West Ham were unable to build on their impressive performance against Liverpool two outings ago as they drew with Crystal Palace the following week. But against Fulham this Friday, they have the chance to get a much-need victory.
The Hammers, having spent just shy of £100m in the summer, surely had aspirations of breaking well into the top ten but are currently on the cusp of doing so, although a string of poor results could mean they plummet down the table as the clubs around them are on similar points.
Claudio Ranieri, meanwhile, has largely been unable to clean up the mess left by Slavisa Jokanovic when the Serbian boss was given the boot in November and the Cottagers find themselves second-bottom with just 17 points.
As far as opportunities to get back to winnings ways come, it doesn’t get much better for Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham. How, though, can they assure their poor run of results doesn’t extend to a seventh game and that they maximise this chance to return to top form? Football FanCast lay out three suggested solutions below…
The thing so obviously missing from the Irons’ lacklustre showing at Selhurst Park last time out was an out-and-out playmaker to connect the dots and make things happen. Fortunately for Pellegrini, he has two such players set to make their respective comebacks from injury on Friday.
Nasri has impressed in the number 10 role since his switch to the London Stadium in January while Lanzini has long been a big fan-favourite – the latter hasn’t featured all season, though.
Pellegrini may be hasty to thrust Lanzini in particular, back into action but it’s a risk he must take if he wants to get the best out of Marko Arnautovic, who was starved of service after coming on against the Eagles.
Declan Rice has been a revelation for the Hammers this season playing at the base of midfield and he will be essential once again if the Irons are to take all three points from Fulham.
The Cottagers hold the second-highest percentage in the league for attacks down the middle with 28%, so Pellegrini would be wise to make sure their ability to do so is limited on Friday. Instructing his players to tuck into the midfield will force Fulham to go out wide as the centre of the pitch will be far too congested.
Fulham will have to come up with different avenues of attack and, by the time they do, West Ham could be out of sight.
West Ham pretty much played with ten men against Palace – Javier Hernandez went completely missing and did nothing to trouble the Eagles defence apart from when he found space in the box early on, but miss-controlled the ball.
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The former Manchester United man is a quality finisher but starting him up front on his own, where he was deployed against Palace, doesn’t work. Felipe Anderson, meanwhile, thrives with a target man up front such as Arnautovic, and looked lost as to who to pass the ball to last time out.
Arnautovic, who started the season strongly but has recently fallen off amidst injury setbacks, is surely the man to get the best out of both Hernandez and Anderson going forward. Pellegrini needs a striker who he can be confident will score goals beyond 29-year-old Arnautovic and starting the two together could be the combination that ensures Hernandez hits a purple patch. A classic big man and little man partnership.