Carroll absence provides the perfect opportunity for Slaven Bilic

West Ham United drew 1-1 with Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday and for the second time in eight Premier League matches so far this season, they saw one of the players sent off in the first half to ultimately cost them the three points.

Club-record signing Marko Arnautovic also saw red in the Irons’ second fixture of the campaign against Southampton at St Mary’s in August, and despite trailing 2-0 five minutes after the Austrian was dismissed, Slaven Bilic’s men battled back to 2-2 before a last-gasp Charlie Austin penalty ensured that the hosts picked up all three points.

With Arnautovic clearly in the wrong on the south coast after elbowing Jack Stephens in the face, Bilic would have been quick to warn his players not to repeat the same mistake over the course of the rest of the season, or to give the referee the opportunity to show them a red card.

The Hammers quickly found themselves in a similar situation against the Clarets just six matches later though, but on this occastion they led through Michail Antonio’s 19th minute goal as they looked to pick up their first win of the campaign on the road.

Just six minutes later, Andy Carroll was booked for elbowing James Tarkowski when he went to jump for the ball – even though he had his eyes clearly fixed on it – and Bilic would have been keen to get a message across to him at that point that he needed to show some composure and not do anything silly for the rest of the game.

However, just two minutes later the same thing happened again – this time with Ben Mee – and referee Stuart Attwell had little choice but to show the 28-year-old a second yellow card to leave West Ham a man short with more than an hour to play.

The visitors looked set to hold on to the victory before Chris Wood scored just Burnley’s second home Premier League goal of the season five minutes from time, and it is something that may not have happened had Carroll still be on the field considering the Clarets had barely threatened aside from a few long distance efforts against 10 men.

While the centre-forward clearly should have known better and will be regretting his actions – especially after Bilic said he was “very disappointed and angry” with him in his post-match press conference – Irons supporters shouldn’t turn against him despite his naivety.

He may have failed to get on the scoresheet so far this season, but he is still an important player to the team – when he is fit of course – and he will still have a big part to play for them across the rest of the course of the campaign considering he was such a handful in the crucial 1-0 win against Swansea City in the club’s previous home game.

In fact, Carroll’s absence through suspension against Brighton and Hove Albion at the London Stadium on Friday night gives Bilic’s men another opportunity to work out how they can play effectively with summer signing Javier Hernandez up top.

The Mexico international endured a difficult time up front on his own against Manchester United, Southampton and Newcastle United earlier in the campaign, while he initially moved to a left wing position when Carroll made his comeback from injury in the first win of the season against Huddersfield Town in September.

Bilic chose to go with a more traditional 4-4-2 formation against Swansea and Burnley with the duo up top together, but their partnership never really got going against the Welsh side before Carroll was sent off after just 27 minutes against the Clarets.

While Hernandez has scored three goals – including a brace in the Southampton defeat – in eight Premier League appearances and 10 in all competitions for West Ham this season, we certainly haven’t seen the best of him yet.

However, he is undoubtedly the best and most reliable goalscorer at the club and Bilic needs to work out how the Mexican can be the main man in the team.

It is unclear whether the 29-year-old will start up front on his own against Brighton or if he will be partnered by Diafra Sakho in a 4-4-2 formation, but his teammates must quickly learn his strengths and what he wants to provide him with the service he needs to start finding the net on a regular basis – beginning on Friday night.