By Jack Malone

West Ham United’s draw at Chelsea on Sunday effectively ended the home side’s top-four chances and edged the visitors closer to Premier League safety.

It was a surprise result that in a way perfectly encapsulated the Irons’ inconsistency under the management of David Moyes, who nonetheless seems set to achieve his remit of keeping the East Londoners in the top flight.

Javier Hernandez, on from the bench, netted after 73 minutes to leave the scores tied and the Blues wondering how they had not come away with all three points.

Chelsea were largely dominant throughout, boasting 60% possession and 23 shots compared to West Ham’s five, but Moyes’ men hung in to their credit and were ultimately rewarded for their resilience.

Joe Hart turned in the best display of a turbulent loan spell between the sticks, making several excellent saves to remind everyone why he has been England’s number one goalkeeper for the best part of the past decade.

The defence remained stoic throughout and going forward Marko Arnautovic offered a sporadic threat in what must have been a frustrating afternoon for the Austrian.

It was his cross that allowed Hernandez to smartly tuck a side-foot finish inside the near post and send the travelling supporters into delirium.

Now, six points clear of the bottom three with six matches remaining, the Hammers seem on course to retain their status in the Premier League.

On that front alone, Moyes’ appointment in November can be considered a success, but results have varied from excellent to awful on too regular a basis.

In the former category, there is the four points taken from Chelsea over the course of the campaign, the 3-0 away victory over Stoke City and last weekend’s triumph by the same scoreline against Southampton.

On the other hand, heavy defeats to the likes of Everton and Swansea City looked to have plunged West Ham right into deep trouble, whilst the loss to Burnley last month at the London Stadium sparked ugly scenes and mass protests at the running of the club.

Every time the side seem to have hit a run of form, a disaster is usually not far around the corner, whilst to Moyes’ credit he has pulled some results out of the blue when hope appeared to be evaporating.

If, as now expected, the Irons survive, it is likely that the Scot will be in charge next season, so where must he look to improve if he is to avoid another dogfight?

In attack, West Ham have the makings of a strong top-half team; Manuel Lanzini is capable of producing moments of genuine quality and the often frustrating Michail Antonio has proven he can be effective at this level.

Arnautovic has been the success story of the term with nine goals and four assists in the league and Hernandez’s eight strikes in 16 starts show he still knows where the back of the net is.

The Mexican will not be happy at how often he has been named on the bench but despite being a fine goalscorer, Moyes has perhaps understandably plumped for more muscle and energy in his attempts to stave off relegation.

Getting those four players in a system which gets the best out of each is the next task for the former Manchester United boss and it is something he can work on over the summer.

Behind them, though, Moyes needs serious reinforcements.

Hart’s performance at Stamford Bridge does not overshadow a miserable campaign, whilst in defence a right-back and centre-half are the minimum requirements.

Joao Mario has provided some offensive impetus in midfield but the chances of him signing permanently from Inter Milan are slim given the Italians’ asking price; the club will need a replacement for him as well as ageing captain Mark Noble.

The key to greater consistency as a team is having players who are able to turn in solid performances on a weekly basis.

As Burnley have demonstrated this season, they don’t have to be world beaters, but simply good footballers with the discipline to carry out a tactical plan.

West Ham have the flair up front and now need a strong base behind that to push on up the table in 2018-19.


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