It’s easy to focus on the opposition ahead of each game, but it’s time we had a good look at ourselves here.
With us mustering just 4 shots on target in our last 4 games, our lack of goal threat in the attacking third has been worryingly poor of late – and that has to change if we want to stay up.
Yes we’re solid at the back, but our front three – who’ve all got something about them when used right – have just one goal/assist between them in a combined 24 starts this season.
For me, the personnel isn’t the big issue, it’s the system and tactics Bruce is dishing out. It’s not working, and we must see signs of change this weekend against a talented West Ham side who’ll be looking to bounce back after no wins in their last four league games.
Whoever starts up top needs MUCH more support than Joelinton has been receiving, but when we’re away from home against a side with plenty of quality in attack, I fear we’ll be relying on something from nothing from Saint-Maximin or Almiron on the counter.
Bruce said that the ‘two solutions’ facing him are either a change of formation or change in personnel. I don’t see him trialing the former just yet, so think we may see Gayle come in for an under-fire Joelinton. Dropping the Brazilian isn’t the answer for me, it’s changing our approach to play to his strengths and get support up to him, but if we’re to continue with the same system it may be time to take him out of the firing line.
In midfield, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hayden AND Shelvey came in. Sean Longstaff is suspended and Matty struggled against Wolves, so a refreshed Hayden – who’s back from suspension – and a potentially dangerous Shelvey – who may be able to set away our front three on the counter – could be what Bruce opts for.
At the back, I expect Willems and Yedlin to continue in wide areas, with Ritchie likely to miss out once again. Clark, Lascelles and Fernandez also look set to keep their places with Schar a big doubt, however Dummett and Lejeune will be knocking on Bruce’s door, highlighting just how many capable options we have at centre-back.
If tonight’s football scores this time last week were anything to go by, we don’t look in bad fettle compared to Southampton (who were stuffed 9-0), but it’s time we started creating chances and winning games now we’re finally faced with a generous run of fixtures.
Preferred NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Willems – M.Longstaff, Hayden – Atsu, Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Joelinton.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham side:
Sebastien Haller – The former Frankfurt star had been regularly linked with a move to Tyneside over the past few seasons, but ended up making a £40m move to East London instead after a few prolific seasons in Germany. He’s surprisingly agile for his height, links the play very intelligently and has a real eye for goal, with Lascelles and co. likely to have their hands full when any balls are hoisted up to the Frenchman.
Andriy Yarmolenko – The 6ft 3′ winger has 3 goals and a couple of assists already this season and could Jetro Willems a tough old afternoon. He won’t beat him for pace, but he’s powerful, good in front of goal and often drifts in into good areas in and around the box.
Felipe Anderson – The Brazilian, who’s likely to start down their left, tore DeAndre Yedlin apart when they beat us 3-0 at St James’ Park last season. He’s been out of sorts so far this year according to a few Hammers fans I’ve spoken to, but he has genuine pace and a brilliant right foot, so the American can ill afford any lapses in concentration against a player who’ll be desperate to get back amongst the goals.
Roberto – The Spaniard wasn’t expected to play much this season, being brought in as a back-up option to Lukasz Fabianski, however a long-term injury to West Ham’s no.1 has seen him come in. Given Fabianski is without doubt one of the best goalkeepers outside of the top 6 and argably the Hammers’ most consistent performer, Roberto could be one of the weak links in this West Ham side.
Predicted West Ham XI (4-2-3-1): Roberto – Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell – Rice, Noble – Yarmolenko, Lanzini, Anderson – Haller.
Andy Carroll looks set to return to the squad, but Sean Longstaff (suspended), Fabian Schar (knee), Matt Ritchie (ankle) and Florian Lejeune (still stepping up ACL recovery) have all been ruled out.
For the hosts, first-choice goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is still out, while Michail Antonio, Winston Reid and Jack Wilshere are also expected to miss out.
History tells us that we’ve been incapable of scoring more than one goal so far this season, and I don’t see us keeping West Ham out.
As a result, my hopes of taking all three points are slim at best, however we are more than capable of coming away with a result should we get the balance right at both ends.
West Ham slipped to a defeat to Palace and drew at home to Sheffield United in their last two games at the London Stadium, having a stinker at Everton in between, so they are beatable – no matter how good areas of their team can look on paper.
hope I’m wrong and things finally click in attack, but fear they’ll outscore us and be more clinical in the final third.
Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!