A London derby is on the docket for West Ham this weekend as the underwhelming and expensive Chelsea Blues travel East to the London Stadium. Usually, this fixture heavily favours Chelsea but with their massive squad struggling to gel West Ham needs to attack fast.
Respect is an interesting word in the footballing world. The accepted use for the word has no real place on the pitch, instead, it usually means don’t get burned by either underestimating your opponent or not accounting for their skill.
Chelsea has always factored into this on-pitch respect scenario, up until lately. A massive summer and January transfer period for the club saw hundreds of millions of pounds shelled out for should-be game-breaking players like Mykhailo Mudryk, Joao Felix, and Enzo Fernandez, but Chelsea sit midtable.
Desperation for West Ham should motivate the Hammers to attack a vulnerable Chelsea team.
Sure, that is well above West Ham who are currently 17th, but for a club with the players that Chelsea has at their disposal, this is a huge letdown. Furthermore, Joao Felix got a red card and a three-game ban on his debut while Mudryk and Noni Madueke contributed nothing offensively in a 0-0 draw against Fulham.
West Ham have some injury issues that cause concern going to this match. Gianluca Scamacca might be on the bench, but Kurt Zouma is likely to miss the match while Thilo Kehrer may also make the bench. Maxwell Cornet is also nearing a return but won’t be available for this match.
The game plan for the starting West Ham XI should be a high and hard press early which should isolate the ball in the Chelsea half, putting the centre-backs and Kepa under pressure. This means pressure from Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, and Michail Antonio who will all likely start as the forwards in this 3-4-2-1 formation.
The fragility that is so visible in this Chelsea team needs to be preyed upon by West Ham. An early goal for the Hammers could crush the opposition, especially away from home. David Moyes’ team can play in this manner too, in fact, it earned this team a place in the Europa League (and conference league).
It’s simple for West Ham – play hard and press and this game will fall into the Hammers’ control. This isn’t the Champions League-winning Chelsea of years past. In reality, the Champions League match Chelsea have to play just four days later against Dortmund will be seen as a must-win by the Blues to keep their hopes of playing Champions League football next season.
West Ham’s outlook on this match remains the same as it did against Newcastle. Be tight defensively and hold your shape, don’t force the attack but spring the counter, and eliminate individual errors. There are three points available here against a vulnerable opponent.