It’s an old cliche, but managers often say it’s a ‘nice problem to have’ when they’re struggling to decide whether to play their best players or stick with a winning team.
This is the situation we find ourselves in ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Ham, as Eddie Howe faces two selection dilemmas.
Starting at the back, captain Jamaal Lascelles is fit and available for selection after returning to training this week after being unwell in the days leading up to last weekend’s win.
He is someone Howe has spoken highly of since he arrived at the club, yet some wonder if he will be recalled given how well both Dan Burn and Fabian Schar performed in that 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
When fit or available for selection, Lascelles has started every Premier League game under the new boss, yet this is also a manager who has been reluctant to change a winning team in recent weeks. So does he bring Lascelles straight back in at the expense or Schar or Burn, or could he even revert to a three-man defence now Trippier and Manquillo look set to miss out this weekend?
On the subject of him being reluctant to change a winning side, this has been Bruno Guimaraes’ issue since he sealed a £40m move. He’s yet to start, despite being fit and ready to play, yet it’s hard to see how he gets in right now based on the form we’ve seen from Joelinton, Shelvey and the much improved Willock.
There comes a point where you simply must play a Brazilian international – who didn’t sign to sit on the bench and looked desperate to get on once again on Sunday – but will it be this weekend where he makes his first start? And if so, who on earth does Howe drop to make room for the former Lyon midfielder?
Decisions, decisions – and the only easy one he has is to bring Matt Targett back in at left-back after he was ineligible to face Aston Villa!
Personally, I think Howe will stick by his guns and the players (and formation) which helped us to another win on Sunday, meaning the following side could start at the London Stadium:
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Burn, Targett – Willock, Shelvey, Joelinton – Fraser, Wood, Saint-Maximin.