Tactical Analysis: David Moyes' West Ham United


31-Jan-2022 | 11 minute read

Since taking over the reins two years ago, David Moyes has taken West Ham United from strength to strength. They've gone from fighting relegation in the 2019/20 season to a 7th place finish and Europa League football last season. What's more, they started the current season with a flyer and are currently looking good for a place in Europe next year. All things considered, Moyes has, undoubtedly, worked wonders at the London club.


In this article, coach and analyst Fernando Nuñez, following on from articles he has already written on Red Bull Salzburg, Napoli and Atalanta, provides a tactical analysis of the Hammers, showing Moyes’ strengths as a coach in the process.


Over to Fernando…

Note: At the time of writing, West Ham sit fifth in the league, just one point adrift of Manchester United.


In a league as competitive as the Premier League, where exorbitant budgets and billionaire oligarchs are the norm, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a relatively modest team such as West Ham in the upper echelons of the table. With a game which is high and direct, the Londoners know how to take advantage of their physical power.


Style of Play: Direct and Physical with a 4-4-2 Formation


Moyses’ men generally line up in a classic 4-4-2 formation with a style of play which is extremely direct and physical. Their physicality has often overwhelmed bigger teams, putting them thoroughly against the ropes.


At a defensive level, the team organises themselves in a folded position which means that they don’t lock themselves into their own half, instead waiting for their opponent to reach the halfway line.


From there, they begin to press forward, directing the game out wide, putting pressure on the wingers whilst closing down the remaining players in midfield.



By closing the passing lanes to the middle of the field, they force their opponents to carry the ball up the wing and play long crosses into the box. With up to eight players accumulated in the penalty area, West Ham puts trust in the physical power of their defenders in the air.


In Defense: Up to 8 Players Defending the Area


How are their players distributed in the area? Usually in two lines. The line closest to the goal sends a player to take on the opponent whilst the other three guard the near post, the far post and the central area.


In the secondary line, one player hangs around the edge of the box whilst the others surround the penalty area, ready to pounce.



There is also a plan B if the opponent tries to play inside. Here the Londoners employ a man-to-man press with a high, fast rhythm, making it extremely difficult for the opponent to penetrate through to the centre. This forces the opposition back out to the wings where the initial defensive plan is reemployed.


In Attack: A Simple, Direct Plan


At an attacking level, West Ham United are a team which doesn’t like to get overly complicated. They play high and direct and, once again, physicality plays a crucial role, especially the physical power of their centre forward, Anthony, who wins the majority of balls and holds up the ball well in order to link up with his teammates and start the attack.


The main idea here is to get the ball up as high as possible. To do this successfully, they group up in threes, where one player fights for the high ball and the other two hold back, waiting for the pass back so they can continue to move it forward.



Again, the wings play an extremely important role. Once the ball has been won in the middle of the park, it’s on the flanks where the ball is pushed forward, where Moyes has some powerful players with good one-on-one skills. Driving up the wings, these players have a high degree of success taking on the opposition defense.



Occasionally, even the full-backs get involved in the offensive maneuvers, helping to generate numerical superiority and taking on the opposition with their height and power. 



Once the baseline has been reached, the box is loaded with up to four players, ready to receive the cross and take a shot on goal. They line themselves up across the area, one at the front post, one in the middle, one at the far post, and one holding back on the edge of the area waiting for rebounds.



West Ham move the ball around the field rapidly, from one side of the pitch to the other, always trying to drive the game forward and get into an attacking position.




Offensive Transitions: Fast and High


Offensive transitions are one of West Ham’s main weapons. They are executed very quickly and at a great height. With no more than 3 or 4 passes, West Ham can quickly get into the opposition’s area. The speed of their transitions mean that the opposition simply does not have time to organise themselves effectively.


So how do they react when they manage to steal? The first pass is usually to the striker, who receives at the front, while the rest of the team begin to attack the spaces. Two players race up the flanks and one through the middle, staggering themselves and offering support to their frontman.


In turn, the remaining players try to give width to the attack, driving forward. The player with the ball runs it as far as he can before looking for support from his teammates.


Defensive Transitions: Retreat and Reload


During defensive transitions, West Ham are not a team which relies on intense pressing. Instead, they try to get as many men behind the ball as fast as possible without giving up space. To do this, they employ a very fast withdrawal and reordering during transitions.


On losing the ball, the closest player will press the opponent, trying to hold up the forward momentum as much as possible in order for the rest of the team to get back and organise themselves into a solid defensive line.


Related Content: Want to Get Published on the KlipDraw Blog? 



Set-Pieces: an Effective Weapon


Due to the power and height of their players, special mention should be given to West Ham’s set-pieces, which have brought them great success this season.


A typical move during set-pieces is for West Ham to enter the opponent’s area in a staggered formation. First, three players will enter in a full spread. This pulls the defense towards them, opening up space in the centre of the box which another player will then take full advantage of.





The buying power of the Premier League means that the competition brings many of the world’s best players together in one place. As a result, there are many highly competitive clubs employing some of the world’s best coaches who provide a wealth of tactical diversity to the league.


Because of this, matches tend to have a great rhythm to them and, occasionally, throw up some surprises, especially when a lower ranked club can take on and beat some of the bigger teams. The two Manchester teams, Chelsea and Liverpool remain a step above the rest, but Spurs, Arsenal and, lately, Leicester also jostle for position in this top group.


Related Content: Antonio Conte's Tottenham


And that’s why the emergence of teams such as West Ham, with such a direct game, are a breath of fresh air. They bring something new to the table, making the league more interesting than it already is.


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Written By

Fernando Nuñez

KlipDraw contributor

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