Whilst the Law Courts of the land may claim that; “Justice is Blind” and in this spirit of fairness I decided to rest the executioner in central midfield in favour of playing the devil’s advocate…after all…squad rotation is the modern way isn’t it?
As Halloween approached last October, I was expecting our performance meanderings through Sleepy Hollow to be met by the headless horseman who would cut deeper than a rather close shave. I was as optimistic of getting caught up in a compromising position with Lucy Pinder, if only she could ignore my ‘face for radio’ proportions.
Then, whether favourable or questionable, we sought change at the helm and the new captain of our ship proceeded to steer us away from the ginormous iceberg that we were fated to kiss.
Whilst it was more of a gradual deceleration rather than a screeching round the bend on two wheels narrowly missing our destiny, there were signs that the rot had been stopped…or at least had been given a stay from the hangman’s noose!
Early fortunes rarely saw the light of day, instead cowered in panic rooms…but against Leicester City at the London Stadium, we saw the germination of what was to become…the green shoots of recovery!
Captain Moyes, able seaman Pearce et al, managed to galvanise the squad to perform at the highest levels with the best teams of these shores in three successive trials. And whilst the undercurrent of tribulations still remained, there was hope on the horizon as the saintly glow of two former flounderers finally made their way into our consciousness and our hearts.
Enter stage left…Arthur Masuaku, who lapped up the challenge in his new wingback role. Dribbling with purpose, now striking fear into a resentful opposition defence, driving forward whilst pulling our excitement up from the mire once entrenched.
In his new role, he has found success, he has demonstrated an uncompromising spirit to charge forward…giving our battle weary back line a reprieve and creating opportunities for our attacking force that will live long in our memories. A boy becometh the man…boots covered in glue, trickery, wizardry to send social media into a tail spin… GIFs ready & primed…a fanbase driven to compose music and lyrics in honour of a blossoming talent.
With an end product nearing maturity, the future of King Arthur and the round table of our noble knights may yet be fated in misery, rather in joy and triumph. He alone cannot lead, he cannot charge unfettled but he can inspire courage for a final hurrah, he can ignite the creative spark we have be found wanting and he may fill our cups with mead until intoxicated and bereft of ailments that plagued us.
Long live the King!
Enter stage right…Marko Arnautovic, who had failed to impress under the Bilic reign…in fact, had made us question the value for money of this record breaking signing…but we moved too soon and lunged without purpose to expose our naivety.
Many would rightly fear for an Arnautovic future under the drill sergeant-esque demands of Moyes, who had identified whose players who had failed to perform or even apply the minimum standards under the predecessor. ‘If thou shall not run…thou shall not playeth in my sandpit’ came the warning from our new Captain Pugwash whom we had yet to deem an appropriate successor to blow wind back into our blackened sails.
However, the one player that rose above all others to grab hold of the torch and carry that mantric flame was our boy Marko. In early games he began to show a willingness to chase down opportunities, create from dead end mediocrity and put in a performance that he and others had failed to produce.
When he finally scored against Chelsea to eventually give us the win we had longed for, we started to believe that we had found a talisman we could load our hopes onto, a charm to bring us fortune and would be the scourge of others. It was his continued improvement and willingness to not only create chances but also forge stronger ties with his own teammates and fans that enticed Moyes to offer increasing praise…and rightly so.
For too long we had pined for a mercurial talent with a streak of naughtiness and in Arnautovic we were sensing we may just have found it. Whilst still being asked to perform as a combined right winger, attacking midfielder and striker, he was excelling in the vague job roles he was employed to do. When the team travelled to Stoke City…many expected the soured relationship between Arnautovic and the Stoke City fans & staff would boil over to end his day in red, shame and an early bath.
However nothing could’ve been so distant from a veritable misconception when bombarded with abuse from former fans, he taunted in return and eventually made his numerous attempts to silence the home crowd count.
A West Ham hero was born…A Stoke City villain was banished outside of their city walls.
When scoring early against Newcastle with a committed run and sublime finish, all of our dreams appeared destined to become reality…if only the rest of the team shared his application…we may well have distanced ourselves from the murky depth of relegation.
When we faced Bournemouth away, although the overall performance was arguably inferior to our hosts, two committed late goals from Marko in troubling conditions appeared to steal us the win…only to be arrested by an equaliser than should never have been allowed and was daylight robbery.
I am an optimist and realist in equal measure! In Masuaku & Arnautovic, we have found players who can turn our fortunes around this season and propel us higher, if only matched by a consistent and collective team’s performance.
In Moyes, we have a manager who undoubtedly strives for improvement in all areas of the pitch, has raised the performance levels of many he commands and has sured up our vulnerable defences, albeit the frailties still remain. If he can find tactical consistency and adaptability to match a squad in need of his mentoring prowess, then Summer may indeed give us reasons to be cheerful!