David Moyes’ West Ham tenure gets off to an ominous start
Will Hughes and Richarlison on target for Marco Silva’s Watford at Vicarage Road
Richarlison scores Watford’s second in their win over West Ham United. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty
If David Moyes still had any illusions that keeping West Ham in the Premier League will be among the biggest challenges of his career then the manner of this defeat will surely act as a major wake-up call. Aside from a 10-minute spell either side of half-time in his 500th Premier League match as a manager, Moyes saw his new side totally outplayed by a Watford team brimming with confidence and instilled with a clear game plan by their manager, Marco Silva.
With his former club Everton keen on luring the man who has taken just three months to transform the fortunes of a side that lacked identity last season under Walter Mazzarri, the Scot will know he needs to turn things around just as quickly to ensure his latest assignment does not go the way of his last three posts since leaving Goodison Park to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 2013.
Well taken goals from Will Hughes and Richarlison did the damage here, although in truth Watford had Heurelho Gomes to thank for keeping the scores level after two stunning saves from the goalkeeper just before the break. Moyes had promised to waste no time attempting to plug his new side’s leaky defence having already conceded 23 goals this season under Slaven Bilic, with Winston Reid retained despite only returning to London on Friday following New Zealand’s World Cup play-off defeat to Peru in Lima.
The absence of Javier Hernandez due to a hamstring injury also saw a recall for Andy Carroll for his first Premier League start since the draw with Burnley last month, with Manuel Lanzini and Marko Arnautovic in support from the flanks. The Austrian – a club record signing in the summer at £24m – was singled out by Moyes before the match as one of the players who underperformed for Bilic and their intentions were immediately laid bare as left-back Aaron Cresswell received the ball from the kick-off and hit a long ball in the general direction of Arnautovic.
By contrast, Watford have enjoyed an excellent start under Silva but three successive defeats since the victory over Arsenal here last month have dampened expectations slightly. The Portuguese steadfastly refused to discuss the prospect of joining Everton this week and handed Dutchman Marvin Zeegelaar his debut at left wing-back, with Hughes making only his third Premier League appearance and first start at home since joining from Derby for a cut-price £8m in the summer. The attacking midfielder was impressive for England at the European Under-21 Championship in the summer but has had to bide his time under Silva so far since then. Yet the manner in which the 22-year-old swooped to convert Watford’s opener in the 11th minute after Andre Gray’s mishit effort fell straight to his feet suggested that this is a player who can thrive at this level given an opportunity.
Cutting in from the right flank, Hughes was at the heart of most of his side’s best movements during a first half in which West Ham appeared content just to stay in the match. A delightful flick on the half hour mark almost set up Gray but the striker could not quite find his feet to apply the finish. Richarlison was the next to try his luck as he produced a good save from Joe Hart from the edge of the penalty area with Kiko Femenia dragging the rebound wide.
After criticism borne from the statistic that West Ham’s players had covered less ground than any other team, his side were putting in the effort but found themselves second best in every department. Yet Watford were grateful Gomes was still paying attention five minutes before half-time when a rare moment of enterprise on the edge of the box from Carroll and Mark Noble played in Cheikhou Kouyate, only for the Brazilian to pull off a brilliant one-on-one save. Gomes did even better to keep out two Arnautovic efforts from point blank range in stoppage time, leaving Moyes with his head in his hands in disbelief down in the dugout.
Had it not been for Kouyate’s wastefulness, West Ham would have drawn level six minutes after the restart following great work from Arnautovic down the right flank, only for the Senegal midfielder to blaze his effort over the bar. That was to be as close as they got to achieving parity. With the impressive Abdoulaye Doucouré running the game, Watford were also likely to create chances and a fantastic save from Joe Hart to somehow claw away Adrian Mariappa’s header kept his side in it. But the England goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Richardson doubling Watford’s lead, with protestations that Hughes had handled the ball before supplying the pass falling on deaf ears.
Moyes’s response was to immediately withdraw Carroll for Diafra Sakho – a change that was met with a chorus of boos from the away end. “You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” they chanted. Even the announcement eight minutes of injury time in which to salvage a point did not go down well and it’s hard to escape the feeling that things may just get worse for West Ham’s manager before they get better.