Life at a post-Pienaar Everton begins with a winnable looking fixture against a West Ham team seemingly in turmoil on and off the pitch.
With just 1 defeat in 8 games we are looking a bit more resolute with the torrid November run which yielded no victories nearly out of the mindset. I would expect us to line-up with two strikers again on Saturday, although I am still not entirely convinced that this is as major a factor in our recent form as has been made out. The win against Spurs was, for me, more down to the intensity of pressing high up the pitch as was the case against Liverpool at Goodison earlier this season in a supposedly 4-5-1 setup with Cahill in the side.
Either way, our best results this campaign have come when we have shown this intensity to our play by getting at opposition defenders early and by delivering the ball into the opposition’s 18 yard box as often as possible. We missed Louis Saha on Sunday with the ball not sticking in attack and possession being conceded particularly in the first half. The Hammers will allow us to play and I would expect us to build from the back and down the left side with Leon Osman’s movement inside key to releasing Baines down the left flank. This area will probably be patrolled by Ben Haim who tends to start in the Hammer’s away games as he offers greater defensive solidity than Faubert. West Ham’s last awayday resulted in a 0-5 thumping at The Geordie Nation, and the most glaring factor in this rout was the gap between their defence and midfield along with a gap down their left side with Noble often tucking in leaving Newcastle a free run down this side. This is shown in the below average position map
West Ham Average Position Map v Newcastle with red circle showing the gap between their defence and midfield, a gap which players like Osman and Arteta need to exploit.
West Ham Intel
The Hammers arrive at Goodison with the joint worst defensive record in the league with 41 goals shipped in their 23 games as well as having the joint worst goal scoring record on their travels with just 8 goals on the road this campaign. Scott Parker is their main man and with 82% pass completion and 55 interceptions he is the Hammer’s best passer and presser. His dual with our engine room and on form enforcer Marouanne Fellaini will be the games key dual with their key stats shown in the below table. Creativity wise, one time Everton target Victor Obinna is their main inspiration having created 36 goalscoring opportunities with 4 of these resulting in goals for teammates although he will be missing on Saturday through suspension. In terms of goalscoring, Freddie Piquionne is their most potent striker with 5 goals and a conversion rate of 14.7%, much better than often striker partner Carlton Cole at just 7.5%
Parker v Fellaini
West Ham Approach
West Ham have changed their formation with great regularity this campaign. Earlier on they adopted a 4-2-3-1 system , with an occasional variance to 4-4-2 and in their last game 4-3-3 with Sears & Hines playing as wide strikers with Cole through the middle and a compact 3 man midfield. With Piquionne back fit I would expect him to play just off Cole in a 4-2-3-1 setup. Defensively neither of their fullbacks advance past the halfway line much and with the exception of Sears they have little width offensively. £90k a week Wayne Bridge endured a calamity debut and was at fault for all 3 of Arsenal’s goals in their last outing. Bridge failed to win a single tackle in the game and looked sluggish throughout. Seamus Coleman must be fancying his chances of giving him another torrid afternoon after his subdued outing at Anfield last weekend.
We are looking more clinical in front of goal in recent weeks and the confidence we take into this matchup against a side with a leaky defence such as the Hammers should see us take 3 points here. I am going for a 2-0 win for the Blues.