Matchday: Palace v West Ham

Can West Ham pull an unlikely iron out of the fire at Selhurst Park?

Palace West HamToday the stuttering Hammers make the short trip across the river to take on Crystal Palace at the boisterous Selhurst Park. Somewhere in there is an interesting comparison between our perceptions of the Boleyn and London Stadium experience and the type of atmosphere that is currently created by Palace’s self-styled Holmedale Ultras. It has often been dismissed as ‘Happy Clappy’ but has certainly contributed to the team’s performance and helped them preserve top flight status longer than their usual tenure.

I have always pigeonholed Palace with their South London neighbours, Charlton and Millwall, as a lower league club who only occasionally visit the top table before returning to their natural level. However, their current leadership appear to be doing a reasonable job of bringing the yo-yo under control having secured more stable investment.

“I have to make a decision on Zaza over Saturday, that is the only decision I am thinking about: the game against Palace. The only thing I am thinking about Saturday is not about the situation in his contract or around his contract but is he going to be the one I will put at centre-forward? The only objective is can he do it against Palace?”

– Bilic on Zaza

Traditionally Palace were one of the other claret and blue sides and, like us, can trace this back to an association with Aston Villa; although theirs was a more formal relationship rather than being the recipient of some kit that fell of the back of a cart. It was former Hammer, Malcolm Allison, who prompted the change to the current red and blue strip.

My last visit to Selhurst Park was in January 1984 for an FA Cup 4th round tie. This ended 1-1 but all I can remember from the trip into the badlands is that it was the same day that Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial.

Head to Head

Historically we have done well against Palace although more recent encounters have been more even.  We have won on the last two visits to Selhurst Park although the odds will not be be good on an unlikely hat-trick.

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

15

6

8

1

22

13

DLLDWW

Away

16

6

7

3

29

18

WWLDLD

Neutral

1

0

0

1

0

1

32

12

15

5

51

32

Team News

There have been several stories in the week about West Ham having received double or treble injury boosts. Unfortunately, the only good news is that Aaron Cresswell is available for selection; the others returning from injury being Nordtveit and Calleri who would be better to advised to go shopping on a Saturday afternoon. The only other positive injury news is that Gokhan Tore is unavailable. With no imminent return of long term absentees Carroll, Sakho or Ayew we still have no useful striker to call on and so our best bet for a goal will continue to be from a Payet free kick; so expect a lot of falling over outside the box.

The return of Cresswell is very welcome and his absence has been significant; not so much for his defending but in providing variety and penetration in attacking areas. It will be interesting to see if he gets a start or is only on the bench. Convention is that returning players no longer go straight into the starting XI but this seems a waste to me. If fit enough then make him a starter and replace if and when tiring.

‘But he’s an experienced manager – an experienced international manager – and he’ll know how to deal with it. Better than I will. I have no doubt he’ll get it right sooner rather than later.’

– Pardew on Bilic

Palace are likely to have former Hammer James Tomkins in their lineup together with plenty of other tall men with beards. Hint: they score a lot of goals from set pieces. Hopefully, we will have Obiang starting in midfield and that we compete much better in the central midfield areas (and don’t pair Kouyate and Noble together again). I would leave Noble out on this occasion and go with Kouyate simply because of his height. Up front I see no benefit of enduring with Zaza and how can Ashley Fletcher possibly do any worse. So my team is:

Adrian
Arbeloa Reid Ogbonna Cresswell
Antonio Lanzini Kouyate Obiang Payet
Fletcher

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire.  This is his second West Ham games this season having previously officiated at the home game against Watford.  He has yet to issue a red card this season – may be worth a bet?