Now that West Ham United is forced to look over their shoulder, trying to out pace the voracious pack from the foot of the table, some will say now is not the time to try new things. Yet clearly what Slaven Bilic is employing, is not working to any degree of effect. After the gutless display at Hull City and plenty speculation over his future, Slav could do a lot worse than try different personnel.
One man who has probably suffered more than most this season, due to Bilic’s constant juggling, is Havard Nordtveit. Further, I do not think he has been given a fair crack yet at West Ham Utd. Now, I am not saying he is the answer to the centre midfield problem, but let's at least ask the question and give him the opportunity to answer it.
Naturally a defensive midfielder, he has started there just once this season, a 1-0 win over Bournemouth at the London Stadium. A match in which we kept one of our six clean sheets. The Norwegian, remarkably, nailed seven interceptions in the eighty minutes before being subbed for Ashley Fletcher. His passing length average is greater than that of Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Edimilson Fernandes and even Manuel Lanzini. That kind of effort could be crucial against Arsenal when we will be forced to predominately rely on the counter attack.
Despite their poor form, most recently against Manchester City, Arsenal showed glimmers of their former selves and produced enough to remind me that they do enjoy finding that space in between the midfield and defence. All of which caused all sorts of problems earlier in the season, and which further reinforces the need to deploy Nordtveit in the middle, to protect the defensive line.
This would also allow Kouyate to go back into his more natural role of centre defence, where he will be needed regardless of whether Slaven decides to stick with a four or revert back to a three. A partnership of Collins and Fonte is just asking for more trouble against the Gunners. However, a back three with Nordtveit in front, may just be what is needed to try and keep Arsenal at bay if we hope to salvage anything from this rough fixture.
Geo's XI - Adrian, Sam Byram, Jose Fonte, Cheikhou Kouyate, James Collins, Arthur Masuaku, Mark Noble, Havard Nordtveit, Manuel Lanzini, Edimilson Fernandes, Andy Carroll.