West Ham will be desperate to get some points on the board this weekend when they host Wolves in the Premier League, with the newly-promoted Midlands side representing their best chance to do so yet after a testing start to the campaign.
However, the Irons’ chances of a positive result now face a potential dent. Star striker Marko Arnautovic hobbled off against Arsenal last time out and wasn’t involved in the trip to Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night.
So, what alternative options are there for Manuel Pellegrini? We look at five suggested solutions to a potential Arnautovic injury blow for the Wolves clash on Saturday…
He’s primarily a winger but summer signing Andriy Yarmolenko certainly has the physique to play at centre-forward, measuring in at a lofty 6 foot 3 and nothing short of potent during his time at Dynamo Kiev. This could be the Ukrainian international’s chance to really make his mark in east London too having only featured from the bench thus far in the Premier League. Arnautovic himself made a similar transition last season, moving from out wide to become West Ham’s talismanic front-man, but Yarmolenko did play the whole ninety minutes against Wimbledon on Tuesday night – suggesting he’s unlikely to start this weekend.
Once described as La Liga’s answer to Jamie Vardy, we simply haven’t seen the best of Lucas Perez since he arrived in England with Arsenal. That’s not really his fault though; the former Deportivo star was hardly given a sniff by Arsene Wenger, yet still managed to score seven times during his full season at the Emirates Stadium, and is still awaiting his first league start for the Hammers. Perez didn’t have much of an impact against Wimbledon in midweek, but he’s an incredibly quick forward who will help stretch Wolves’ backline.
It would represent something of a sea-change for Pellegrini who has often favoured having two centre-forwards on the pitch. But the Chilean did use James Milner as a false nine during an injury crisis at Manchester City and West Ham’s club-record signing Felipe Anderson looks like a real talent who could thrive in a free role at the tip of the attack through his trickery and speed. It’s inevitably something of a sink or swim setup, but could prove to be a masterstroke against Wolves’ three-man defence because it will leave the centre-backs with nobody to directly mark.
Chicharito’s been made to wait for his opportunities since moving to the London Stadium but there’s little doubting how proven a finisher the Mexican poacher is. He’s scored goals for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and at World Cups, although his effectiveness always hinges heavily on the quality and frequency of service from those behind him. He played the entirety of West Ham’s Carabao Cup tie at Wimbledon but scored in stoppage time and the euphoria of finding the net could be enough to counteract any tired legs this weekend. Probably the most obvious candidate to step into Arnautovic’s shoes.
A jack of all trades yet master of none. West Ham have utilised Michail Antonio at centre-forward before but with incredibly mixed results. While he offers an outlet on the counter-attack, his holdup play is inconsistent and the versatile midfielder is always at his best when arriving late into the box, rather than leading the line or providing an immediate target for crosses. Pellegrini appears to be a fan of the Englishman, however, and you certainly can’t fault him for work-rate and enthusiasm.