Slaven Bilic took a big risk against Huddersfield in the Hammers’ recent 2-0 victory at the London Stadium over Huddersfield as he opted for a 3-5-2 formation for the first time this season, which not only ensured he kept his job but also gave the team a big lift after their slow start. It’s been a tough opening to the campaign for the Hammers, something that has not been helped by the fact they had to play their first three games away from home. The new season got off to the worst start possible when they went down 4-0 at Old Trafford to Manchester United before Southampton won a five-goal thriller at St Mary’s. Bilic’s men then had no success at the SportsDirect-sponsored St James’s Park, where they lost 3-0 to Newcastle.
Bilic played Fonte, Reid and Collins across the back line against the Terriers. The 2015 Blowing Bubbles Player of the Season Cresswell and Zabaleta were in wing-back roles, which meant they were able to advance much further up the field than they were used to. Zabaleta, in particular, had plenty of success getting to the byline and was able to put in some good deliveries into the box. In the heart of the pitch, Kouyate, Obiang and Antonio started the game and caused lots of problems. Antonio was given more of a free role and he took full advantage of that as he was all over the pitch on a wet night in East London.
Andy Carroll proved more than a handful during his time in the game and West Ham fans should be encouraged by what they saw in his partnership with summer signing Chicharito as that could prove a fantastic combination for Bilic this season. The Hammers had 19 shots in the game, despite the fact they only had 43% of possession.
Will Bilic Stick With The Formation For The Rest Of The Season?
It is difficult seeing Bilic changing a winning formula after the success against Huddersfield in what was their first clean sheet in four games.The three centre-backs were solid on the evening so Joe Hart had little to worry about between the sticks as he only had two shots which were on target to deal with. Last season, the switch to 3-5-2 really helped Chelsea go on a winning run to the title. From October they went on a 13-game winning stretch that was ended whey lost away to Tottenham. The Blues made a slow start to their season but, after changing to the formation, they were tough to beat as their players bought into the tactics and delivered the plan to perfection. Bilic is likely to stick to the 3-5-2 formation as long as he has the personnel to fill the roles. Injuries were a big problem last season and have already impacted who he has been able to start in the 2017/18 campaign.
There will be times away from home, though, that Bilic might prefer to play a traditional back four and possibly one striker up front, which will allow him to start more bodies in midfield. Sakho, who scored 21 goals in 59 appearances for West Ham, will be pushing for a return to the side after failing to pick up a move in the summer transfer window. The Senegal international had a medical at Nantes but West Ham were unable to agree on terms with the French club. According to a recent interview with super agent Jon Smith on the Betway website, transfers take on average around three months to complete; therefore, he left it too late to depart the club. Bilic will also be pleased with how Ayew looked when he came off the bench against the Terriers, while Mark Noble, who had his career testimonial for the club in 2016, is set to return soon from injury.
How Will Formation Fair Against Big Boys?
According to the BBC's Premier League fixtures page, Over the next couple of month, West Ham have to face Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton is three tough encounters. If Bilic does stick with the 3-5-2 formation, it will come under serious examination against the big teams. The three centre-halves are likely going to have stay really firm, especially against Liverpool who have the likes of Firminho, Salah and Mane in their front line and have scored eight goals in their opening four Premier League ties. The pressure will be on the wing-backs to drop back as much as possible, while at the same time ensuring the team still have plenty of width when going forward.
As long as Carroll and Chicharito are scoring goals, they should be competitive against any team in the league. Chicharito scored 39 goals in 76 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen Hopefully, the new formation will see the strikers step up their goal return this season and the Hammers can push towards their initial goal of finishing in the top half of the table at the end of the campaign. If it doesn’t, it could lead to Bilic’s exit which, like Big Sam’s dismissal, is likely to divide opinion amongst West Ham fans.
Before the first ball was kicked in anger at the start of this campaign, I genuinely thought we would pick up points on our travels in August. The game came and went at Old Trafford and I shrugged my shoulders. Disappointing but not unexpected.
Move forward a week and a visit to the south coast, and the result looked inevitable after Arnautović got stupidly sent off. Fair play to us for getting back into it but, you just never feel like we can see games out.
I could accept both those results. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty to worry about from both performances but to me, our trip to Newcastle gave us the chance to kick start our season.
What happened at St James’ Park will leave many a fan shaking their head for years to come, and quite rightly, many vented their anger at Slaven Bilic on social media.
I had to stop scrolling through my timeline in the end. I didn’t look at it for at least 24 hours after the final whistle. It was just too depressing. And there’s a sense of deja vu.
There was a small “Allardyce Out” group that grew and grew in number and the same thing is happening again. I don’t think we should sack Bilic though. I’ve been less than impressed with some of his decisions since the start of last season but he got us to mid-table and with the squad we now have available, we have every chance of pushing up the table this month.
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