Chelsea Football Club have had a good June, with 2 wins in the Premier League and a win in the FA Cup Quarter-Finals following the return of football after the COVID-enforced hiatus.
Next up, Chelsea face West Ham at the London Stadium on Wednesday. The Blues are currently in the sat in 4th place on 54 points (16W, 6D, 9L), while the Irons are in 17th place fighting a battle against the drop.
Having lost the home fixture in November, what should we expect from the Irons tomorrow?
Let’s start of by looking at West Ham’s style of play under David Moyes and their key players, before making a prediction on their line-up.
WEST HAM UNITED UNDER DAVID MOYES
David Moyes returned as West Ham United manager in December 2019, after having a six-month stint in the 2017/18 season, after the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini. The Irons were in a relegation battle when he arrived, and to this day they still are, as they struggle to avoid conceding goals and chances.
So what went wrong for West Ham, a side that was initially expected to finish the season mid-table?
STYLE OF PLAY
Moyes’ default formation is the 4-2-3-1 formation, but at times you’ll see him play the 4-4-2 formation to offer a plan B. Whenever he uses his default formation: West Ham’s goalkeeper is a sweeper keeper; both centre-backs mainly focus on winning the ball; both full-backs are energetic, capable players who can move up the pitch and provide defensive solidity; both holding midfielders screen the centre-backs and attempt to win the ball back; both wingers tuck infield to allow overlaps and create passing options; the attacking midfielder is a tall, aerially dominant player who would latch onto crosses or long balls; and the striker is a nimble, poacher type player who would run into spaces and drag defenders away. Despite willing to adapt his tactics to counter the opposition’s strengths, whenever the team goes on the transition, they don’t seem to do so fast enough, which leads them to be caught out easily under fast counter-attacks.
In attack, they shape up in a 4-2-2-2 formation. They start the build-up from the back, mainly from the goalkeeper, and begin by sending in long balls to the striker(s), with the attacking midfielders coming up to support as second strikers. When the build-up play isn’t initiated from a transition of play, they look to overload the full-backs before playing quick passes, as this allows the team to find free spaces to whip in crosses towards the box; and you’ll also see the full-backs push up, with at least one of them helping with the overload down the wings, while the other either does the same or stays in midfield to regain possession once the ball is lost. When it is initiated from a transition of play, the ball is played behind the full-backs in order to create a 2v2 situation, isolating the opposition’s centre-backs. Despite that, they’ve really struggled to score more than one goal from a counter-attack this season, the lowest in the league.
In defence, the team shapes up in a 4-3-3 formation, where the wingers push up into the forward areas to be the first line of defence and the defenders play a high line. West Ham attempt a team-press the moment the opposition has the ball: they press the ball carrier and the teammates open for a passing option, in order to force a passing mistake from the opposition. This means that if the opposition isn’t technical and isn’t comfortable playing quick passes, then they’ll struggle to beat the first line of press. If the opposition play with one holding midfielder, then the attacking-midfielder and the striker would generally isolate him, where one of them is pressing the ball carrier and the other presses the holding midfielder. If they have two, then they would avoid pressing the ball carrier and just focus on isolating the opposition’s holding midfielders. Once the opposition gets into their half of the pitch, the team shapes up into a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 formation, where the wingers drop deeper into the holding midfield line and the team sits back in a compact shape to make it more difficult for the opposition to pass through central areas.
By dominating the centre of the pitch, this forces the opposition to go wide and play crosses into the box. Once the ball goes into the wide positions, the whole team would shift across to press the ball carrier. However, over the last two games, we’ve seen West Ham shift across only slightly and adopt a more passive approach, providing more room for the ball carrier on the wings. Regardless, if the opposition don’t adopt the passive approach, this leaves the opposition have two options: either they whip in crosses from deep, and all they need is a player capable of heading the ball into the net; or they draw the attention of West Ham to one side of the pitch and play a long ball to a player overlapping the other side, which would gift a goalscoring opportunity. This means that West Ham could be quite vulnerable to set-pieces.
In short, Moyes’ style of play indicates that he’s trying to adopt a style similar to the one he had at Everton, but over the past couple of games we’ve seen the players have a passive approach. They seem to have an old backline that needs replacing in the summer, and for a club with only two Premier League wins under the current manager, they need to be more aggressive if they want to stay up.
Now let’s jump into the three main key players for West Ham this season.
