With Burnley presenting a defensive challenge to break down, the onus falls on West Ham and the changed squad to win the clash of the clarets.
With a thinner and more concentrated team, West Ham have the rather undesirable task of breaking down Sean Dyche’s Burnley team in this match week. With attacking options rather predictable, it will require speed and precision to capitalize on a very defensive opponent.
Speed and precision are two things this West Ham team have struggled with this season, specifically with Michail Antonio dropping from injury. His fitness is no question now after a 90-minute performance against Stockport in the FA Cup, and so speed will be welcomed back at the striker position, with the priority shifting to the season-long issue of taking chances when they come.
This is the predicted XI and squad facing off against Burnley:
Coufal – Dawson – Ogbonna – Cresswell
Rice – Soucek
Bowen – Fornals – Benrahma
Bench: Randolph, Johnson, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Noble, Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Odubeko
Thin indeed! The West Ham XI picked here is essentially the best player in every position, with limited albeit multifaceted cover on the bench. For Said Benrahma and Pablo Fornals, their cover is Manuel Lanzini, and likewise, Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek are only covered by Mark Noble.
Defenders are aplenty, except at left-back with Arthur Masuaku still out long-term with a knee injury and surgery rehab. One striker, one winger, one attacking midfielder, that is all the bench has to offer.
Still, the Hammers have to be fancied in this match, looking to jump their Europa League-chasing competition with an extremely valuable three points. As a player to circle in this match, Pablo Fornals jumps off the team sheet for very good reason.
When played alongside Michail Antonio this season, Fornals racked up one goal and two assists in those six matches to start the season. He has only scored once since then, the very next game at Anfield, and has been in rotation ever since.
With Antonio and Jarrod Bowen providing pace through the middle and down the right-wing, Fornals in a central position can join the attack or outlet to either player, mimicking the success he had earlier this year when he received a Premier League player of the month nomination.
Outside of the short bench, West Ham have to take this match to Burnley, jumping on them early and breaking forward in the counterattack with extreme pace. It should be a tight match with both teams being managed and set up defensively, however, the cutting edge of West Ham’s attack should overpower the second-rate Clarets.