As the Spurs game edges closer, Slaven Bilić has a few decisions to make
With West Ham getting closer to safety, Slaven Bilić’s choices for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to the London Stadium are likely to be influenced by the present only.
As the news comes through that Diafra Sakho won’t play again for the rest of the season, this now makes four on the club’s long-term injury list.
After a recent MRI scan following Diafra’s late omission from the team that played at Stoke last Saturday due to a recurrence of his lower back symptoms, the latest news was the last thing Slaven wanted to hear.
When added to the continued doubts over the fitness of Andy Carroll, it’s understandable that all the coach is thinking about right now is how many players are actually available for Friday night’s forthcoming London derby.
As far as Slaven Bilić is concerned, the single task in hand is to accumulate enough points to guarantee Premier League safety; and he’s not going to be thinking beyond that at the moment.
Slaven was clear about how he had expected Andy to be fit for the Stoke City match last week and expressed his disappointment over the big striker’s absence. At the same time, though, he stressed that he still expects Andy to be available for the game on Friday night.
Even the suggestion that Angelo Ogbonna might be able to put in an appearance after all before the season ends will be put on hold for the moment; since by the time the final fixture comes around West Ham will hopefully have achieved safety.
Going back to Diafra Sakho, however, with only three games of the Premier League season to go, it all sounds a bit dramatic when players are ‘ruled out for the remainder of the season’.
That would imply that they are going to be out for months when the reality is that there are only a couple of weeks of the season left!
Admittedly, most of the Hammer’s long-term injured players are going to be out for months; but there’s no need to make things sounds even more drastic than they already are.
What Slaven Bilić needs more than anything is for West Ham to gain enough points to put an end to the current speculation over who will play in the next game and who won’t.
Once the points are in the bag as they say, then Slaven can decide for himself whether he wants to risk continuing with Andy Carroll at less than full fitness and allow him to rest until his injury heals properly.
It would appear that for the time being at least, Andy Carroll is still very much in the picture; and under the present circumstances everyone and anyone who can put in a half or two is likely to earn some appearance money.
Whether that’s as a potential starter or by coming on as a late substitute will be decided by events on the park.
Citing the example of Peter Crouch at Stoke City, Slaven said after last week’s match that you don’t have to play the full ninety minutes to be effective; so clearly he’s not giving up on Andy making a further appearance this season; even if it’s only for part of the game.
Of greater concern, however, is the speculation that Angelo Ogbonna might still turn out in the last game of the season; or at least have a place on the bench. Hopefully, by that stage, the situation will be academic and the points will have been won long before then; thus making any potential appearance by Angelo unnecessary.
Of course we all want to see him play again; but it’s going to be far better to wait and make sure the time is right before he does so; rather than rushing back and then putting his fitness in doubt for the opening day of pre-season.
Along with Michail Antonio (recurrence of hamstring tear), Pedro Obiang (ankle operation), and Gökhan Tore (knee surgery); all of whom remain in various stages of recovery, Angelo will be hoping to be 100% fit in terms of having completed his rehabilitation when the squad report back in the summer to prepare for next season. On that score, he certainly appears to be on track.
Players are always desperate to get back into the team though and at the moment all Angelo is likely to be thinking about is whether his knee could stand the rigours of a Premier League game if West Ham’s survival in the top division depended on it.
Looking ahead, leaving Andy Carroll out of the team completely as soon the Hammers reach their points target must be a viable option for Slaven Bilić to consider.
Now including Diafra, this makes four regulars ruled out for the season and Slaven will understandably be reluctant to make this five although it’s something he must be privately thinking about.
Andy is only getting a few games before the injury flares up again and it might be in everybody’s interest to leave things alone until this finally resolves.
Looking forward to those in contention for Friday night though, Arthur Masuaku picked up a knee injury against Everton but managed to turn out at Stoke.
Arthur himself stated on his twitter account that he will be fit for Friday but it remains to be seen how he reacts during and after the training sessions before then. As always, this may turn out to be a late decision; given that Slaven has announced that he rates Arthur’s chances as 50 -50.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens between now and the kick-off time on Friday night. With Andy Carroll still struggling and the news of Arthur not quite being as positive as we all expected, there’s still a lot that can happen before then.
Events in football, as we know, have a habit of overtaking you just when you think everything is set!