Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
West Ham are set for a tactical transformation this season, having replaced former manager Sam Allardyce with Slaven Bilic. The former’s pragmatic, occasionally ugly tactics weren’t to the taste of supporters, but it remains to be seen whether his successor can successfully implement a more cultured playing style.
"Bilic seems more likely to deploy a standard 4-2-3-1 system, which was his default system as coach of Besiktas"
During his time as Croatia manager, Bilic usually used an attack-minded midfield diamond, a system he’s experimented with during West Ham’s six Europa League qualification games already this season. That formation rarely works well in the Premier League, though, and Bilic seems more likely to deploy a standard 4-2-3-1 system, which was his default system as coach of Besiktas.
Bilic has strengthened West Ham’s defence with the signing of Angelo Ogbonna from Juventus. The Italian international is a commanding presence in the air with excellent positioning, and he’ll probably form a centre-back partnership with Winston Reid, although the New Zealand international has been struggling for fitness in recent weeks.
Carl Jenkinson, on loan at West Ham for a second campaign, is ineligible against his parent club so Joey O’Brien should play on the right flank. A solid defender, he doesn’t offer anything like the attacking threat of the left-sided Aaron Cresswell, who is capable of motoring forward down the touchline and putting good crosses into the box.
The midfield duo is likely to be Mark Noble, who keeps things neat and tidy with his distribution, alongside the physical, tough-tackling Cheikhou Kouyate. They should provide the platform for newcomer Dimitri Payet to play as the No 10 and showcase his creativity.
Out wide, Bilic has regularly played the hard-working Morgan Amalfitano on the right - he’s disciplined without the ball and often dangerous on the break. Both he and Matt Jarvis were tried as ‘shuttlers’ on the outside of a diamond, but should play in more conventional wide roles here.
Up front, Andy Carroll is out injured again - and, when he returns, might find West Ham playing fewer crosses than under Allardyce. Diafra Sakho is a good all-round forward and might get the nod. Hard-working Argentine Mauro Zarate has played regularly in the Europa League qualifiers, though he is more likely to feature from the bench.
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