The general consensus among both fans and pundits alike is that West Ham will survive this Premier League season even though the ‘job is not yet done’. The four point haul from the last two outings, though hardly impressive, has West Ham within touching distance of salvation. For the job to be officially completed, however, we may well have to rely on those below us to lose a few more games as it is by no means certain, looking at the remaining games, that we have the ability to add to the current 37 point total. Survival will be due to the inadequacies of others rather than as a result of our own endeavours. I do not see the Hammers gathering any points in May which leaves this week’s home encounter with Everton and next week’s visit to Stoke as opportunities to bolster the manager’s failing reputation.
Historically games against Everton invariably end in disappointment, both home and away. Injuries, suspensions, tantrums and incompetence only exaggerate the challenge facing the Hammers today. The straw to clutch at is that Everton are not so hot on the road but with a strong finish possibly earning them a top six place (as Arsenal falter and Manchester United possibly put all their eggs into the Europa League basket) they will most definitely fancy their chances today. After a disappointing 2015/16 season, where they finished 11th with 47 points, Everton have improved significantly under new manager Ronald Koeman and look to have a much sounder view of building for the future than our own club, which continues to blindly stumble from crisis to crisis. The challenge facing Everton, though, will be holding on to their most important players.
Head to Head
After Arsenal, the two Merseyside clubs have been the most successful visitors to West Ham over the years. In 60 meetings in London, Everton have won 23 to West Ham’s 22 with 15 drawn games. This century West Ham have won just two of fourteen home league fixtures against the Toffees.
West Ham and Everton are competitors for the dubious record of the most all-time Premier League defeats. At present the lead is shared by Aston Villa and Everton at 333 defeats with the Hammers just behind with 331 (despite having played over 100 games less). There is an excellent chance that we can snatch top spot here by end of the season.
West Ham are without Ogbonna, Obiang, Antonio, Carroll (all injured), Noble and Byram (both suspended). Reid and Sakho are rumoured to be available but difficult to know whether they will be risked. As with most of the season the lack of options at right back and striker continue to haunt us.
If Reid is fit, and assuming that Arbeloa will not be considered and we do not pull a surprise by playing a youngster (I am not sure what the current situation is with Reece Burke who recently played for the stiffs following a long injury layoff), then perhaps we need to go three at the back with Fernandes playing at right wing back. My own inclination would be to play Nordtveit and Kouyate in central midfield in an attempt to add further protection to the back line. If we concede too much space in midfield areas Everton will cut through at ease and Lukaku will have an afternoon’s target practice to look forward to. Slav no doubt will have other ideas. Our manager says that we have previous with playing either 3 or 4 at the back and he is right, we have demonstrated a lack of competence at both.
Up front the choice is likely between Sakho, with his lack of match fitness, or Calleri, with his lack of ability. I read that Inter Milan had turned their attention to Calleri in their quest for additional fire power which I found highly amusing. Even if Sakho is unlikely to last 90 minutes it would be better to deploy him from the start and take it from there.
There are two schools of thought on the goalkeeper situation: Bilic wants to stick with Randolph while everyone else believes that Adrian should be brought back. Randolph must now be short of both form and confidence.
Everton have injuries to McCarthy and Besic and Enner Valencia is ineligible to play against his parent club. Unfortunately for West Ham, Lukaku will be playing and aiming to score in his 10th successive game against the Hammers.
I can only see this game ending one way and as I never like to predict a West Ham defeat I will abstain on this occasion.
Man in the Middle
Welcome Roger East from Wiltshire this afternoon. Rarely sighted in the Premier League, East makes his second visit in five weeks to the London Stadium having previously been in charge of the game against Leicester. In his 30 whistle blowing appearances this term he has been responsible for 129 Yellow Cards and 5 Red Ones.