What’s the first rule of Relegation Fight Club?

West Ham Opinion

You know it and you dare not even whisper it. You don’t talk about relegation fight club…even though that fight is never far away.

The revolution under Moyes would see our overall performances improve, results that grant us valuable points to pull us clear of danger and dares to suggest fights for survival are for impoverished street urchins where all hope is lost.

Like a red-headed Pitt and Norton combination of Tyler Durden, Moyes has stood proudly over a growing movement of lost men who have found salvation in blooded encounters. It hasn’t always made sense and at times we have questioned our sanity for believing his tactics which seemed born of barely lucid mind.

But here we are, starting to feel quite comfortable in mid-table obscurity…only a trio of wins away from challenging for Europe (Please don’t scoff!), or just as likely to be dragged right back into the murky depths where resurgent foes stand up and be counted.

I sleep with one eye open and one closed…never truly content, rarely leaving my paranoia behind but always hopeful of a glorious tomorrow. “We have front row seats for this theatre of mass destruction. The demolition committee of Project Mayhem wrapped the foundation columns of a dozen buildings with blasting gelatin. In two minutes, primary charges will blow base charges and a few square blocks will be reduced to smouldering rubble. I know this…” (Fight Club) because all fans secretly know this.

Moyes has introduced order to chaos that had flirted its way into West Ham performances, we took our eyes off the prize and he has given the squad a damn good thrashing to make them see sense once more.

You might be forgiven to think that all our mighty woes are behind us, but that could not be further from the truth. Our performance on Saturday against Bournemouth at the London Stadium should’ve been a demonstration of growing fluidity, but yet again our opponents were able to expose weaknesses on a right-hand side that lacked fortitude. We elevated our passing game and dominated possession of each half for about 25mins…but then we let our opponents get a foothold and come back at us.

Whilst the continuing excellence of Arnautovic and Lanzini propelled us forward…they did not seem to have that same spark as they showed in their previous outing, it was by no means an accomplished performance…but the result was welcome. Chicharito came on for an injured Lanzini and soon found an equaliser for us whilst silencing the boo boys. It was not a win…when it really should have been…but it wasn’t a loss either. So a draw with a decent performance was a good result all around and something to build on still.

In this quintet of league games we have the opportunity to eek out results, to gain valuable points and build momentum but almost as important as resting on solid defensive performances is to expand on energised offensive play.

This January transfer period has been frustrating for the club, the manager and players but also for the fans who can see the gaping holes which need to be plugged up but the water still leaks through continuing to undermine our midfield dyke.

There are unwanted distractions, players wondering where their futures lie, others seeking greener and greedier pastures, whilst the faithful hope the club will splash out on fine wines rather than cheap bottles of Thunderbird. There are temporary injuries that upset consistency and long-term ailments that question the bright future we hope will befriend us. Overall Moyes is unable to loosen his grip on a rigid three at the back and five across the middle that affords us rear guard resilience but lacking front door ambition with any consistency.

I have called upon Moyes to be more proactive in games when vultures circle or where tumbleweed is our only entertainment. I had hoped to see more dynamic and earlier tactical changes within games but offer an alternative counter-argument to new dissenters…but alas that is still an unfulfilled desire.

This is not necessarily an indictment on Moyes or his coaching staff, but rather a statement of circumstances with which he has had to deal with. Mostly, he has raised our spirits, expectations and attracted sympathy from those who acknowledge his tenuous position.

Undoubtedly we are now in a much better position than when Moyes first took over but the job is nowhere near done, hopefully that oasis of calm will materialise out of the mirage that’s still before us. The next three games are vital not only in terms of Premiership standings but also to gauge where our true strengths and weaknesses are. Are we able to drive forward with increasing confidence and success to make better opposition stand up and take stock?

For that is the goal…to win the battle against our peers in order to give us a fighting chance against those who would pretend to be our masters. We have the winning momentum to carry us through to victory but we may still be vulnerable to surprise attacks when our vigilance is down.

With little more than a week to go before the transfer deadline, I wonder are we in for a last-ditch attempt to bring home the bacon and feed our appetites for players that will improve the squad. I make no apology for declaring my disdain for this period when we should’ve had all of our ducks in a row last summer or at least had deals finalised in December. Whatever verdict is laid down when the closing bell rings, Moyes must continue to bond this squad together and find a way to introduce the youth and any new additions with pleasing results.

Performance and results are the name of the game here but let us not forget that football is our folly and we want to be entertained with play that excites and births continued enthusiasm. We do not want to be pulled into another dogfight where pundits lord over us and bookmakers take their pound of flesh too.

We desire a campaign that lets our art flourish upon the field of war, where we have weighed up our opponents and exploited their weaknesses. Where strengths are nullified and spurns respect but favours errors in their final assaults.

We have read the Art of War but have opted to steer clear of a battle we could well lose. We know what the first rule is…we know what the second rule is…and we never talk about it. We shall remain positive and keep rolling on…onwards to success.

About the Author

Alf Gasparro
Life long West Ham United fan, football purist, love motorcycles & soaring with the birds, usually to be found with my head in the clouds...sometimes known as RevelatorAlf