Worries for Wolves?
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 28 January 2019 at 6:25pm
Written by : Jamie Griffith
AFC Wimbledon four, West Ham United two. An abysmal showing, complete with horrendous individual performances, culminating in an embarrassing result. But, disappointing as the game was, we must look forward and not dwell on the past. Luckily, we do not have long to wait. Our next fix of West Ham unpredictability comes just three days after the cup exit as we travel to the Midlands to face fellow Europa League hunters Wolves.
As a side, Wolves look cohesive, which is more than can be said for their opponents West Ham. A regular back five sat in front of a brilliant goalkeeper in Rui Patricio will test the Hammers’ ability to break down resolute defences; a task that we ultimately failed on Saturday. Ahead of the defence sit two brilliant creators, with the tenacity to dominate any midfield. Portuguese duo Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho have impressed in the Premier League and will need to be closed down quickly as both possess the technical ability to create a chance or even score from range.
The frontline is less consistent with regular West Ham target Raul Jimenez accompanied by hattrick hero Diogo Jota in their thriller versus Leicester over a week ago. It is likely these two will remain in the team and either be joined by starlet Morgan Gibbs-White or Adama, who offers an injection of pace that devastated the Hammers earlier this season.
So how do we counteract this?
To match their 352/532 shape would be tempting but that would involve taking Declan Rice out of midfield, which is simply not an option. Declan has excelled as a pivot this season, single-handily protecting a shaky backline whilst also being the metronome that keeps our passing play moving fluidly. Behind Rice we will see Fabianski between the sticks and Diop and Ogbonna in the centre. Cresswell and Zabaleta will return to the side, offering stability that the other full-backs at the club simply do not. However, Wolves utilise marauding wing-backs in their system so the two will have their work cut out; unless our wingers track back and help them out. This means Antonio should start, as his work-rate and power down the right could mitigate some of the danger of an overload on Zabaleta’s flank whilst Anderson will obviously continue on the left, where he is a constant threat and, despite his flair, a hard-worker capable of breaking up play.
Now here comes the controversial bit. To get a result against Wolves, we must do two things; think tactically and think logically. Tactically, to beat Wolves we need to press to ensure their midfield two can not dictate the play and set a tempo that suits their side. This means Pedro Obiang is the choice in midfield. Yes, he was diabolical against Wimbledon – but so was everyone who started. The reason Obiang has to start is he is just far more mobile than Noble. In a similar vein; start Snodgrass beside Obiang to create a midfield trio with Rice. This should help us dominate possession and control the game. If the game drags on and we need a spark, Nasri is fantastic backup.
Now logically, to beat a strong side you must play your best players. So, agendas aside, Marko Arnautovic HAS to start. Andy Carroll is lethargic, Javier Hernandez is invisible half the time and Lucas Perez is inconsistent. Arnie is a focal point, capable of linking up play effectively and most of all; he is a goal-scorer, with a point to prove. With an ego like his, this game is made for the big Austrian.
A draw is likely, a loss is very possible and a win would be fantastic. So, while I am not confident we will get a result, I am confident Manuel Pellegrini is intelligent enough get this match-plan right. Let’s hope the Engineer can get us back on the right track.