Football Features

David Moyes has never won away against Arsenal, but West Ham are giant-killing specialists this season

By Ben Green

Published: 19:25, 13 December 2021

David Moyes, befitting to his name, has often taken on the role of the former in football’s David-and-Goliath narrative, which may explain his 17 winless games away to Arsenal in the Premier League.

Apart from his less-than-successful (to put it mildly) tenure as Manchester United manager, Moyes’ career trajectory of Everton-Sunderland-West Ham has often meant he’s travelled to the division’s so-called ‘Big Six’ as a much-unfancied visitor.

Despite occupying the dugout on 599 Premier League occasions across spells on Merseyside, Wearside, Old Trafford and Stratford, Moyes has never beaten Arsenal on the road, coming up short 17 times. It’s the most a manager has played away at a single club without ever winning in the competition.

So, as Moyes celebrates his 600th game in charge of a Premier League club on Wednesday night, will the champagne cork pop post-match? Or will Moyes be tending to the wounds of another capitulation in north London, be it at Highbury or the Emirates?

Arsenal vs West Ham odds with William Hill

  • Arsenal to win (23/20) | Draw (5/2) | West Ham to win (9/4)
  • Enhanced odds: Michail Antonio to score anytime is 5/2 (was 2/1)
  • Enhanced odds: Emile Smith-Rowe to have over 1 shot on target is 4/1 (was 14/5)

18+ only. Be Gamble Aware. Odds in this article are correct at 18:00, 13/12/2021.

On the face of it, Moyes’ issues away to Arsenal are not exclusive to himself on a personal, managerial level. West Ham have lost 10 of their last 11 away league games against Arsenal. The club’s only win in that morale-sapping sequence came on Dimitri Payet’s debut in August 2015.

The talismanic showings of an illustrious former fling have long since departed E20, but the club have shifted from the over-reliance on a single star six years ago to a more holistic structure, with every player just as important to the end product that Moyes has cultivated.

The result has seen West Ham transition from the punching bag of the division’s top hitters, to a heavyweight hitter themselves, moving up the weight classes but holding their own with every kilogram of class added. They now have a fistic subconscious to batter every opponent to the canvas.

That mentality has seen them already claim the scalps of Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham at home, winning by an aggregate scoreline of 7-4, while Manchester United and Manchester City have been eliminated from the League Cup thanks to Moyes and his band of giant-killing brothers.

But, this has not always been the case. Moyes drew criticism from some fans last season for his approach to the Premier League’s traditional ‘Big Six’. During the club’s run to sixth in the table with a record points total, they beat just one of the ‘Big Six’, which came against Tottenham on matchday 25.

West Ham’s success came down to their performances in so-called ‘winnable’ games. Only Newcastle United and Everton (once) beat West Ham last season from club’s outside the ‘Big Six’, and for what it’s worth, Steve Bruce’s men ended up doing the double over the Hammers.

Those results were perhaps anomalies in a season of consistency against middling and struggling opposition, but against the big boys there was a familiar pattern, a trend that perhaps stymied the club’s aspirations of pushing for a top-four finish, which they missed out on by just two points.

Moyes was criticised for taking a timorous, often overly-pragmatic approach in those games, sitting back and, at times (though very rarely), parking the bus from minute one. In some cases it almost felt like West Ham had metaphorically planted a white flag in the centre circle, paralysed by the fear of receiving a shellacking.

In other cases, it paid dividends. The 3-3 draw against Spurs was a sensational turnaround from being three down after 16 minutes, capped by a late Manuel Lanzini stunner, but was only made possible once Moyes abandoned his attacking inhibitions and provided his side with a platform to surge forward.

It was the opposite against Arsenal at home. West Ham went three up in late March (proving that Moyes was just starting to shift his mentality towards the end of last season), but sat deep and allowed the Gunners to fight their way back into the game, finishing 3-3. Other than that there was the predictable double inflicted by Liverpool and Chelsea, while a stout defensive showing ground out a 1-1 draw at home to Man City.

However, this season it’s been a different story. Moyes has been a man on a mission. Against stronger opposition he has gone toe-to-toe, beating Chelsea 3-2, Liverpool 3-2, Tottenham 1-0, Man City on penalties in the League Cup, and Man Utd 1-0 the round prior.

All that culminates to this festive fixture, which comes off the back of another disappointing point-dropper to struggling opposition, this time a 0-0 with Burnley on Sunday. We’ve certainly seen this script before and Moyes will be hoping to finally break his Arsenal duck with a recent pattern that has emerged.

West Ham followed up a 2-1 defeat to Man Utd in the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Man Utd in the League Cup. They beat Everton away from home 1-0 after losing to Brentford. A 2-2 draw with Genk was closely preceded by a 3-2 win over Liverpool. And a 1-1 draw with Brighton followed on with a 3-2 win over Chelsea.

Moyes has been given a response from his players following poor performances. The recent 0-0 with a Burnley side precariously camped in the relegation zone is certainly a call for some good ol’ bouncebackability. And Arsenal are in the firing line next.


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