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Tricky Irons times – big calls on the agenda


By CandH’s top blogger Allen Cummings


David Moyes has to make what could be possibly his most testing team selection of the season so far against Sheffield United on Monday evening.

Up until now despite the ridiculous fixture schedule, Moyes has largely been able to stick with a relatively settled team. The odd absentee has had to be catered for of course – but this time he has some big calls to make.

While we are all entitled to have our say, Moyes is the one with his head on the block. He’s also the one closest to the players, how they’ve trained, how they are coping with the workload, what their current mental state might be.

All things none of us really have a clue about. So when Moyes makes his choice it will be with the best possible information available – and it’ll be in the best interests of the players and of the team!

Oggy – hit the bar

With Angelo Ogbonna definitely ruled out, doubts over whether Issa Diop will be available  or if Fabian Balbuena has shaken off the ‘niggle’ he felt in the warm-up at  Old Trafford, there are defensive calls to make.

Then there are the continuing concerns over Michail Antonio’s fitness in the light of his troublesome ’hammies’ and fatigue, plus the worrying drop in form and confidence of Jarrod Bowen. Moyes has quite a juggling act facing him.

At half-time against Manchester United the manager switched to a back five, bringing on Ryan Fredericks and Ben Johnson as wing-backs, with Craig Dawson operating in between Vladimir Coufal and Aaron Cresswell.

That worked pretty well from where I was watching. Moyes switched to a back five after the first couple of games of the season with great success.

At that time of course Antonio was 100% fit and flying as a lone striker. That’s not the case right now and Micky’s season needs to be carefully managed.

I’d be happy to see him on the bench on Monday, if available, and only used if completely necessary – mindful of the fact we have the spuds the following week.

With a solid-looking back five, plus the resolute Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice in front of them, Moyes could afford the luxury of having Jesse Lingard, Said Benrahma and maybe Manuel Lanzini as a mobile, interchanging attacking option. With Bowen and Pablo Fornals joining Antonio on the bench the manager would have alternatives to turn to if necessary. No doubt there will be those who claim playing five at the back at home against the bottom club is too negative, but I don’t see it that way.

The Blades enjoyed an FA Cup victory in mid-week and a shock 2-1 success at Old Trafford a couple of games ago. They’ll be dogged on the night for sure. It might not be a pretty watch – but three points is the only prize that matters at the end of the day – and that’s all David Moyes will rightly be focusing on!

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About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

6 comments on “Tricky Irons times – big calls on the agenda

  1. Good call Hugh – we need the structure of 5 at the back with w/backs, to allow measured play going forward using the flanks. Depends how fit defenders are as to personnel, I like Johnson and Cress though. On the survey thing I also opted for Lingard, Lanzini and Benrahma resting Antonio and Bowen. With Sheff U defenders, quick players interchanging may cause them probs.

  2. One thing I noticed the other night was that with 5 at the back (or 3 at the back plus wingbacks) we were able to keep hold of the ball much better than in the first half – so I dont think that it is necessarily a negative tactic – Ben Johnson was also pretty impressive getting forward on the left and got in some good crosses with his left foot

    So Allen I support your team selection – though I imagine if Diop is concussion free he might well play

    • 3 plus wingbacks gives us more flexibility as well as security. We profited from this formation earlier in the season and it allowed us to compete with Man Utd in the second half much more effectively. Such a shame Ogbonna is out but I have confidence in our other central defenders. Looking forward to seeing Linguard and Benrahma play together again. Seems a long wait until Monday … COYI

  3. Allen. Not too sure that Jarrod Bowen is suffering a loss of form or confidence. Might be that he has been asked to play a different role to accommodate Benrahma/Yarmolenko and others within the side. Maybe that David Moyes should build his strategy around the quick, powerful and forward running Bowen we saw earlier in the season. Bowen can’t do it all himself! He needs early through balls to chase and others busting their gut to get up there with him. Antonio does it very well.

  4. Seems like a plan Allen. Good thinking. Positive thinking.

  5. Hugh ran a story about Bowen having a possible health issue which has affected his form…but he, with Moyes’ help, has tried to manage it. Let’s hope he’s soon back to being 100% fit!

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