What a fantastic start to the 2015/2016 campaign.
After being completely written off and laughed at before the game against Arsenal about the distinct possibility of getting at least a point at The Emirates Stadium, the mighty Hammers ended up deservedly coming away with maximum points.
In Slaven Bilic’s first Premier League match for West Ham, the Croatian’s tactical prowess was too much for the Gunners. Getting plenty of bodies behind the ball when the North Londoners attack, quick counter attacks and keep possession of the ball at any given opportunity were the main reasons why the East Londoners made Arsene Wenger’s side look like a Pub team.
However, former Besiktas chief Bilic reiterated that although it is a great beginning to the season, it is just a start, and now the focus turns to the home fixture against fellow fast starters Leicester City.
Upbeat about last Saturday’s resounding 4-2 victory against a dismal Sunderland XI in new manager’s Claudio Ranieri’s first competitive game as manager in the Premier League in nine years, the Foxes will be going into the fixture at Upton Park with bags of confidence.
Nevertheless, the E13 club will also want to make a statement of intent by picking up consecutive wins in the final first game of the Premier League season at the iconic Boleyn Ground.
Bearing the marvellous win against the FA Cup holders, dropping players will be a difficult choice for Bilic considering every single player performed magnificently. With that in mind, the former Croatia national coach has two main dilemmas’ to deal with.
Firstly, does teenage sensation Reece Oxford keep his place in the side? It’s clear to see that Bilic is trying to reinvigorate the ‘Academy of Football’ name back into West Ham. He proved this by including 16-year-old wonderkid Oxford, who had the task of keeping former Real Madrid and World Cup winner Mesut Ozil quiet in the teenager’s first ever Premier League start becoming the second youngest starter in Premier League history.
Not only did Oxford achieve playing Ozil out of the game with great distinction, but also completed more passes than any other player on the pitch. For a schoolboy who predominantly is a centre half rather than a holding midfielder, the future is bright for the local lad.
Secondly, on loan defender Carl Jenkinson was unable to play against his parent club, with James Tomkins stepping in. Many thought that coming up against the usually consistent Santi Cazorla would expose Tomkins. However, it was the other way around as the Spanish international could not find a way past the former England U21 international.
Nevertheless, Jenkinson is a natural right back and will deal with the pace of Leicester midfielder Riyad Mahrez much better than Tomkins. With Winston Reid putting in a stellar performance in his first game back from a pre-season injury and Angelo Ogbonna conducting the perfect debut, it will unfortunately be hard for Tomkins to keep his place in the side despite playing brilliantly at Arsenal.
Overall, Bilic will weigh up the decision of replacing youth with experience with Captain Kevin Nolan eager to replace Oxford. However, dropping Oxford would not only anger the fans but also give the Foxes extra incentive to attack. With first choice right back Jenkinson available again, Tomkins looks like he’s drawn the short straw ahead of Saturday’s match.
Furthermore, new summer addition Pedro Obiang looks as though he is fully fit and is certain for at least a place on the bench. With West Ham having a plethora of options to choose from, place a bet on a 2-0 win for the home side.
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