The Big Match Tactical View: West Ham v Southampton

Will West Ham's supporters be able to celebrate a second league win at the Olympic Stadium?
Will West Ham's supporters be able to celebrate a second league win at the Olympic Stadium?
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Both sides have collected just a single victory so far this season - which side can make it two? Michael Cox provides the tactical analysis while Alan Thompson looks at the betting...


"Claude Puel’s diamond formation will suffocate West Ham in the centre of the pitch"

West Ham v Southampton
Sunday, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: West Ham 2.915/8, Southampton 2.89/5, The Draw 3.412/5.


West Ham's five Premier League matches so far this season have seen 20 goals - more than any other side in the Premier League. Unfortunately for Slaven Bilic's side, they've scored only seven of those goals, and come into this game in the relegation zone.

Southampton, meanwhile, have seen just 10 goals in their five matches so far, the joint-lowest alongside Tottenham. Like the Hammers, they've only collected one victory, although two draws saw them start the weekend in 14th place.

Neither side is playing with great confidence, then, but what type of match will this be? An open, end-to-end clash like West Ham are accustomed to, or a more cagey battle in keeping with Southampton's recent matches?

The former seems a little more likely. Southampton's matches haven't featured many goals, but they're not a fundamentally defensive side - Claude Puel has them playing attractive, technical football, usually in a diamond midfield shape which can cause opponents problems.

Bilic has problems in defence, where Arthur Masuaku collected an injury late in the 1-0 victory over Accrington Stanley in midweek, which is particularly unhelpful considering Aaron Cresswell is still out too. This double blow at left-back means Alvaro Arbeloa, a low-profile free signing late in the transfer window, could be in line for his first league start having debuted in midweek.

Otherwise, Bilic is likely to name a familiar side. Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate will form the midfield trio, with Michail Antonio attacking down the right and making late runs to meet deep crosses, and Dimitri Payet cutting inside dangerously from the left - he's already collected three assists. Manuel Lanzini should play the number 10 role and offers trickery between the lines, while Simone Zaza - someone unconvincing thus far - will operate as a lone forward.

Puel's diamond formation will probably suffocate West Ham in the centre of the pitch, however. Oriel Romeu, Jordy Clasie and Steven Davis form a close-knit midfield trio without the ball, forcing the opposition out wide. Payet might have to operate on the left more than usual, especially because Arbeloa is unlikely to make many overlapping runs to allow him inside.

This could be a serious problem for West Ham. Against a diamond system you need width from full-back to exploit the lack of opposition width, but Arbeloa and Sam Bryam might not offer too much in this respect. Bilic surely won't try Antonio at right-back again, but he really needs attacking thrust from deep.

Clasie and Davis will sometimes shuttle forward, but much of the attacking play should revolve around Dusan Tadic drifting between the lines between his number 10 role. If Kouyate and Noble can nullify him, however, Southampton's moves will break down.

Upfront, Puel will surely start Charlie Austin, who has hit four goals in three games. The major decision is between Shane Long and Nathan Redmond as his strike partner. Although very different players, a centre-forward and a natural winger respectively, both are good at taking long balls in the channels and helping Southampton to attack quickly.

This should be an interesting tactical battle between two different systems, which should see lots of players in space, albeit in deep positions. Goals seems the order of the day here.


The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

The London Stadium hasn’t been too kind to West Ham yet, but their poor form isn’t just restricted to their home performances, they halted a run of four consecutive losses in all competitions with a last minute wonder strike by Dimitri Payet in midweek to give them their victory over Accrington Stanley and secure a place in the fourth round of the EFL cup.

Their opponents on Sunday, Southampton are also struggling a bit under new manager Claude Puel with just the single victory so far in the league, but they have now won three in a row in all competitions (without conceding a goal) and Charlie Austin has been inspired, firing in four goals.

The Saints have scored in four of their five Premier League games but they have also only kept one clean sheet, conceding four goals in two tough away starts at Old Trafford and the Emirates. The Hammers have already conceded 13 goals in their opening five fixtures, which have produced 20 goals in total.

The early indicators suggest that we should be seeing some goals on Sunday afternoon and recent history also backs that theory up. The last four meetings between the sides at West Ham have seen both teams scoring and produced 16 goals (averaging four per game), though admittedly, that was at a different stadium.

I will be splitting my stake backing Over 3.5 Goals before kick-off at anything better than 3.711/4 and will be using the other half of my stake to back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.35/4 should it reach that level in play.

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