West Ham face Tottenham this Saturday in what will be our first London derby of the season.
Our form has improved in recent games, with three clean sheets from our last three and two wins. Here are three things to look out for against Tottenham…
Will Marko Arnautovic start?
Arnautovic became our record signing this summer though he has certainly not lived up to this so far. He had a poor game against Manchester United which was understandable given their quality though it was his next game which infuriated fans. His sending off against Southampton meant that he missed three games and although he did apologise for his actions, he has to now do his talking on the pitch.
Slaven Bilic chose to start him on the bench against West Brom though he did hand Arnautovic a start against Bolton. With two assists in this game, Arnautovic showed his quality and a constant threat from the left wing is what we have lacked this season. Given the magnitude of this game, will Bilic trust him enough to hand him a start?
Andy Carroll or Javier Hernandez?
Javier Hernandez has struggled in recent games, playing on the left-wing and Andy Carroll being preferred to play as the lone striker. Bilic has said that “it is almost impossible” to play both Carroll and Hernandez in their strongest positions.
The 3-4-3 has provided the defensive security that we have desperately needed and it is hard to see Bilic changing this system. With Arnautovic impressing against Bolton and being a natural left-winger, it may be time for Bilic to choose between Carroll and Hernandez. We are unlikely to create a lot of chances in this game and when we do, we have to take them. There are few better in the world at this than Hernandez so he gets the edge for me with Carroll coming off the bench.
Key battle – Michail Antonio v Ben Davies
Tottenham are known for their flying wing-backs though their starting left-back Danny Rose will be missing this game through injury. His replacement Ben Davies has impressed this season and his battle against Michail Antonio will be key.
Like Rose, Davies is an attacking threat and with Dele Alli also operating on that flank, Antonio will have a crucial defensive role in Saturday’s game. Our best attacker (right now) will be forced to drop deep given Alli’s and Davies’ ability to create chances for Harry Kane. Let’s not forget that Davies has already scored and assisted this season. With Manuel Lanzini rumoured to be missing the game, the onus will be on Antonio to be our main attacking threat. Will Bilic alter Antonio’s position to relieve his defensive responsibility?