On the pitch West ham have stuttered over recent games with unlucky defeats to Chelsea and Man United and a frustrating draw with ten man Palace.
As a result, the Hammers face towards the new year in mid table mediocrity but with such a tight league a few decent results can push them towards top six again.
Having been forced to postpone the successful back 5 formation due to Masuaku's injury, the Hammers looked light in midfield against Palce and then dominated Chelsea when they opted for the triad of Rice, Soucek and Noble. That said, the lack of penetration up front was a major factor in the Hammers being on the end of a 3-0 scoreline despite being on top for extended periods.
And so to Brighton who have been shuffling along just above the drop zone with intermittent shows of brilliance interspersed with some ineffectual showings. Put simply, if West ham want to push on to the next level and hold on to Rice and Soucek then games like today are must win affairs.
The media have Rice all but sold to Chelsea but the discerning head recognises that the lad would do better to stay at the London stadium and get experience as an established captain. Joining a crammed Chelsea squad could easily result in bench warming duties which a player at his stage must avoid. A glance at the list of emerging talents that have had career ending moves to Man City serves as a lesson in the perils of moving to a big club too soon.
As for today, Moyes has gone for Ben Johnson instead of Fornals in what is hard to predict in terms of formation. The absence of Benrahma will disappoint as the lad looks on the verge of clicking into top gear.
Fabianski, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Coufal, Johnson, Soucek, Rice, Noble (c), Bowen, Haller
Subs: Randolph, Benrahma, Fredericks, Dawson, Diop, Snodgrass, Fornals, Lanzini, Yarmolenko