Despite the lack of goals in our recent games, there is much to enthuse in relation to the approach of our current squad of players.
In the past two games, we created three to four ‘near’ goals. When Enner Valencia was given his 30 minute period against Stoke, it became apparent how important he is as a striker.
We are all aware that Slav and staff are taking a cautious approach towards a return to a full 90 minute effort. However, the question arises concerning the best way of utilizing him during his return to full physical and match fitness.
Ultimately, we must look towards a game plan which suits player and team alike. Should we start with Valencia, or should he be brought on for a 30-45 min period later in the game?
By now, most astute West Ham observers have become accustomed to the ‘Five Main Principles of the Slaven Bilic Approach to Football Management’, as was made apparent in the post-match press conference after our win over Newcastle in September.
While he initially focussed on three important team qualities, by the end of the interview he clearly defined what he had in mind for how West ham should play.
- Pace & Acceleration
- Defending with numbers
- Quality on the ball
- Ability to adapt to and change to different playing styles and set-ups
Consistent with Bilic’s call for pace and acceleration, on numerous occasions he has suggested that with these qualities, we should be looking to strike first and early, and then if possible, strike again while our opponents have barely had the time to adjust to the shock of an early goal.
For one, I fully endorse such an approach.
So where does this pace and acceleration come from, bearing in mind the limitations of our present squad? Let us consider two possible formations which Slav may adopt – 4-3-3 and/or a 4-4-2.
These two formations can easily merge from one to the other, depending on the placement of the right winger. Assuming a predicted back four is Jenkinson, Ogbonna, Tomkins and Creswell, here are some suggestions for the starting midfield and strikers…
If the 4-4-2 formation is considered, Antonio should be pushed a little further up-field, within close reach of Valencia and Zarate – essentially making this close to a 4-3-3- formation. Should we be able to score the first goal or so, then Antonio could start his forays from a deeper midfield position in order to add solidity through the middle.
By starting with Valencia, we have the obvious improved goalscoring option, as well as adding to our requisite pace and acceleration.
An overall appraisal of our best possible starting XI would indicate that together with our goalscoring options of Zarate and Valencia, together with the pace and acceleration off Creswell, Jenkinson, Kouyate and Antonio, and play-making role of Song, we may have that much needed combination required to formulate ‘the pace/acceleration with early striking’ principle of our manager.