Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Final third efficiency key to break down Moyes’ West Ham

It’s West Ham at home this evening, a game that could take us back to the top of the table if we win it.

The team news is that there isn’t really any team news. Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomiyasu are still not ready according to Mikel Arteta, Fabio Vieira and Jurrien Timber are sidelined too with no expectation they’ll be available for a while yet, and Kai Havertz is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card in the game at Anfield.

As I wrote yesterday, that could present an opportunity for Emile Smith Rowe or Leandro Trossard, and I hope it’s the former. Which is no slight on the Belgium international, but as it stands, Smith Rowe is a name on the squad list more than a player we can count on, and with lots of football still to play this season, it’d be much more useful for us if he were the latter. So, at home against a team who are going to sit deep and challenge us to break them down, what better game for him to start? If not now, then when?

Mikel Arteta spoke about him a couple of weeks ago, saying he’d seen a difference in how Smith Rowe had responded to another injury set-back, and was asked yesterday if he meant physically or mentally. He replied:

Both of them. And I think obviously it wasn’t the first time that that happened. Sometimes it’s not easy to start that process again and go again. When he was getting some momentum and he was looking good, again having to go through that and he did it in a really impressive way.

Now it’s about putting it on the pitch when he gets the opportunity to do that, to perform and make a difference for the team.

Will this evening be that opportunity? I’d like to see it, but if I had to guess right now, I think he’ll probably go with Trossard. We’ll find out an hour before kick-off. Beyond that, I don’t see any changes from the team that drew with Liverpool, and obviously the Declan Rice factor will play a part – at least in the pre-game coverage. We have played West Ham already this season, and lost in the ELF Cup, but the Premier League is a different beast. I don’t think it’s an occasion that will faze him one bit, and the manager thinks we haven’t even seen the best of him yet, saying:

He has shown as well that he’s got an eye for goals you know and when he’s in the opponent’s box is a real threat so that’s something that can be developed still I think his leadership skill as well you know the way that he will naturally grow within the team, within the club in the years to come. I think there is much more to come.

It seems relatively clear what way the Hammers will approach this one, with a classic Moyesian well drilled, well organised defence that is going to be very tough to break down. When they get a chance, the trio of Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus will look to hit us on the break – with some focus on the possible space behind Oleksandr Zinchenko, while the set-piece prowess of James Ward-Prowse is something we’ll have to be very aware of.

From our perspective then, it’s about efficiency in the final third, something that hasn’t been quite where it needs to be at times this season. The excellent win over Brighton should have been more convincing due to the sheer volume of chances we created, and tonight there’s a big onus on the likely front three of Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka, to make the most of the opportunities when they come. Our own ability from set-pieces could well be key to a breakthrough too, but the earlier we score tonight the better – as that will have to change the way they play at some point.

Fingers crossed. As ever we’ll have live blog coverage for you, and you can find the report, player ratings, and all the rest on Arseblog News.

Catch you later for the game – and our preview podcast is live on Patreon now.

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