Since joining West Ham on loan this deadline day, Victor Moses has gone on to play an instrumental role in our success so far this season.
He forms an important part of our attacking midfield trio alongside Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet, just ahead of Diafra Sakho. Whilst Dimitri Payet has deservedly claimed all of the plaudits, Lanzini and Moses have also been impressing down the wings.
All three provide such pace, flair and creativity on the counter-attack that teams are starting to treat West Ham as a real threat. But as we welcome Chelsea to the Boleyn Ground this weekend, we must prepare for a game without Victor Moses. Moses is, of course, ineligible to play due to Chelsea being his parent club. Here I will explore a few possibilities for his replacement, including shifts in formation.
Firstly I’ll consider ‘like-for-like’ replacements. The 4-2-3-1 has been preferred for the majority of the season with our attacking trio being almost unbearable at times for Premier League defences on the counter-attack. The most obvious man to fit this bill then is Mauro Zarate, who Bilic has used as an impact substitute to play in attacking midfield for the past couple of weeks.
The Argentinian began the season in the starting line-up but a combination of an injury and the signings of Moses and Jelavic have since limited him to appearances off the bench. It seems that Bilic prefers Zarate to Michail Antonio, who we are yet to see much of since he joined from Nottingham Forest on deadline day for a fee of £7m.
After being left out of last week’s matchday squad, Antonio confirmed via twitter that it was not due to injury and the wide man vowed to work hard to earn his place back. If Bilic gives him the nod, it could be his chance to stake a claim for a first team place and the first time that we will get to see him for a reasonable amount of time.
The third option to replace Moses is Enner Valencia. The Ecuadorian international was a key figure in Allardyce’s side last year but injury has ruled him out of the opening stages this season. After returning as an unused substitute last weekend and scoring for the under 21s on Monday, Bilic might believe Valencia is ready to be thrown in to such a big fixture – against the side that were reportedly courting him in the summer.
Slaven Bilic could consider changing his formation, though. Chelsea’s defence has been uncharacteristically poor and unorganised so far this season and he might call upon Andy Carroll in an attempt to wreak havoc with a back four lacking in confidence.
Bilic praised Carroll’s impact against Crystal Palace and perhaps he might be the biggest threat to Chelsea with Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini providing balls in to the box for him. He might also consider the aforementioned Enner Valencia or Mauro Zarate here with an outside chance of a first start for Nikica Jelavic.
However, the best option for me would be to use Moses’ replacement to shore up the midfield by adding a defensive midfielder. The ‘Christmas-tree’ formation 4-3-2-1 has been deployed in away victories against Arsenal and Liverpool with great success. Both these games were played before Moses joined and Bilic might be tempted to just replace the attacking midfielder with a more defensive-minded midfielder to counteract the wealth of attacking talent Chelsea possess coming forward.
Pedro Obiang is the most obvious person to fill Moses’ void for this very purpose. He would be my choice for the role. A defensive midfield trio of Obiang, Noble and Kouyate would be difficult to break down, with Kouyate also providing an attacking outlet when he breaks forward with his box-to-box style of play.
Alternatively, we could start Reece Oxford again as we did in our 2-0 win away at Arsenal on the opening day of the season.