26 December 2013

West Ham Preview: Clobberin' Time...

We've taken two points from nine in our last three matches, and, while we may discuss the in's and out's of drawing with Everton or Chelsea at home or losing at the Etihad, it's hard to resist the urge to look to a Boxing Day trip to Upton Park as anything other than a chance to seize three points. If there are any lessons to be drawn from Monday's tepid draw with Chelsea, there are two: first, don't let the opponent's strategy frustrate; and, two, score a goal or two.

On the first, I don't think that West Ham can man the ramparts to the same degree as Chelsea did. Without slighting Jääskeläinen or his minions in any degree, I doubt that we'll face a defensive effort as strong as the one we saw from Chelsea, either in terms of tactics or personnel. On one hand, West Ham might try to draw a lesson or two from Chelsea's lock-down performance in order to nick a point from us; on the other, we might draw a few lessons of our own in order to seize all three.

To wit, we now have available Walcott, Cazorla, and Podolski. As to the first, Walcott looks to be just the kind of winger who can wreak havoc against an unsettled defender, and left-back Rasvan Rat fits that bill. Walcott has sit on the sidelines long enough, nursing that abdominal injury back to health, and he has shown that he can deliver, as he did with his brace against Man City.

From there, I'd welcome the return of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, even to the point of starting them along with Walcott at center instead of Giroud. Amongst the current squad, Podolski and Cazorla are perhaps the most willing and able to unleash shots from distance. Resting Giroud, then, might then allow us to see what our other attackers can deliver; will it be Walcott running behind the defense? Will it be Cazorla off the dribble, jinking across the top of the box to shoot? Will it be Podolski delivering a thunderous volley? Whoever it may be, it would be gratifying to see us score a goal or two.

We've come through a gauntlet of fixtures and emerged with a few dents and scratches. We won't have Wilshere; we may not have Koscielny. We haven't won since defeating Hull City 2-0 on December 3rd. It's high time, then, that we regained a bit of swagger, a bit of dominance. Should it come at the expense of the Hammers,  so be it.

If there's a lesson to be drawn from the Chelsea match, it's that possession alone doesn't matter, not that this is any kind of shocking revelation. However, by contrast with that result, we might do well to concede a bit of possession in order to draw West Ham forward, all the better to exploit space behind for Walcott, Cazorla, or Podolski to exploit.

At the risk of getting too optimistic, I'd like to see a bit of a run-away, with Walcott and Podolski scoring. West Ham have had trouble getting goals, and so I feel comfortable in calling for a 2-0 win.