the Arsenal game gave us some confidence – we lost 1-0 and I came away from that with a little bit of hope,” he recalled.
“Then we had lockdown after that. So, it shows you where we've come to now – there are no questions about relegation, all the questions are about ‘can you be in the top four?’ or ‘can you get into Europe?’. The transformation from then to now is great.
“And for me as a manager obviously you don't feel as much stress, you don't feel as much pressure. But what I will say is trying to challenge the top teams is always going to be tough, but I hope we can try and do that for as long as we can.”
The key to West Ham’s improvement has been a change in mentality.
The Hammers have been far more resilient than in previous seasons, winning 13 and losing just seven of their opening 26 matches, keeping nine clean sheets, collecting nine points from matches in which they have fallen behind – sixth best in the Premier League – and not making a single individual mistake that led to an opposition goal.
All those numbers are a source of pride for the manager, but he is still demanding more, and knows there is plenty more to come from his players.
Moyes cited the example being set by recent signings of Czech Republic internationals Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal, who he found training at Rush Green on their day off ahead of Monday’s game.
“I think we’ve been trying to push it right from the start about ‘let’s get the points, let’s keep moving forward, let’s keep it going’ and the results give you a better mentality, they really do,” he explained.
“It’s a very simple thing to say but it’s probably true. The more you win and the more wins you get you can talk about how things are going well and how good the mentality is without actually having any real background to it, but I think we’ve brought in three or four players which has helped it dramatically, it really has. The way they prepare for the games.
“I got asked the question earlier about having nine days off and how it’s been … well, the players had a day off yesterday and when I came in in the morning to do some work in the office I can see Tomáš and Vladimír training themselves on the pitch, the two of them are out there with ball. They’re just great lads and it’s gone through the Club, it really is.
“So, I’m hoping that we can change the mentality at West Ham which is determined, committed and winning all the games. I don’t know if I can change everything in one fell swoop but I do think that it’s a bit like ‘if you don’t get on board at the moment we’re not going to carry you along with us, you’re going to have to be part of it and if you don’t we’ll cast you aside’.
"So, it’s up to the players in the squad to show that when they do get the opportunity, when they do play, that they’re willing to come on board and try and work as hard, be team players, show their own individual parts to the game which get them in the squad and hopefully we can keep that going.”