The first starting XI for West Ham against Newcastle were disjointed and lacked conviction. Could a youthful, Academy heavy team against Charlton change the Irons fates?
There are plenty of changes that need to be made and plenty of hungry academy prospects to fill them for West Ham. From the attack, through midfield, and down to the backline, the Hammers are primed to start a younger team with young bench players in this opening Carabao Cup clash with Charlton.
What is being dubbed the Cullen Cup should of course feature Josh Cullen, the twice loaned out midfielder to this very same Charlton team. Despite relegation last season, Cullen impressed and Addicks supporters were very vocal of his impact and the pleasure it was to have him aboard despite the disappointing campaign.
The other predictable youngster is defender Ben Johnson at right-back. He had an atrocious cameo against Bournemouth in the preseason earning an early game sub, but this recent showing shouldn’t erase is strong end to the season prior. He is a shoo-in to start this match. Outside of Cullen and Johnson, here is the predicted starting XI:
Johnson – Balbuena – Alese – Masuaku
Yarmolenko – Soucek – Cullen – Anderson
Haller – Silva
Bench: Fabianski, Ogbonna, Lanzini, Noble, Coventry, Odubeko, Snodgrass
This would be a very interesting team to watch tackle Charlton, wouldn’t it? The big question comes at centre-back as Fabian Balbuena is a massive question mark. Will Moyes gamble on him showing up to surpass Diop as a regular starter? Also, both Jamal Baptiste and Aji Alese were absent from the U23s match on Monday, so will they feature?
Cullen is a must-start option as mentioned, but who plays beside him? Rice is coming off of an injury, two international matches, and a poor performance against Newcastle. Give him the night off and get Soucek in a better groove playing off of Cullen centrally.
Johnson and Yarmolenko opposite Masuaku and Anderson promise speed in the fullback position and offensive excellence from the forwards. Both Yarmolenko and Anderson will likely stay higher in what promises to be a possession-heavy game for West Ham, but this suits their playstyles and should be beneficial.
Will West Ham supporters finally get to see Xande Silva in a prominent role AND Sebastien Haller in a striker duo? If the answer is no, I’m not sure the tenner is worth it to watch the match. With such limited depth at striker, there is literally no reason for Moyes not to get Silva involved after dominating the U23 level thus far in his career. Some confidence for Haller wouldn’t hurt either!
The likelihood of this team and this set of bench players actually getting used is very slim. Moyes will take some gambles on youth players, but how much he is willing to rest on untested shoulders remains to be seen. As supporters of the Academy of Football, the balance is delicate but the risk has to be worth the reward.