The first key player is Lukasz Fabianski. The former Lech Poznan Youth Academy product joined Legia Warszawa for £68k in January 2005, before joining Arsenal two-and-a-half years later for £3.9m (July 2007). He stayed at the club for seven years before joining Swansea City on a free transfer (July 2014), and he played for the Swans for four seasons before joining West Ham United for £7.2m (July 2018). While the 35-year-old is known for his reflexes and athleticism, especially for right-handed saves, his positioning makes him stand out from other goalkeepers, as he generally seems to place himself in a way where it’s difficult to go around him (in the Premier League, 18 games and 4 clean sheets; 1.4 goals conceded per game; 2.9/4.3 saves per game, 1.8 of which are saved inside the box; -0.04 goals prevented per game). Also, like most keepers these days, he loves to rush-out of the six-yard box in order to make close range blocks from shots by opposition strikers (4 sweeper clearances so far; per game, 1.7 saves in the penalty area and 1.2 saves from outside the box). Finally, he’s generally the one who starts the build-up play, by playing long balls towards the striker (per game, 22.2 average passes at a 49.8% accuracy; 8.1/19.3 long balls). In short, the Polish goalkeeper might be quite old to be the main man between the posts, but his positioning, distribution and agility make him a key threat for the Hammers.
Another is Declan Rice. The West Ham United Youth Academy product joined the First Team in the summer of 2017 and has featured regularly in the Premier League since the summer of 2018.Originally a centre-back, the 21-year-old has shifted into midfield at West Ham, and currently plays in a double-pivot; he also can play as a holding midfielder, doing so in a three-man midfield for England. Tactically, the Englishman has a talent for delaying or stopping counter-attacks, which not only allows his teammates to come back into position but also is quite useful for a possession-based team (who can be exposed on the transition). He’s also quite physical in his tackling (in the Premier League per game, 2.1 interceptions and 1.4 clearances; 5.9 total duels won) and has the intelligence and awareness to anticipate loose balls. In terms of aerial ability (6’2”), he’s very combative defensively (1.5 aerial duels won per game), and his power, timing and desire to attack the ball make him an asset in the offensive areas of the pitch (especially when it comes to set-pieces). While Rice has decent ball control, he does struggle with bouncing balls, change in directions, and first touch (especially in more advanced positions), and while his passing is improving (per game, 44.6 average passes at an 85.9% accuracy; 3.1/5.3 accurate long balls) the awareness needed between a centre-back and midfielder is vastly different, so he’ll need more time and experience to adjust. In short, while Rice is a player to watch over the next couple of years, he still has a long way to go before he can feature regularly in a Top 6 side, and while his valuation of £70m is unjustified it doesn’t mean he’s not a key player for the Hammers.
Finally, there’s Michail Antonio. The former Tooting and Mitcham United Youth Academy joined the First Team in the 2007/08 season. He then joined Reading for an undisclosed fee in October 2008, before proceeding on a series of loans (Tooting and Mitcham United, Cheltenham United, Southampton, Colchester United and Sheffield Wednesday) and joining Sheffield Wednesday for £810k in August 2012. Four years later he joined Nottingham Forest for £1.7m (August 2014) before joining West Ham United for £8.6m a year later (September 2015). The 30-year-old came to the Hammers as a versatile player, who’s capable of playing not only as a winger but as a right-back and striker. His pace is also another key asset to his side, which allows him to get past the opposition back-line as usually they aren’t fast enough (in the Premier League, 2.6/4.1 successful dribbles per game). He can offer an aerial threat, even though he’s 5’11” (4.0/8.9 aerial duels won per game) and has the physical attributes to withstand pressure from the opposition. However, despite showing that he’s been slightly more effective than expected last season, he’s definitely underperformed this season (2 goals and 2 assists; 0.15 goals and 0.15 assists per game; 0.39 xG and 0.14 xA per game; 2.4 shots and 0.8 key passes per game, 1.9 shots taken inside the box). Strikers aren’t generally known for offering much to the build-up play, but when you compare his passing (per game, 17.8 average passes at a 66.7% accuracy; 0.4/1.0 accurate long balls; 0.2/0.6 accurate chipped passes) and crossing (0.5/2.0 crosses completed per game) to Olivier Giroud, you see easily conclude that he prefers to play as an inside forward on the wings and a target man when up front. In short, the Englishman has underperformed this season, but don’t let that fool you. If played in the right position and left unmarked, he has the pace and aerial ability to create problems for our defence.
West Ham United have lost their last two games, both of which were 2-0 losses to Wolves and Tottenham. They’ve got to do better if they hope to get out of a relegation battle.
Team wise, Arthur Masuaku (ankle injury), Robert Snodgrass (lower back injury) and Sebastian Haller (hip injury) have been ruled out.
I fully expect the Irons to play their strongest available squad, because are facing a relegation battle and they are facing one of the Top Six sides:
As for what I think the result will be, it’s kind of hard to predict what West Ham side is going to turn up: the passive one, or the aggressive one? They’ve been an aggressive side over the years against the Blues, and if that side does turn up I expect us to come away with a win by a one goal margin
And that concludes my West Ham United scouting report! If you’ve enjoyed it, don’t forget to like and share this article!
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[All statistics were used from WhoScored, SofaScore and FBref]