History keeps repeating itself for West Ham and beating the drop won’t break the cycle

It is too early for West Ham United fans to panic about the drop. Relegation is far from inevitable, even if David Moyes’s team lose tonight against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Survival will only provide a temporary respite, however. West Ham is a broken club. There is no quick fix.

The Hammers were poor in the 2-0 defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers at the London Stadium on Saturday but there were mitigating factors. It is hard to judge the prospects of any side in their first game back after the restart. Moyes is struggling with injuries, too, especially up front.

A factor in West Ham’s favour is that Aston Villa and Bournemouth, the two clubs that could leapfrog them, look shorter on confidence and have more difficult fixtures to negotiate. Moyes was downbeat after the Wolves defeat but pointed out, rightly, “we’ve got tough games coming up, but we’ve also got other games which might suit us a bit better.”

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He might have been thinking specifically about the trip to Carrow Road to play Norwich City, who are rooted to the bottom of the table and seemingly destined for the Championship, and the home game against Villa. He may also fancy taking points from Burnley and Watford when they come to east London. Moyes repeated his mantra yesterday. “We’ve been here before,” he said, “but we have winnable games. We want to win the next game which we’ll try to do. We think we will be fine, but we have to show that.”

Even if West Ham pull away from the relegation zone, it will not be “fine.” The front three against Wolves – Jarrod Bowen, Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio – lacked the movement and guile to disrupt a rusty defence. Moyes is waiting on Sebastien Haller to recover from a hip injury. The Frenchman is a bit of a blunt instrument but he is the side’s top scorer in the league this season with an underwhelming seven goals. The next highest goalscorer with six is Robert Snodgrass, whose disc problems do not bode well for the rest of the campaign. West Ham do not have a lot of goals in them.

Moyes’s teams generally keep their shape – they did for long periods against Wolves – but they lacked energy, intelligence and pace on Saturday. Declan Rice was deployed in defence and that may waste his talent. The manager understands this and admitted as much. “Declan could arguably be my best centre half and best midfielder so we have to try and see what we have got, who is fit and available and use him the best we can,” the Scot said.

“We know he can give us something else in midfield, but he showed he is also defensively sound when he goes into the backline.” It is easier to find – and organise – defenders than midfielders who can make a difference in a relegation battle.

In the final moments against Wolves, Rice’s exasperation echoed around the empty ground. Mark Noble, too, tried his best to motivate his team-mates. Noble was the fulcrum of Moyes’s midfield and that is a problem in itself.

The 33-year-old soaks up responsibility and cannot be faulted for effort but Noble’s skillset is more suited for a supporting role in the middle of the park. Many of his colleagues are visibly more talented but lack the application to make an impact on the game. Manuel Lanzini in particular does not impose himself often enough. The Argentinian is too often peripheral in the Premier League. He gives the impression of being someone who could be the best player in the Championship. If he is not careful, he might get a chance to prove it.

A number of West Ham fans have pointed out that the club engaged Moyes to replace Manuel Pellegrini a matter of days after Everton called on Carlo Ancelotti to succeed Marco Silva. That not only reflects a gulf in ambition but also the difference in the appeal the two clubs have for top-class managers. Men like Ancelotti – and Rafa Benitez, who was a West Ham target – would not find London Stadium an attractive destination. The track record of David Sullivan and David Gold, the co-owners, scares off in-demand managers.

The perception that West Ham is a poorly-run club is not only prevalent among supporters. It should be one of the most attractive jobs in the Premier League but it is not. Until there is a significant change of culture in the boardroom, West Ham will continue to be a troubled institution. Moyes left after his first stint in charge because he did not see any positive developments on the horizon. If he can keep the team up again he is likely to argue for a structural revamp of the club once more.

History keeps repeating itself in the East End. Survival will not break the cycle. West Ham will probably stay up and will probably remain broken.

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