Next up it’s the Hamsters at the London Stadium. Where else would you rather be on a Saturday lunchtime?
To say that we’ve not hit our stride yet is an understatement. There were signs against Everton and Dortmund that we were starting to get going but Swansea happened and then Barnsley; we still give more the appearance of Len Goodman with a stone in his shoe than Usain Bolt.
With another Moneybags League game on Tuesday Poch will be tempted to rest players but as we all know, you play a weakened side, you get a weakened performance and given that this is the game that seems to drive the Dildo Brothers and the team’s fans more than any other, this is not the time to take chances. We may feel like singing “Stand up if you’re mildly ambivalent about West Ham” but that is far from the attitude we’ll experience inside the Olympic stadium where for a change the atmosphere is likely to be more febrile than sterile.
West Ham’s dismal start to the campaign hasn’t been helped by having to play four of their first five games away from home but the emphatic defeats at Old Trafford, St Mary’s & St James’s Park can’t be explained by just being absent from familiar surroundings. Their disappointing campaign last time out fed into their strange transfer window and then an over relaxed attitude towards defending. A change in formation (apparently) has helped with clean sheets against Huddersfield and WBA but their attack has been stumbling with Bilic thus far unable to find the best system for Carroll/Hernandez/Ayew/Arnautovic/Lanzini/Antonio/Sakho.
We will presumably field three at the back once more though much hinges on the fitness of Ben Davies. He was badly missed against Swansea and well as KWP did on Tuesday, it’d be a brave move to put him up against Antonio on the left. If we’re optimistic about Davies and not resting players, then we’ll probably go with Hugo, Aurier, Davies, Jan, Toby, Sanchez, Dier, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Kane.
What we should do, given our recent experience of playing the Hamsters, is sit back a bit and try and tempt them into leaving gaps for Kane at least to exploit. Reid, Fonte and Collins aren’t the quickest at the back. What we will do, almost certainly, is dominate possession and struggle unless Harry can find some space. It’s bound to be another tight game.
Michael Oliver is the referee.
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