Goals from Will Hughes – in just his second Premier League start – and Richarlison were enough to give the Hornets three points and end a run which had seen them lose their last three games.
Hughes scored his first goal for the club with a fine curling effort in the first half before Tottenham Hotspur transfer target Richarlison doubled the advantage after the break with his fifth strike of the season, piling the misery on new Hammers boss Moyes.
The Hornets are now eighth while West Ham remain in the relegation zone on just eight points.
Zabaleta Isolated Up Against Richarlison
At 32, Pablo Zabaleta isn’t quite the gloriously consistent presence he was at right-back for Manchester City, and Watford realised that. With Marko Arnautović further up the pitch on the right flank, the home side were able to isolate the Argentine full-back through either debutant Marvin Zeegelaar or Richarlison.
For the opening goal, the Brazilian exposed Zabaleta, cutting inside and squaring to Zeegelaar, who crossed into the box from which Hughes eventually finished with aplomb. Hughes was excellent for Watford throughout, it must be said, winning the man of the match award after creative five chances – the most any Watford player has managed in a single game this season.
Watford making runs in behind Zabaleta on that side became a regular occurrence throughout the game and it was a real problem for the Hammers. When Richarlison got the ball in a one-on-one with Zabaleta, the full-back looked less than comfortable and it was certainly an area Watford tried to exploit.
It was a strong debut for Zeegelaar as the summer signing from Sporting Lisbon offered Watford an enterprising outlet on the left, often combining with Richarlison in the final third while refusing to neglect his defensive duties at the other end.
For the second, Richarlison had plenty of space as he took on Winston Reid and fired past Joe Hart to land a killer blow.
Watford Pressing Leaves Troubles Hammers
There was a moment, in the 27th-minute, that really summed up the difference between the two sides. With Andy Carroll in possession, the home players did everything they possibly could to unnerve the tempestuous striker. As he charged forward, suddenly he was surrounded by busy yellow shirts, nipping and biting away at his ankles.
After Watford inevitably nicked the ball back, Carroll – on the verge of breaking point – kicked out at Richarlison and went into the referee’s book as a result.
Watford did that effectively all day. Tom Cleverley and Abdoulaye Doucouré were tireless in midfield, often over-running Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyaté, allowing Hughes a certain degree of freedom to roam forward.
Crucially, Watford ensured that Manuel Lanzini wasn’t afforded space. The Argentine is West Ham’s creator-in-chief but here he was subdued and it was down to the dilligence and discipline of Watford’s men in the middle.
West Ham Lack Ruthless Finishing Touch
Moyes isn’t known for being the practitioner of breathtaking, creative football, but West Ham certainly created enough chances here.
Moyes was missing the predatory instinct of Javier Hernández and, although Moyes had Carroll to call upon in the Mexican’s absence, it was Kouyate who spurned West Ham’s two best opportunities. His first effort produced a fine one-on-one stop by Heurelho Gomes while he blazed his second well over the bar after some fine work from Arnautović.
While Watford’s Brazilian stopper enjoyed an inspired afternoon in between the sticks, West Ham’s finishing was not up to scratch. Arnautović also failed to score with his best opening, but Gomes produced possibly the finest double-save you will see all season to deny the Austrian.
Although Watford were the better side and deserved three points, the failure to find the back of the net when the score was still 1-0 will be of immense frustration to Moyes.
Femenia Symbolic Of Watford’s Astute Transfer Policy
Earlier this season, Harry Redknapp angered Watford fans when he said he’d struggle to name six of the club’s players.
While it highlighted just how out of touch the former Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth boss seems to be with top-flight football, it also served as a reminder of how the club’s willingness to look abroad for players has paid off.
Kiko Femenía, a free signing after leaving Alaves in the summer, is emblematic of their successful transfer strategy. The 26-year-old wouldn’t have been known to many Premier League fans before arriving at Vicarage Road but he has been one of many refreshing surprises in the Watford side this season.
After Daryl Janmaat’s injury on the opening day against Liverpool, Femenía has duly taken his chance in the first-team, and it was no different against the Hammers, as he proved a real handful for Aaron Cresswell every time he ran forward at speed, using his acceleration and agility to work the space for crosses.
But he isn’t the only one. Zeegelaar impressed on his debut at left-back, while fellow summer recruits Richarlison and Cleverley – whose loan from last season was made permanent – have been two of Marco Silva’s most trusted on-field lieutenants this season.
Hughes, who scored one and made the other, may have seen his chances limited so far but he looks to be another fine piece of business after his £8million capture from Derby County – another example of how the club do indeed target the British market contrary to misguided belief from some, with Andre Gray and Nathaniel Chalobah other English players bought in the summer.
West Ham Lack Natural Width
While Watford profited from outlets on either flank in the shape of Zeegelaar and Kiko, West Ham were unable to find similar joy on the wing.
With Carroll a potential excellent target man in the middle, Lanzini and Arnautović failed to offer natural width for the Hammers. Moyes’ 4-3-3 looked bold on paper but, in truth, neither winger was able to consistently trouble the Watford defenders.
With the January transfer window six weeks away, Moyes may look to bring in a natural winger to inject some pace and creativity from wide positions into this side.
Lanzini is quick and creative, but the 24-year-old is most comfortable operating through the middle, while Arnautović doesn’t quite possess a devastating burst of acceleration across short distances.