There is strong evidence to suggest that West Ham have turned the corner, based on the previous three games against Palace, Sunderland and Chelsea.
The implementation of the 3-5-2 formation has seen improved stability and solidity, especially in the midfield. In addition, Payet and Lanzini are close to peak fitness, allowing them to display their creative talents.
We still have a problem with the two strikers in this formation. Zaza has improved considerably in the past two games, but is still struggling to make a good strike into the net. However, despite some on-going criticism from some quarters, I believe that he deserves to start against the Toffees.
It is challenging to select the best formation for the Everton game. However, he must try to pick the best starting line-up in order to emulate that brilliant performance which we showed in the first 25 minutes against Sunderland. Once again, I advocate this attacking, rapid passing approach in order to attain domination and grab the ascendancy with two quick goals.
The predicted starting formation should see Ogbonna, Kouyate and Reid in central defence. In taking on the critical marshalling role in the centre, Kouyate should play slightly up-field from Ogbonna and Reid, in order to sweep any chipped/long balls from the Everton midfield.
The employment of 3-5-2 is ideal for generating attacks from the midfield engine room, but on occasions we have the capacity to ignite a strong surge from the back end of the field. Ogbonna and Reid can either direct long passes towards the mid-field, or push short passes to Cresswell and Antonio respectively.
It will be of interest to see how we deal with the ever-menacing Romelu Lukaku; bearing in mind Kouyate’s strong build and physical strength, he may be assigned the marking duties for this role.
The return of Cresswell provides an extra left-side attacking option. In doing so, his over-lapping runs down the left wing will relieve Payet from this extra-wide responsibility, and allow him to he will be focus his attention in the centre, as a classical no.10.
At the same time, we should look forward to take up his licence to roam across the 18-yard box, dragging opposing defenders out of position, and creating holes for his team-mates to run into.
I have made the assumption that Michail Antonio is fit to play in the Everton game, after picking up a minor thigh injury in the last game. If there is any doubt concerning his ability to start, then Sofiane Feghouli could deputise in his absence. By nature, Antonio may be expected to revert to his natural right wing playing style, which has proven to be so productive.
Winston Reid will do his best to make sure that Antonio back-tracks when required, as well as moving up to the right to fill the hole made vacant. Likewise, should Kouyate decide to take the ball on an up-field run, then Ogbonna and Reid should move in closer proximity to each other to cover the centre.
I hope that Slav encourages Antonio to move up as much as he can. His outstanding speed and acceleration will create problems for the best of defenders; hopefully, if fully fit, he will regain his crossing finesse. In addition, if able, he will be keen to make his extraordinary heading leaps and add to his five goal Premier League tally.
We should expect to see Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble selected in their usual midfield holding positions. If one or either should tire in what should be a very fast game, then Havard Nordveit and/or Edimilson Fernandes could provide fresh legs to the cause.
Given Noble’s high work-rate and tendency to move up in support of the attack, it may have a telling effect towards the end of the match.
I’m also looking forward to Manuel Lanzini playing at the top of the midfield five. It will be interesting to see if he remains in the middle of the park, or whether Slav has given him a roving commission role. Let’s hope that he is on target again after his wonderful finish against Palace.
Given the make-up discussed, we should be optimistic that early goals will flow.
Should we encounter problems in scoring, then Slav has a number of remedial options to call upon. The addition of a second centre-forward may add more goal-scoring potency, as well as providing extra time and space for Zaza to shoot on goal.
If Andre Ayew is available, he may get the nod slightly ahead of the promising Ashley Fletcher or Jonathan Calleri. If Simone Zaza is struggling from the outset, then Slav should make the substitution early to allow the nominated substitute sufficient time to settle in.
The manager retains the option of making a one-on-one replacement; or alternatively, moves Payet to a central attacking position, whilst bringing on Fletcher and Ayew/Calleri as a striking duet. I look forward to the return of Ayew and Sakho, who may provide the best attacking options available in the squad.
While I remain optimistic that we are able to climb further up the table, it is imperative that we grab 4-6 points from the upcoming games against Everton and Stoke. The points gained from these games may ultimately turn out to be crucial, as we next move on to a horror stretch of fixtures, in which we face Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
However this squad is possibly stronger than last years’, so we should be in for a fascinating ride ahead.