Our football scribe previews the EPL matchup between West Ham United and West Brom.
In contrast to the basement game occurring at Liberty Stadium, this game features two sides safely encased within the sanctity of mid-table. However, one would feel that it is Tony Pulis’ side that would feel more content with that.
West Brom have navigated a limited budget admirably for ages now, and I don’t think that Pulis gets the credit he deserves for what he has achieved there. Slaven Bilic has had to deal with Dimitri Payet saga, while perhaps only Hull can compete with them in terms of accumulated injuries this season. However, three wins out of four means that the Hammers are only five points behind the Baggies now.
English Premier League | Saturday 11 February | London Stadium | 17:00
To Win (90 Mins)
West Ham 23/20 | Draw 9/4 | West Brom 24/10
Andy Carroll has scored 20 goals in his last 33 starting appearances, quite a statistic for a man once thought lost to the English game. His rejuvenated presence has definitely helped alleviate the considerable loss of Dimitri Payet.
Robert Snodgrass is going to turn out to be an invaluable contribution to this side, and his input will perhaps be most needed in this physical clash. Expect dead-ball situations to play a critical role in determining the outcome of this match, with Snodgrass’ outrageous delivery levelling the playing field greatly.
West Ham are still without several players due to long-term injury. Angelo Ogbonna, Diafra Sakho, Arthur Masuaku, Gokhan Tore, Sam Byram and Alvaro Arbeloa are still missing. But Jose Fonte has helped to solidify that back-three immensely, while Michail Antonio continues to threaten going forward.
That central defensive three is going to need to be well organised to contain the sheer physical presence that is Salomon Rondon. I expect that Sofiane Feghouli and Aaron Cresswell will feel quite confident in getting forward against a West Brom side lacking the type of dynamic counter-attacking pace of other sides.
West Brom will likely be without the pugnacious services of Claudio Yacob this week due to a stomach problem, while Jonny Evans and Brendon Galloway remain sidelined. How Pulis remains competitive with a squad as threadbare as this one will forever remain a mystery to me.
Rondon’s ability to distract the defensive line-up allows the likes of Matt Phillips and James Morrison to drift into vacated space stealthily.
The latter has looked a new player in the last few weeks exemplifying the way that Pulis extracts the absolute maximum out of his players. I do, however, think that Rondon may find it tougher to break down the 3-4-3 formation that West Ham possess.
And they don’t exactly have the type of speed merchants that can get in behind the full-backs. West Brom will never be dominated by anyone, but perhaps this weekend may prove a stretch too far for a squad perpetually stretched to the limit.
Verdict: West Ham Win (23/20)
I think that West Ham have turned a corner and that the signing of Snodgrass is almost the perfect foil to Bilic’s side. West Brom are your quintessential workmanlike side but West Ham do possess that extra bit of quality. Additionally, the Hammers have the type of physical presence that can negate the bullying tactics of the Baggies.