West Ham play Hull City on Saturday in what should be another winnable match up. The Tigers languish in 19th place in the Premier League and are without a win in five league matches.
The Hammers’ nervy 1-0 win at the London Stadium over Burnley on Wednesday was a tremendous sigh of relief for Slaven Bilic and West Ham. The Hammers jumped to 15th place in the Premier League, which sounds a lot safer than it is in reality. West Ham are only four points above the relegation zone, but after sitting in 18th only a week prior, the relative safety is welcome.
The same can be said regarding the other direction of the table. The Irons are only four points off of 12th. It’s the direction the Hammers should head in if they get it right on Saturday.
Fortunes have not been kind for Hull City, but Dieumerci Mbokani is set for a return to the side after a three-match ban to add another dimension to the Tigers’ attack. Will Keane, Abel Hernandez and Moses Odubajo are still out for Hull City.
The Tigers come off of a 3-0 defeat at White Hart Lane against Tottenham, their sixth-straight away defeat this season.
Hull City suffers from what is by far the worst goal difference in the Premier League, at -21. Despite this, Curtis Davies has impressed this season, leading the league with 61 interceptions and 25 blocks.
Andy Carroll is set to start only his third Premier League match since May, but he showed promising signs on Wednesday. His six shots led the Hammers, but he does have a little way to go on shot selection.
Carroll forced Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton to make two saves, but Carroll also sent three shots far right. Three of his shots were from outside the 18-yard box, resulting in a block and two complete misses. Carroll is not the kind of player to have a go from distance. He can leave this to Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, and Pedro Obiang, the latter of which sent a low rocket off the woodwork 35 minutes into the match.
More Carroll-esque was his 69% aerial duel win percentage, and another promising sign was his two created chances.
Ashley Fletcher and André Ayew both featured off the bench, and will likely see minutes again on Saturday. Ayew replaced Lanzini, and the Ghanaian impressed with a run which split two defenders before his right-footed shot curled out past Heaton’s left goalpost. The goal would have put the match to bed in the 90th minute, and the Hammers will hope for more dangerous moves such as that.
Fletcher appeared late as Carroll came off in the 82nd. Carroll is valuable, but needs to be taken care of if he is to last for the rest of the season. The cramped schedule of matches will put Carroll’s fitness to the test, and Bilic will likely not take any chances by pushing him to play the entire 90 minutes.
Mark Noble impressed on Saturday. The captain scored what proved to be the winner after he slotted away the rebound from his saved penalty. Minutes before that, Noble struck the top right post with an impressive curling effort from the edge of the left side of the 18-yard box.
Pedro Obiang put in another good performance for the Hammers. As mentioned before, Obiang unleashed a great strike from outside the box, only to be a near miss. Obiang has shown his adeptness as a holding midfielder before, so if he develops a steady outside shot, it will only be another worry for the opposition. The Spaniard completed 90% of his passes, and added two interceptions and an interception to counteract his rare 40% tackling day.
Payet was another Hammer to standout in the cleansheet. The French-international created seven chances in the match with 92% pass completion. Even better to see was his involvement tracking back on defense, which included an interception in the 83rd minute, clearing Burnley from West Ham’s attacking third.
Aaron Cresswell, Michail Antonio and Lanzini all deserve to keep their place in a starting lineup likely to be unchanged from Wednesday as Bilic goes for West Ham’s first back-to-back home victory this season.
The back three for West Ham was shaky at best, but the bend-but-don’t-break strategy worked as Bilic pushed Antonio and Cresswell into wingback roles to absorb Burnley’s attacks. The Hammers absorbed eight shots and 12 crosses en route to the 1-0 victory — all four of West Ham’s wins this season are from 1-0 scorelines.
Much credit has to be given to Winston Reid and his eight clearances and three interceptions. Cheikhou Kouyate and Angelo Ogbonna both held their own as well. Ogbonna had two key tackles on Andre Gray as the Burnley attacker neared West Ham’s endline.
Darren Randolph recovered from his mare against Liverpool to have a steady match on Wednesday. The Irish-international was forced into two saves in the second half and will likely start between the sticks against Hull City.
Prediction: West Ham 1-0 Hull City
These may not be the most exciting victories to watch, but another three points is worth 90 minutes of defending in front of a subdued London Stadium crowd. If results go West Ham’s way elsewhere, the Hammers could jump two spots in the Premier League to 13th place. It’s all about distancing themselves from the relegation zone as January’s transfer window approaches.
West Ham have scored 12 of 18 goals from set-pieces, the highest proportion in the Premier League. With Payet over the ball and Carroll in the box, the Hammers must cash in on any opportunities.
All stats compiled from squawka.com.