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Switching formations pays off in clean sheet against Everton

Maybe three at the back isn’t such a bad idea after all

West Ham United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It must have seemed like a kind of miracle. High-flying Everton came to the London Stadium, and everyone seemed to assume that Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and the other attacking players at Everton would walk all over the Hammers defense. After all, West Ham had just allowed two goals to basement dwellers Sunderland, who hadn’t scored in approximately 39 years, and the team had also allowed an insane number of goals this season. Almost no one was predicting a draw, much less West Ham keeping a clean sheet.

Maybe the Everton team took the win for granted and figured that the Hammers would roll over and die, since Everton is gunning for European places, and West Ham is just breathing easily avoiding a relegation scrap. Of course, like the saying goes, football is a funny old game, and the West Ham defense held the line against the Toffees, limiting one of the best offensive teams to not a single shot on net. Manager Slaven Bilic said that the team focused their energy on stopping the supply to Lukaku and forcing the rest of the team to find ways to score goals instead.

West Ham had tried using three central defenders earlier in the season, with some extremely poor results. After the team drew at Liverpool playing with two fullbacks in a more “traditional” four at the back formation, Bilic didn’t seem much like changing back to using the three central defenders as the team went on a pretty decent run. When Jose Fonte was brought into the team in January, most assumed that the partnership with Winston Reid and Fonte would provide better defensive cover, but instead the Hammers defense only seemed to get worse. Reid’s injury against Leicester City seemed to doom the defense even more, but the team rebounded against Swansea and kept a vital clean sheet to secure a season saving win. Now with the defense blanking Everton, perhaps it is time to keep three central defenders in the starting lineup for the next four games.

While West Ham play away at Stoke City this weekend, it remains to be seen if James Collins, Fonte and Reid can duplicate the clean sheets against Swansea City and Everton for the last two home games of the season. The Hammers still have to face Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Kane on Friday night the 5th of May and Liverpool on the 14th of May at the London Stadium. Shutting down three of the top attacking teams in the league at home may be a tall task, but it would do wonders to help the fans finally embrace West Ham’s new home and help to built the London Stadium’s reputation as a “fortress”, rather than as an overpriced monument to the business of modern football.