David Moyes heaps praise on West Ham new boy Joao Mario after Southampton heroics

The Portuguese European Championship winner looked every bit that calibre as he scored one and made one against the Saints

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Sunday 01 April 2018 14:43
Comments
Joao Mario was the star of the show as West Ham earned an important win
Joao Mario was the star of the show as West Ham earned an important win

West Ham’s transfer policy comes in for enough criticism – remember Simone Zaza, Sofiane Feghouli and Jonathan Calleri – but their push for safety this season is being led by some of their more astute attacking recruits.

Some eyebrows were raised when West Ham spent £20million on Marko Arnautovic in the summer but he has proven to be exactly what they needed: a charismatic number 9, who can lead the line by himself, making and taking chances out of nowhere.

On Saturday afternoon he scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season – all of them in the last four months – ensuring three points that West Ham could not do without. David Moyes said afterwards that the win was about the team – “not the Marko Arnautovic show” – but it is difficult to see the same result had Jordan Hugill been up front instead.

Playing off Arnautovic was Joao Mario, the Portuguese midfielder West Ham took from Inter Milan on loan in January, having failed to make much of an impression during 18 months in Italy. West Ham have signed more than enough big-name low-impact foreign players in the last few years and January signings are even harder than summer ones. And yet Mario is clearly a very good player and on Saturday he helped to make the difference, blasting in West Ham’s first and providing the clever cross for the second. He was part of Portugal’s victorious Euro 2016 team, after all, and for the first time on Saturday he looked it. Moyes, reflecting after the match, was proud of another astute signing.

“Tell me who’s made an impact as a January signing for any Premier League club? It’s not that easy to think of players who have made an impact from January,” Moyes said. “I think Joao Mario had probably his best game for us: he got us a really good goal, he got us the assist for the second one, so that pleased me. You’ve got to praise him for what he’s done.”

Joao Mario opened the scoring 

This West Ham squad is not stacked with talent, and Moyes’ first job here was to introduce discipline and organisation that had eroded under Slaven Bilic. That puts more pressure on the creative and attacking players, especially with Manuel Lanzini and Javier Hernandez missing and Michail Antonio limping off after eight minutes. Arnautovic and Mario – the men Moyes calls his “mavericks” - had to deliver on Saturday, but they did.

“Mario brings a little bit of flair, he’s good on the ball, and a bit of natural talent,” Moyes said. “What goes un-noticed is that he’s actually a really hard-working boy as well. What we’ve needed from him – we’ve not had Manuel Lanzini, that was the reason we brought him, when [Lanzini] was injured in January – was to give us a goal, or an assist, and today he came up with the goods.”

Marko Arnautovic scored twice against the Saints 

The success of the flair players justifies Moyes’ whole approach, a rigid 4-4-1-1 system reminiscent of his time at Everton. With Arthur Masuaku and Edimilson Fernandes providing extra defensive cover on both sides, and Declan Rice and Angelo Ogbonna solid at centre-back, this was a more solid defensive performance than we have seen for some time. Joe Hart barely had a save to make.

Moyes could not hide his enthusiasm when asked about West Ham’s second Premier League clean sheet of 2018. “The biggest thing,” he smiled “The biggest thing, before the game today, was to make sure we’re not conceding any goals, we’re hard to beat, back to the way we were. And what we’ve got is a few mavericks who are liable to come up with a goal. That was a good thing.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in