Our next match, in an ever continuing roller-coaster season so far, takes us to the south of London to face a struggling Crystal Palace side.
West Ham’s second half performance against Spurs in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday was inspiring as we came from 2-0 down to inflict a most unlikely 3-2 win. Until that point, Adrian had kept us in the game with some brilliant first-half saves
So what was the amazing turnaround attributable to? A combination of well-timed accurate passing, together with persistent running allowed us to dominate proceedings, leading to a huge boost in player and team confidence.
Crystal Palace are also having a problematic experience this season, culminating in a brutal 4-1 loss to Championship side Bristol City in the Carabao Cup this week. In the absence of their injured star striker Christian Benteke, they have resorted to using the speedy Bakary Sako to find the net. He is a brilliant dribbler and must be watched carefully.
According to form, and an objective comparison of the two squads, one would predict a comfortable victory for the visiting side. We go in to the game as slight favourites although online bookmakers like www.10bet.co.uk will be pricing up a West Ham win with caution this weekend. Experience has taught us to never under-estimate a wounded animal, and our recent performance against Brighton is sufficient for us to be aware of complacency.
Selection of formation should not offer too many challenges, given that we have a very strong squad at the present time. There are still some injury concerns for Winston Reid, Michail Antonio, and possibly Cheikhou Kouyate, but players like Declan Rice, Andre Ayew, and Edimilson Fernanades are more than adequate compensations.
I have suggested the use of a 3-5-2 formation, or alternatively, a more adventurous 3-4-3 structure.
The former formation would allow the in-form’Andre Ayew to play up-front with Chicharito and Diafra Sakho/Andy Carroll, as a second fox-in-the-box striker
Should the four man midfield find problems during the early phases of the game, Ayew could always drop back to a left central midfield position, in essence, establishing the more solid 3-5-2 formation.
In my suggested 3-5-2 formation, I have allowed for the use of wingers on each side, ahead of the two deep lying central midfielders.
In the case where Manuel Lanzini may find himself isolated in the attacking central midfield position, one and/or both wingers can move in closer proximity to form a narrower-shaped, supporting formation.
A number of additional players are in strong contention for some playing time in this critical encounter. Adrian was heroic in goal against Spurs and I feel he has done enough to reclaim his position as our first-choice goalkeeper.
Other players, who surely must be close to first team inclusion include Arthur Masuaku, Toni Martinez, Nathan Holland, Sead Haksabanovic and Martin Samuelsen.
Let us hope that the entire first team squad, as well as the U23 team players, have learned some important lessons from the win against Spurs. What was achieved in the second half must be mirrored to reflect a similar performance form the opening whistle in every game going forwards.
Pass, pass and dominate! Run, run and maintain the initiative!