West Ham collapsed against Arsenal, falling 3-0 in yet another embarrassing loss. The team showed next to no effort as the struggling Gunners easily beat them. It was a frustrating game for fans, who are quickly growing restless after a run of dreadful results. Next up is a massive relegation match against Swansea. If West Ham can win this game, they will effectively guarantee a mid table finish, allowing the club to get to the difficult business of preparing for next year.
Defeat however, would spark full panic mode. With a limited number of games left, West Ham cannot afford to be dragged down into the relegation battle. A loss against Swansea would be a brutal blow, and a defeat that would likely cost Slaven Bilic his job.
For the second straight week, West Ham’s opponents will be facing an injury crisis. Lukasz Fabianski, Kyle Naughton and Fernando Llorente are all doubts for the game, while Angel Rangel, Leon Britton and Nathan Dyer will certainly miss out.
The injuries Swansea face will be crucial for this game. While Fabianski is backed up by capable deputies, Naughton and Llorente are virtually irreplaceable. Assuming the pair are able to play, Swansea actually have a rather fearsome lineup. Sigurdsson, Fer and Cork are very talented midfielders, while Jordan Ayew, Martin Olsson and Alfie Mawson are all consistent performers.
Swansea’s struggles this season have been well documented, with Francesco Guidolin giving way to the ill fated Bob Bradley. However, under Paul Clement, the Swans have finally found decent form, and have slowly managed to claw their way towards safety.
Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll are both likely to miss this match, meaning West Ham will lack most of their attacking punch. The pair have accounted for a staggering 40 percent of West Ham’s goals this season in the league. Without the two of them, the goalscoring burden will fall on the inconsistent Manuel lanzini, and the out of form Andre Ayew. The two are clearly talented, but asking them to dictate the run of the game is a difficult task.
If Carroll is indeed out injured, Diafra Sakho should get the chance to start in his stead. The Senegalese striker has only just returned from injury, but given the ineffectiveness of the other options in the position, it makes sense that he would get the start.
Replacing Antonio, expect Robert Snodgrass to play, if only because he hasn’t had as much time as Sofiane Feghouli to disappoint. The Scottish international has looked totally useless since signing in January, but the Algerian international has looked totally useless since signing in the summer, so Snodgrass has the edge.
West Ham have badly missed Pedro Obiang in recent weeks, and the lack of his presence really showed against Arsenal. Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate have played pretty much every game they’re available for, so it’s possible the two will start again. However, hope is a valuable thing, and Hammers fans will be dreaming of a chance for Edimilson Fernandes and Havard Nordtveit.
While the pair of backup midfielders have certainly been poor when played, they are hardly alone. Both provide something different, Fernandes a youthful exuberance and flair, Nordtveit a steady, calm competence. If one, or even both were given the chance against Swansea, they could turn out to be the saviors Bilic is looking for.
Again, there is another possibility. Bilic could depart the clearly flawed 4-2-3-1 and instead try a three man midfield. Given injuries upfront, this would make sense. The pairing of Nordtveit, Noble and Kouyate could, theoretically, be a very effective partnership.
The Backline struggled badly against Arsenal, but no one else is fit, so things will stay pretty much the same. Fonte and Collins struggled somewhat against the movement of Arsenal’s forward line. Against a much less mobile striker in Llorente, they should cope much better. However, as this season has proven, the Spaniard is a clinical poacher who can score from almost any chance. For that reason, the mistakes that have thus far plagued the defense cannot be made.
In the outside back positions, Arthur Masuaku is the only fit left back. Until Aaron cresswell returns, the burden will fall on the Frenchman to perform. Opposite him, Sam Byram has suffered an up and down season. However, the only alternative to Byram is Arbeloa, how didn’t even make the bench last match. For that reason, expect the Englishman to start again.
In goal, Darren Randolph has made a series of bad mistakes that have cost the team goals. While the Irish international has certainly earned his spot, an argument could be made that Adrian deserves a chance to prove his worth. Difficult as it is to remember, the Spaniard was actually one of the best performers during the 2015-16 season. Maybe, a chance to return to form is in order.
Prediction: West Ham 0-2 Swansea
As much as it pains me to say it, I can’t see West ham winning this match. The Irons have been woefully underperforming for months now, and the team seems to lack any motivation. Swansea are consistent strugglers, but at least the Welsh club’s players seem to care about the team's results.