After four away games and an untimely international game week during the closure of the transfer window, our beloved Hammers finally play their first league game at home on Monday, under the lights and live on Sky Sports, against an in form Huddersfield Town.
With all the drama in recent weeks; the club, the team, the manager and the fans ALL NEED a win to release some pressure for the upcoming games. A loss at home to a newly promoted side is not what everyone needs at the moment and it could force the owners to make a decision to sack Slaven Bilic and his coaching staff.
So what does Slaven have to do for this game to get three points and have a job for another week at least?
With injuries and suspensions to Ayew and Arnautovic respectively, it leaves the club with thin options out wide so our team would mainly consist of central midfielders, so I suggest to Slav that the club must adopt a 5-3-2 formation for the upcoming fixture.
Head and Shoulders above Adrian
Joe Hart starts in goal for me. He is still England’s No.1 and coming back from international duty with two wins is a major boost to a keeper who has done his very best to concede only ten goals – we all have to admit, we could have let in a lot more than we did if it wasn’t for Hart. He keeps his place to make his home debut.
Five at the back
With Winston Reid rumoured to come back from injury, Angelo Ogbonna on fire in training and Jose Fonte performing well for Portugal, three centre backs are needed to protect the middle of the pitch and reduce the space for the opposition to channel runs. These channels need to be stopped as this has been the main reason behind our leaky defence.
I would put Reid on the bench and therefore have Fonte, Pablo Zabaleta and Ogbonna as the wall for Hart. Zabaleta clearly is a great tackler but he just doesn’t have the legs to be able to push forward with the ball and track back when the team lose possession from an attacking position.
These three have all played in all the recent Premier League losses and it’s up to them to make up for their mistakes.
I would play Sam Byram at right wing-back and would be happy with either Arthur Masukau or Aaron Cresswell on the left. You could argue that Masuaku is probably more of an attacking threat because of his pace and drive with ball, but Cresswell’s crossing ability from deeper positions could prove to be more beneficial whilst still holding a defensive responsibility.
Byram is naturally a right midfielder and has dropped back in to defence since his move from Leeds. Using his past experience playing in a more attacking role, a new position of right wing-back could be the perfect move for him.
The five at the back would therefore create an arc in the line that cuddles the opposition’s attackers but provides enough cover to track runs in between a tightened defence.
Keeping the faith in Noble
Mr West Ham still has fuel in the tank, and his creativity and ability to draw fouls will aide west ham in controlling possession. Declan Rice is the shining light of our team this year and is the prefect replacement for Noble. They both could easily be rotated throughout the season, but Noble’s experience is key for the start of games and Declan’s refreshing ability could be beneficial during the later stages of the game, learning how to close games out to get a positive result.
Noble keeps his place playing alongside Pedro Obiang and the returning Cheikhou Kouyate. Kouyate would probably be the most attacking player out of the three and when he pushes forward he is a constant threat, using his strength to outmuscle the other midfielders. Persistent closing down would not allow Huddersfield to have time on the ball. Obiang’s distribution would be welcomed when linking up with both wing-backs.
Manuel Lanzini is due a late fitness test and could make the bench – if he comes on, he needs to play like Kouyate in closing down players to force mistakes.
Two up top
With Chicharito already scoring two goals, he needs to have a partner beside him and there is no better than utility man Michail Antonio. Antonio’s pace and strength in the middle of the pitch would cause havoc for any defence in the league, but to have the Hammer of the Year tracking back and providing pressure, similar to Kouyate, it would allow Chicharito to perform a free role up top to float into areas and to release passes to the wing-backs before running back in to get on the end of crosses.
What I like about this formation is that the team can go from 5-3-2 to 5-4-1 by allowing Antonio to drop back and it can also go into 3-2-3-2, with the wing-backs pushing up into an attacking position with Noble and Obiang holding back to support the back three, but also collecting the second ball from attacking play.
The one thing Bilic mustn’t do is start playing Kouyate in a defensive position. The Senegalese midfielder needs to be in an attacking role, despite his defensive attributes. He has a similar role to Yaya Toure, but you don’t see Pep putting him at centre-back!
I do have big hopes for West Ham on Monday night and with the squad having Reid, Lanzini, Sakho and Carroll all potentially back fit for this game it could be the turning of the corner we all need.
However, we must all not jump on the band wagon thinking that everything is ok after one win. Bilic needs his players to perform on a weekly basis and should be aiming for a top eight place in the league by Christmas Day, with the prospect of a League Cup semi-final place.
Yes, our squad is thin, but we should be looking to bring in some of the Development Squad. We still have Antonio Martinez as an attacking option, Nathan Holland and Martin Samuelson have both been performing well as attacking midfielders, youth captain for the season Moses Makasi could do a great job in the middle of the park in the absence of Pedro Obiang and we still have Domingos Quina and Marcus Browne to make an impact from the bench.
Come January we could see Josh Cullen and Reece Burke return from their loans from Bolton and come into the squad, allowing younger players to go out on loan instead.
Let me know your thoughts and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – @_LDesign.
Come on you Irons!