Friday, September 17, 2010

Facing Stoke City Is A Welcome Change For The Hammers

West Ham played their first four matches against Villa, Bolton, Manchester United and Chelsea. All four can be considered as ball-playing teams. Matthew Upson and the frailties of the Hammers defence were exposed to dire effects by these clubs who attacked from all directions. Despite chopping and changing his defence, Avram Grant quite clearly still does not know his best defensive four. Come to think of it, Grant have not shown us that he knows what his first eleven should be.

Facing Stoke therefore, will be a welcome change for the struggling Irons. The Potters are a one-dimensional team albeit an extremely resolute one. Stoke have players who will fight but lacking the talent of the four clubs earlier. Stoke's game is built upon getting the ball early into the opposition's box. Even with West Ham's deteriorating confidence, the defensive quartet of Reid, Upson, Gabbidon and Ilunga will be happy to deal with high balls into the box all day.

It is great news that Thomas Hitzlsperger might be fit enough to start. The former Stuttgart captain will surely strengthen a midfield lacking in creativity and direction. For all the virtues that Scott Parker brings to the game, creativity is not what Great Scotts is about. Der Hammer if he plays, will bring a dimension of class to the West Ham midfield. The pace and close control of Barrera and Obinna will worry Stoke defenders immensely. West Ham must use these wide weapons to stretch and open up a well-drilled Stoke defence.

Even though he will be missing, Grant maintained,
"I may not be in the dugout, but we have prepared well. The meeting with the team, the talking with the team, the tactics, the training and the preparation for the team is the same. The team will be ready 100% and that's what is important. I have good staff, they know exactly what they need to know in any situation, and so do the team."

West Ham do need to keep a close eye on Matthew Etherington who has supplied 12 accurate crosses to his Stoke team mates this season. His unerring precision can be the heartbreaker for West Ham. And who could forget Ricardo Fuller's wonder goal at Upton Park last season?
Here are the head-to-head statistics against Stoke. The Hammers have done well at Stoke before last season's aberration. Can this trend continue? Even at this early stage of the season, West Ham must not let Stoke pull away from them.
Last six meetings
Season 2009-10
Barclays Premier League
Saturday 27 March 2010
West Ham 0 Stoke 1
Barclays Premier League
Saturday 17 October 2009
Stoke 2 West Ham 1
Season 2008-09
Barclays Premier League
Saturday 2 May 2009
Stoke 0 West Ham 1
Barclays Premier League
Sunday 28 December 2008
West Ham 2 Stoke 1
Season 2004-05
Tuesday 19 April 2005
Stoke 0 West Ham 1
Tuesday 19 October 2004
West Ham 2 Stoke 0

I do funnily have a feeling that the Irons is ready to collect three points at the Brittania Stadium tomorrow afternoon. This overconfidence stems from the fact that West Ham players know exactly what to expect against Stoke i.e. a physical and long ball/setpiece game.
A three points a-coming, Come On You Irons!

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