David Moyes should unleash Jarrod Bowen to torment Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo when West Ham United visit Craven Cottage on Saturday evening.
Bowen fell to the bench as the Irons beat Aston Villa 3-1 on Wednesday night, with Moyes drafting Ryan Fredericks into the side to double up on Jack Grealish with Vladimir Coufal.
The decision proved a masterstroke as Dean Smith’s talisman was frequently forced in off the wing and saw his influence restricted, yet Moyes will not need to attack on the same path during this weekend’s London derby.
Unlike Villa, who share West Ham’s aspirations of securing a European berth come the end of the season, Fulham’s main objective is simply to stay in the Premier League with Sheffield United (11) and West Bromwich Albion (12) the only sides to have claimed fewer points than Scott Parker’s men (14) thus far.
Fulham are also without a win in their last 11 top-flight fixtures, having been forced and forcing opposing sides to settle for a point each on seven occasions – only Brighton and Hove Albion (9) have drawn more often than the Cottagers (8) this term.
Leicester City were able to avoid a stalemate in their travels to south west London on Wednesday night with Brendan Rodgers’ side claiming a 2-0 win, with James Maddison’s vision and drive more than enough to make up for Jamie Vardy’s absence.
Pressure from Adarabioyo proved insufficient to thwart Maddison’s efforts or those of his teammate James Justin, whose lung-busting run from full-back ended by tapping in the Foxes’ second goal inches away from the Cottagers defender.
The only aspect in which Adarabioyo thrived against the King Power Stadium natives was in keeping things simple in hopes of protecting Alphonse Areola’s goal, with the 23-year-old recording a match-high 10 clearances. Harrison Reed registered Fulham’s second-most with three, while fellow centre-halves Joachim Andersen and Ola Aina achieved one between them, per WhoScored.
Adarabioyo’s no-nonsense approach resulted in his highest tally of clearances since recording 11 at home to Liverpool in December, while also penning his first successful tackle in four Premier League games, per WhoScored.
But Moyes can look to torment Adarabioyo on Saturday by unleashing Bowen, who former Rangers and Scotland manager Alex McLeish believes has is “different class”.
While benched against Aston Villa, Bowen has been performing well this season to create 0.9 goalscoring opportunities a game in the Premier League along with taking 1.0 shots and recording 1.1 successful dribbles a game, per SofaScore.
“You can tell that he’s been schooled in a certain way, it’s probably the other side that we need to keep working on, defending, the bread and butter of what he is and Adarabioyo knows that, as well,” Parker said, via quotes by South West Londoner.
It was also under pressure from Brighton last month that Adarabioyo struggled, resulting in the 23-year-old turning over possession 16 times – double his usual standards of 8.6 – while completing just 74% of his passes compared to a season average of 85%, per SofaScore.
If Moyes is to force a similar display from the Fulham centre-back, he should be looking at the £80k-a-week earning Bowen and his drive to push West Ham on in the final third and bench Fredericks, no matter how well he played at Aston Villa in midweek. He could well be the Hammers boss’ game-changer today.