West Ham are the latest visitors to the new WHL, 12:30 kick-off on Saturday.
The Hamsters lie 11th and given that they are five points behind Leicester in 10th, it’s probably the highest position they can hope to finish in. They’ve had a curious season, never flirting for long with relegation nor threatening the top half of the table either. Decent results have been followed by surprising and disappointing losses. They’ve been hindered by injuries (Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Arnautovic, Wilshite) though and their dreadful stadium has started to feel a bit more like home apparently so given the mitigating circumstances, it’s not been as bad a season as it at first appears.
Their four away wins have been against Fulham, Newcastle, Everton and Southampton, so a bit of playground bullying but nothing to make one raise more than an eyebrow. They’ve had far better results at home where Arsenal and Man Utd have succumbed and Chelsea and Liverpool have only drawn.
They were unlucky to lose at Old Trafford a couple of weekends ago but in general seem to be content with drifting aimlessly towards the end of the season. Their side against Leicester last weekend was Flappyhandski, Ogbonna, Masuaka, Balbuena, Zabaleta at the back, Noble, Snodgrass, Rice in midfield and Arnautovic, Antonio and Andersen up front. Plenty of experience and in the front three, plenty of potential to cause us worry on a good day.
Whilst many cherries relating to the new ground have been popped there are still some to go including first opposition goal and win of course. West Ham have history in this regard becoming the first away side to leave the newly opened Emirates with all three points thanks to a Bobby Zamora goal in 2006/07. Noble played that day, it’d be quite a double for him should things go horribly wrong for us.
With the minor matter of the Moneybags League semi-final to come on Tuesday, Pochettino will be looking to rest players where he can, but where is that? Given the raft of injuries, it’s not obvious. Davies will play ahead of Rose and probably Sanchez instead of Alderweireld. Starting Foyth too in place of Vertonghen is possible but would be a gamble, as would starting KWP. It’s not a reflection of their abilities so much as the problems of protecting them without a midfield. Dier may play, but Wanyama as well? Skipp maybe? It’s all very messy. Apart from stating that Son will play as he’s unavailable for Ajax, it’s very difficult to guess in which direction Poch will go.
Given that their fans and presumably players will want to make a go of it, it’s arguably our most difficult remaining league fixture. A win would leave us potentially only a good result at Bournemouth away from a guaranteed top four place.
An early goal and then the chance for Son and Moura to get behind Zabaleta would be ideal.
Anthony Taylor is the referee.
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