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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Watford defeat shows scale of task facing David Moyes at West Ham

Scotsman's first game in charge of London-based Premier League club ends in disappointment as Silva's side end run of three losses in style

David Moyes started his stint as West Ham United manager with defeat. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
David Moyes started his stint as West Ham United manager with defeat. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

New club, but same old outcome. David Moyes marked his bow as West Ham United manager with the familiar feeling of defeat.

His 500th Premier League match brought a 28th loss in the last 40. The numbers make for grim reading and the league table also offers unpleasant viewing. West Ham remain in the relegation zone while Watford’s victory means they have twice as many points as their victims.

Moyes could rue the remarkable reflexes of Heurelho Gomes, who produced a trio of high-class saves to deny his side an equaliser, but it was a day to shine a light on West Ham’s problems.

Their fans chorused “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” and a younger Watford team were noticeably quicker. The sense Watford are an improving team was epitomised by the sight of two of their youthful summer signings, Will Hughes and Richarlison, on the scoresheet.

Watford are the anti-West Ham, eschewing big names and benefiting. The prowess of wing-backs Marvin Zeegelaar and Kiko Femenia, acquired for a combined cost of £3 million (Dh14.5m), is evidence of an astuteness in the transfer market that West Ham can only envy.

They were in a reshaped defence that kept a clean sheet. In contrast, the Hammers remain porous. They conceded 11 minutes into Moyes’s reign and now have the division’s worst defensive record.

Their capacity to make unnecessary errors was summed up by one of the more inconsequential mistakes. Rather than picking out a teammate, Pedro Obiang passed the ball to the watching Moyes.

While he was hired in search of a quick fix, Silva has provided one at Watford. A club who were in freefall at the end of last season now sit eighth. This was another illustration of why Everton want to lure the Portuguese to Goodison Park and why Watford seem determined to retain Silva’s services.

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He is getting the most from the players at his disposal. Watford’s opener came from a combination of players who did owed their places to others’ absences. Problems can double up as opportunities.

Andre Gray, standing in for the suspended Troy Deeney, scuffed a shot and Hughes, a beneficiary of Nathaniel Chalobah’s injury, connected rather better as he swivelled to score his first Premier League goal with his first shot in the top flight.

An advantage was eventually extended when Hughes, after a hint of a handball, added an assist to his earlier goal. The influential Richarlison sped away and shot. Joe Hart was culpable as it slipped under his body, but he had excelled earlier. Adrian Mariappa was denied by a brilliant diving save. Richarlison had seen a shot parried before Femenia’s follow-up was fractionally wide. Then Abdoulaye Doucoure had curled a shot just wide and Gray had an effort deflected past the far post.

West Ham had been slow to produce a response to conceding. When they did, they encountered resistance in the form of the fit-again Gomes. Half an hour after falling behind, and out of nothing, Mark Noble conjured a lovely pass to release Cheikhou Kouyate. Gomes made a terrific save. He topped that with a terrific double stop from Marko Arnautovic, first reacting to a deflected header and then blocking the rebound.

Kouyate spurned a second glorious opening, ballooning a shot over when found by Arnautovic and, even when Gomes was beaten, Christian Kabasele cleared Manuel Lanzini’s shot off the line. By then, Andy Carroll had been removed, taken off when he was fortune not to have been sent off following a performance of incoherent aggression. It was scarcely what West Ham needed.

Watford, with more pace, purpose and togetherness, instead indicated the difference the right manager can make.