Saturday 15 October 2016

Bilic facing Choices Aplenty As Pardew Holds the Aces

This time last year who would ever have thought that 'Little' Crystal Palace would have the audacity to pinch James Tomkins from our squad? As the best to emerge from our academy in the past decade, Tomkins is West Ham through and through and seemed to be one of the key players to lead our charge as we dabbled with our identity by moving to a new stadium.

Alas, We let Tomkins go and have sorely missed his versatility both as a mobile centre back but also as a makeshift but reliable right back. As we prepare to play against Tomkins' Palace today how fortunes have changed with Palace unbeaten in five while Slaven Bilic's troops are out of sorts and look battle weary.

In truth, Pardew has built an excellent squad at Palace and they are now formidable opposition especially up front where they have pace aplenty out wide and in the centre Benteke is on fire after an International hat trick. .

Last time out Bilic opted for a more defensively solid set up with Pedro Obiang as a third central midfielder to patrol the large spaces of our Olympic Stadium. Selhurst Park is considerably more compact but with Palace in such good attacking form it looks like Bilic will need to keep things tight and switch to a 4-3-2-1. Palace are less strong at the back which may tempt Slaven to try a more offensive 4-2-3-1 formation but given our limited options up top just now, maybe a conservative approach is preferable. Questions are starting to emerge about the form of both Kouyate and Noble, but it's hard to see Slaven dropping either at this stage.

The return of Aaron Cresswell will bring some cheer to Hammers fans but he is unlikely to be ready for 90 minutes of Wilfried Zaha and, in reality, will probably join proceedings in the final quarter. We expect Angelo Ogbonna to start at left back with the Collins-Reid Combo in the centre to try to stifle the physical presence of Christian Benteke.

Up front, there are some hard choices to be made. Simone Zaza is surely running out of time as Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho near their respective returns, but for now Ashley Fletcher is the main competition. Bilic has been talking up Zaza in midweek, so it looks like he will start. Payet and Antonio will likely provide the support, with Lanzini or Feghouli joining things later on. 

predicted Starting XI: Adrian, Arbeloa, Collins, Reid, Ogbonna, Obiang, Kouyate, Noble, Payet, Antonio, Zaza.

Tough times at West Ham right now - SuperSlav would surely settle for a point if it was offered right now!


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