Whenever a team has a player sent off, even if this is in the second minute of added time, it is the duty of the headline writer to include the phrase “Ten Man” in the description of the game. So it was that I was in a bar last weekend watching Ten Man Bournemouth frustrate Manchester United. This particular bar had two separate large screen TVs showing the game from two different feeds; one was in real-time while the other had a five minute delay, and unusually took the decision to run the commentary from the delayed feed. Bournemouth should have been dead and buried before half-time but managed to get on level terms with an unlikely Old Trafford penalty and then showed great resilience to protect their point once they had skipper, Andrew Surman, sent off in the aftermath of the Ibrahimovic/ Mings fracas.
We are expecting a really difficult game on a difficult pitch with a good atmosphere but we are looking forward to it. There is still a big job to do. We have to approach every game and try and win it and see where it will bring us. We want, and we have to finish strongly.
– Slaven Bilic
Bournemouth are on a long winless eight match run during which time they have conceded 21 goals, they are without a league victory in 2017 (since Nathan Ake was recalled by Chelsea) and have never beaten a London side in the Premier League on home turf. West Ham are unbeaten on the road in 2017 and have not previously lost away to Bournemouth in any competition; 26 of the Hammer’s 33 league goals and 8 of their 9 wins have come against teams in the bottom half of the table. What could possibly go wrong?
Head to Head
The all-time record between the two clubs spans just 8 games since the first encounter in the 5th round of the 1929 FA Cup competition. Of these games West Ham have won 5 and lost just 1, last season’s 4-3 home defeat. Bournemouth will have a permanent place in the West Ham record books as the very first league visitors to the London Stadium (or whatever future incarnation of naming rights that it takes).
West Ham welcome back a touch of pace today with the return from suspension of Michail Antonio. The Physio Room shows late fitness tests for Carroll, Fonte and Reid so the manager will be compiling his list of favourite available players before deciding how he will have them line-up. Apparently we have never scored in the first half of any Premier League game against Bournemouth and so expect more of the same today as the starting arrangement once again fails to impress and tactical adjustments have to be made at half-time.
My guess is that one of Reid or Fonte will not make it with Kouyate conveniently moving to the central defence and allowing Byram to return at right back. Where to play Antonio will be the dilemma (assuming Carroll is fit); if he plays behind Carroll then Lanzini will be forced to a more ineffective wide role and if he plays out wide then the question is on which side and who of Feghouli, Snodgrass or Ayew takes the other berth? I experienced a real laugh out loud moment during the week when reading a suggestion that Mark Noble could be the answer to the right back problem; I just hope and pray that Slaven Bilic did’nt read it as well.
They’re a different team with Andy Carroll – he’s got strengths and is a huge part of their game.
– Eddie Howe suggests a one-dimensional West Ham
The leaky Bournemouth defence is further weakened by the suspension of the merciless Mings and if there was ever a perfect opportunity for Carroll to notch his 50th Premier League goal then this should be it. Bournemouth are also without the suspended Surman and a number of injured players including Callum Wilson and former Hammer, Junior Stanislas. Despite their struggles this season I still have a lot of respect for Cherries manager Eddie Howe who has done remarkably well with limited resources. The one question mark against him is the big money signing of Jordan Ibe, a player who has performed so poorly that he must be odds-on to score today.
The Man in the Middle
The man in figurative black today is Robert ‘Rob, Bob, Robbie, Bobby’ Madley from West Yorkshire. Madley previously had the whistle in the two home victories this season against Sunderland and Burnley. His all competition record so far this term comprises 25 games with 101 Yellow and 3 Red cards.