How West Ham copes with an underrated threatening Crystal Palace attack will dictate the outcome of this match, with one defender starring.
Crystal Palace have an underrated attack. The new addition of Eberechi Eze has filled a central attacking void the Eagles have had for quite some time. Combined with their talisman Wilfred Zaha and striker trio of Jordan Ayew, Christian Benteke, and Michy Batshuayi, West Ham will have their hands full.
Despite the excitement of new attacker Eze, everything Palace will do offensively will run through Zaha down their left flank. For West Ham, this means yet another incredibly important performance is needed by newest Hammer, Vladimir Coufal.
The Czech wingback has adapted beautifully to the playstyle of the Premier League and has proven he is reliable at the position, effectively benching Ryan Fredericks and Ben Johnson along the way. But, will pace prove too much for the defender?
The worst performance Coufal has had as a Hammer came in their last defeat, at the hands of Manchester United. A second-half outburst was ignited by the long ball from Bruno Fernandes constantly finding Marcus Rashford cutting in behind Coufal.
Perhaps it was fatigue from a match that was quite physical and demanding, or maybe it was the fallout of a fresh Rashford off the bench, motivated to get a result. Regardless, Coufal struggled and it is a slight cause for concern against Zaha.
On the flip side, if Coufal handles Zaha like he handed Jack Grealish, then there will be no cause for concern whatsoever. Grealish, who started on the left-wing, was battered physically by Coufal early and eventually moved centrally and to the right side to avoid the matchup with the Czech wingback.
Similar to Grealish and the opposite of Rashford, Zaha has a propensity to lose his head and either lash out or dive when played physically. If match official David Coote can sniff this out, which Zaha’s reputation should help him along with, then Coufal has nothing to worry about. On the flip side, the dribbling ability of Zaha could invite contact that could translate to free kicks and fouls.
As of right now, the matchup is a toss-up. Zaha has seven goals and two assists on the season proving reliability and consistency, while Coufal has adapted quickly to English football, being one of the most underrated new signings on one of the best defensive teams in the league. May the better man win!