West Ham: David Moyes facing a huge test in bid to see new contract over the line

It was little more than 10 days ago that David Moyes suggested the close of the January transfer window would soon bring clarity over his West Ham future, but already that appears wishful thinking.

On the back of being hit for six at home by Arsenal on Sunday, and now into the final five months of his Hammers contract, it has all gone quiet on that front, a wretched run of form since the turn of the year seemingly giving the club’s board pause for thought as far as an expected two-and-a-half year extension is concerned.

Since Moyes was backed to stay after delivering the club’s first trophy in 43 years last summer, consensus over his fate beyond the end of this season has swung wildly: from acceptance in the early part of the campaign that he was unlikely to be offered another deal, to virtual confirmation that a renewal would be in the offing after a superb run heading into Christmas.

January, though, muddied the picture, a sporadic fixture list bringing underwhelming results only partly explained by an injury crisis and, above all, a strange transfer window in which every piece of business appeared to indicate half-backing for the manager and half-not.

Upcoming fixtures

Saturday: Nottingham Forest (A, 3pm)

26 February: Brentford (H, 8pm)

2 March: Everton (A, 3pm)

10 March: Burnley (H, 2pm)

17 March: Aston Villa (H, 2pm)

30 March: Newcastle (A, 12.30pm)

Kalvin Phillips, a long-term target for Moyes, was signed, but only on loan until the end of the season for now, while the exits of Said Benrahma and Pablo Fornals may have prepared some summer wiggle-room but came without an attacking replacement for the here and now. Needless to say, the former will only be of much use to Moyes if he is still in a job come July.

The expectation, for now, is still that the 60-year-old will stay. The Hammers are, after all, still eighth in the Premier League — albeit the gap to the top-six is now at five points and looks to be growing — and have the return of European football on the horizon; hardly a disastrous state of affairs.

Even compared to a fortnight ago, however, the situation appears fragile.

Dug-out blues: David Moyes suffering during Sunday’s Premier League mauling by Arsenal, in which many home fans had left early (REUTERS)
Dug-out blues: David Moyes suffering during Sunday’s Premier League mauling by Arsenal, in which many home fans had left early (REUTERS)

All parties insisted all along that a New Year’s resolution would be on the cards, but with 2024 so far barren, David Sullivan, the club’s co-chairman, now looks a man caught between two bus stops.

Any hesitation at signing off on a new deal right now, in the midst of a seven-game winless run, would be entirely understandable, but each passing week of this limbo breeds further uncertainty and emboldens those who believe it is time for change.

The question of whether Moyes is afforded due respect for his achievements at West Ham has been argued extensively, so, too, that of whether bringing in a younger, more fashionable successor would really prove the all-upside bargain that some preach.

Each passing week of this limbo breeds uncertainty and emboldens those who believe it’s time for a change

In this context, however, both are moot debates: the response to Sunday tells you there is enough strong feeling on both sides of the aisle for an already divisive argument to forge a toxic split should results not improve.

So, is Moyes entering the lame-duck phase of his second tenure, or simply encountering choppy waters — far calmer ones, at that, than he has navigated the club clear of before?

The next month will surely swing the balance one way or the other, with West Ham facing a run of four matches against sides in the bottom seven, starting away at Nottingham Forest this weekend, with Brentford, Everton and Burnley to follow.

Take a decent haul from those games and momentum will be rebuilt heading into the last-16 of the Europa League. Fail to do so, and the Hammers could be one off-night in Europe away from their season being all-but over by mid-March, with pressure on Moyes sure to ramp up all the while.