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Lock-down did little to boost confidence of relegation battlers

Sam Preston June 22, 2020
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

The Premier League is back and the broadcasters who pay millions to show it in this country want to milk it for all it’s worth.

That means ramped up build-ups to matches, but what are the pundits supposed to talk about? There’s absolutely no form to go off.

Games which happened around 100 days ago aren’t especially relevant. Arsenal went into lock-down unbeaten in 2020 and have already lost twice.

Manchester United are another club who had their momentum halted. But for the clubs fighting relegation, lock-down presented an unprecedented opportunity to lift their mood and change their fortunes.

Home defeats for the strugglers

Photo by Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

So why did Aston Villa fail to win either of their two home matches post-lock-down, while fellow strugglers Norwich, Bournemouth and West Ham all succumbed on their own patch without scoring a goal?

Three months should have been long enough to shake off confidence issues and go into the summer mini-tournament the 2019/20 Premier League has effectively become with a clean slate.

Eddie Howe looked particularly beleaguered, with no signs that lock-down had lifted the pressure on him or his players.

Brighton proved to be the exception to the rule and it is entirely plausible that one or more of the sides down there will improve as form and fitness returns, but it was an inauspicious return for the other relegation battlers.

Can Moyes motivate any more?

Howe, Daniel Farke and Dean Smith are at least modern, progressive managers with strong ties to their clubs and a bond with the fans.

There won’t be too many natives at Bournemouth, Norwich or Villa who believe another man in the hot-seat would make a drastic difference.

Photo by BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The situation is different at West Ham. David Moyes’ previous spell in the Hammers hot-seat saw the club escape relegation narrowly but there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that a return would be a good idea for any of the parties involved.

Now the Irons find themselves in a position where they have a manager whose reputation and confidence has never recovered from his Manchester United mauling charged with inspiring the club to escape once more.

Three months to cast aside doubts and injuries, to work on new strategies with a healthier, more confident squad should have produced a far better display than West Ham put in during Saturday’s 2-0 home loss against Wolves.

West Ham pretty much survived despite Moyes last time he was in charge; can they do so again?

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.