The sight of West Ham fans streaming out of the London Stadium before half-time said it all.
With Arsenal having propelled themselves into a 4-0 lead by half-time, a significant number of Hammers supporters had seen enough.
Those who did remain to the bitter end failed to see a positive reaction, with Arsenal scoring two more second-half goals to secure their biggest Premier League away victory and West Ham’s biggest home defeat since 1963.
The result will increase the pressure on manager David Moyes, whose future is uncertain as he enters the final five months of his contract.
The scenes at full-time were in sharp contrast to those in Prague last June, when West Ham beat Fiorentina to win the Europa Conference League – the club’s first major trophy in 43 years.
“To be a football supporter and especially at this club – I came back twice to keep them out of relegation – there’s always going to be bad times,” said Moyes.
“It was only a few months ago we were having probably the best time West Ham have ever had. I’ll take a bit of time and see if I can fix it.
“I totally understand them [the fans] leaving but at football clubs you’re going to have bad days. I certainly wouldn’t forget the good ones.”
‘We didn’t look like we could defend today’
Moyes was first appointed West Ham boss in November 2017 but left at the end of the season when his contract was not renewed, only to return for his second spell in December 2019.
He has since led West Ham to two top-seven finishes in the Premier League and that Europa Conference League triumph last year.
They beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates in December to end 2023 in sixth place in the Premier League, but are winless in seven games in all competitions since, including an FA Cup third-round replay defeat by Championship side Bristol City.
“I’m not used to my team conceding the goals like we have been,” Moyes told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“We have no real reason to say why that should be happening. For some reason we didn’t look like we could defend today.”
Former West Ham striker Tony Cottee blamed the club’s board for the continuing uncertainty over Moyes’ contract, as well as a quiet transfer window that only saw Kalvin Phillips come into the club on loan from Manchester City.
“Absolute shambles. Club will never change with this board,” Cottee wrote on X. “No investment in the window and a manager with five months left on his contract. Players, tactics and the result were poor today. Where do we go from here? I don’t know.”
Former Manchester City midfielder Michael Brown believes the uncertainty over Moyes’ future is undermining the club’s season.
“Six weeks ago we said ‘give him a new contract and sort it out’. You can’t always please every supporter,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“They haven’t done that and after a day like today, they’ve left it open. We haven’t seen any clarity.
“The fans pay their money and are entitled to do what they want, some of them and enough of them are making their voices heard.”
In the early weeks of his second stint at the London Stadium, West Ham went eight games without a win. The run was ended by a victory against Southampton that was preceded by a massive demonstration against the club’s owners. West Ham subsequently lost their next three games, either side of the COVID-19 shutdown, before scrambling their way to safety.
David Moyes often refers to this as evidence of the progress his side has made in the years since.
Two top-seven finishes, a Europa League semi-final and, memorably, a Europa Conference League triumph in Prague last June will ensure Moyes’ legacy will be a positive one, no matter what is happening in the here and now.
Speaking after the 6-0 home loss to Arsenal, Moyes did not sound like a man who was concerned about getting the sack. After all, talks over a new contract seemed to be progressing towards a positive conclusion and it is less than two months since West Ham were beating Manchester United at home and Arsenal away either side of Christmas.
But heavy defeats in the reverse fixtures, following on from an FA Cup elimination at Championship outfit Bristol City, with other big losses at Fulham and Liverpool fresh in the mind, certainly mean Moyes is under huge pressure.
The promise of this season has in the short-term given way to a slide into mid-table. Before the international break, West Ham have winnable fixtures against Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Everton, Burnley and Aston Villa. They also have a Europa League last-16 game against, as yet, unknown opponents.
With criticism of perceived negative tactics a familiar theme this season, Moyes needs to deliver victories, not the tepid draws at Sheffield United and Bournemouth, which immediately preceded the last two defeats.
Moyes has done so much to change West Ham’s fortunes in the past four years. But patience is finite.
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