It’s a Boxing Day six-pointer at the Vitality Stadium this afternoon as West Ham look to bounce back from a poor performance and result against Newcastle while Bournemouth seek to put an end to a run of three straight defeats. At least one of these two sides is likely to be starting the new year in the relegation places.
West Ham continue to struggle with the dilemma of keeping it tight at the back while looking to be more adventurous going forward – the result of obvious deficiencies in the centre of midfield and the absence of effective lone striker. Pedro Obiang can do a decent job in breaking up play but neither Mark Noble (who is probably missing anyway) or Cheikhou Kouyate are capable of providing the link between defence and attack. Up front Michail Antonio is great at being a nuisance to ball playing defenders but he does not have the positional sense to add consistent goal threat to his game. Of the other attacking options it is Diafra Sakho who is the best fit for the system played but there are persistent doubts over his attitude.
At least Manuel Lanzini is set to return to add creativity and with Marko Arnautovic suddenly looking a very good player there should be enough quality to upset a Bournemouth defence that often looks rather accident prone.
I am a big fan of Eddie Howe but he has limited resources to play with at the best of times and at the moment he has a growing injured list. Both of his former Hammers, Jermaine Defoe and Junior Stanislas, are reported to be missing out this afternoon.
Today’s referee is Stuart Atwell from Warwickshire last seen at a West Ham game at Burnley where he sent off Andy Carroll. In thirteen games he has shown just that one red card and forty-one yellow ones.
Merson is predicting a 2-1 home win while Lawro sees yet another 1-1 draw. I am confident of a late Christmas present with a 2-0 West Ham win.