David Moyes must unleash Said Benrahma when West Ham United host Leicester City on Sunday in the likely absence of Michail Antonio.
Jarrod Bowen would be expected to lead the attack if Antonio fails a late fitness test, having come on to replace the striker at Molineux before scoring his team’s all-important third goal with his seventh strike of the season.
Benrahma and Bowen both took up seats on the bench against Wolves, with Arthur Masuaku and Pablo Fornals brought in to start in the wide attacking roles and Jesse Lingard fielded through the centre.
Lingard, Fornals and Masuaku were each involved in at least one of West Ham’s first two goals against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, before Lingard turned provider to set Bowen up to fire past Rui Patricio.
Lingard and Fornals will expect to retain their starting roles at home to Leicester given their contributions, but a start at centre-forward for Bowen should allow Benrahma to come back into the line-up if Antonio is declared unfit.
“We’ve obviously had a couple of injuries and I don’t think Mick is going to make this game, but I think, apart from that, we’re not too bad,” Moyes said on Friday.
Benrahma has started just 11 of his 22 Premier League appearances since joining West Ham on an initial loan deal from Brentford in October, and has only opened five of his 10 outings since the east London outfit brought forward a £20m permanent transfer.
Moyes has only elected to start Benrahma twice in the Irons’ last seven top-flight fixtures, as well, but he should reintroduce the £23k-per-week playmaker in order to unlock the most out of playing Bowen at centre-forward.
Bowen may have scored against Wolves on Monday night after his introduction from the bench, but the Molineux natives were already reeling from Lingard’s and Fornals’ goals when the ex-Hull City forward was able to run through the centre and drill the ball home.
The Hammers struggled for creativity in attack against Manchester United last month, too, when Moyes fielded Bowen beside Antonio up top, having opted against starting Benrahma while Lingard was unable to feature against his parent club.
Benrahma – who his former Nice teammate Lorenzo Vinci called “a real magician” – was able to inject life into a lifeless unit when he and Manuel Lanzini were called on from the bench, much to Moyes’ delight.
“It was really poor. When we broke in the first half, I thought our play was really, really poor… and that led to not having sustained attacks and we could not keep [the ball], so our play on the break was really poor,” the Hammers boss said after the game at Old Trafford, via quotes shared by football.london.
Moyes added: “We thought tonight that the way we would play with two up, Jarrod and Michail, as two forwards to start with, we thought that might give them a problem to start with, so I saw that as being positive in a different way. But, ultimately, we got better as the game went on when we brought on Manu and Said.”
The Hammers boss can get a jumpstart on West Ham playing to their maximum attacking potential by unleashing Benrahma beside Lingard and Fornals against Leicester, duly setting Bowen up to succeed in Antonio’s absence.