20:00 KO (BST); Monday 11th September; London Stadium (London, England) Sky Sports
Being bottom of the table is never a good thing but after only three games played, some context needs to be applied.
While Slaven Bilic has done nothing to lift last season’s pressure from his shoulders, it is still too early in the season to cast judgement on his latest endeavours. A fourth consecutive defeat will swing this argument away from the Croat though, and a home game against the Premier League newcomers would have been an early fixture where a win was expected.
Having scored only two goals compared to the ten conceded, the match against the Terriers provides a realistic chance for Bilic and the Hammers to get their season back on track.
While West Ham have underachieved in many people’s eyes, Huddersfield have been at the other end of this spectrum. The Terriers fast start to life in the Premier League has created many deserving headlines already, but it’s far too early in the season to get carried away on a wave of euphoria.
David Wagner will need to do everything he can to ensure his side retain the early momentum they’ve built up, with a single bad result capable of pulling the rug from under their feet.
With West Ham’s momentum pushing them in the wrong direction, it could just be the perfect time for the Terriers to make their first appearance at the new London Stadium.
Last time out
Newcastle 3 – 0 WEST HAM
West Ham suffered another defeat in another game in which they conceded at least three goals. Bilic admitted after the game that his side had played well below the standards expected of them, with individual mistakes proving costly to the Hammers chances in the game.
The biggest mistake his players made in this match, however, was the lack of effort they appeared to apply in seeking victory.
In a game which will not be remembered for any moments of sheer quality, this lack of commitment from West Ham proved to be the crucial difference between the two sides.
With the Hammers in dire need of a good result, this was even more surprising. One player who will learn to realise this more than any other was young midfielder Declan Rice.
While Joe Hart tried to console him after his initial mistake led to Newcastle’s first goal, Rice could not put this error behind him and was replaced by Bilic at half-time.
As far as Premiership education goes, this was a harsh lesson for a promising star of tomorrow.
HUDDERSFIELD 0 – 0 Southampton
A brave and energetic display from Huddersfield saw them earn a deserved draw against the Saints in front of their home crowd.
While possession was relatively even between the two teams, Huddersfield created more with the ball than their seasoned opponents, creating 16 shooting chances to the Saints’ six and can think of themselves as unlucky not to see any of them beat Fraser Forster.
Rajiv van La Parra was the player to set the tone of the match in the first half and, although there was little end product to his game, the explosive winger showed a willingness to get involved which saw him ably tracking back, making a key pass and crafting a golden opportunity of his own.
While Wagner has stated he believes the 26-year-old Dutchman is still a work in progress, his performance against the Saints showed the only thing missing from his game was a goal for his efforts.
West Ham Lineup
Slaven Bilić will be without the midfield trio of Edimilson Fernandes (ankle), Manuel Lanzini (knee) and Marko Arnautovic (suspended).
This could lead to either Cheikhou Kouyaté sitting deep in a 3-4-3 system or new signing Sead Haksabanovic in the vacant attacking midfield role from the 4-2-3-1 formation which Bilic has preferred this season.
Alternatively, he may opt to start with two strikers in using the fit-again Andy Carroll alongside Javier Hernández.
Martin Cranie (hip) Jon Stankovic (knee) and Jonathan Hogg (ankle) all remain sidelined with injury with Collin Quaner (knee) also doubtful to start. This should leave Werner with an unchanged team for the third consecutive fixture.
Key Battle: Mark Noble vs Tommy Smith
With little to separate these two sides prior to their Monday night clash in London, the captains will play a vital role in leading their respective teams on the field.
Mark Noble has spent his entire career at West Ham except for two short loans to aid his development.
The 30-year-old midfielder exemplifies the courage and identity of the team and his leadership will be much required by Bilic given the current set of circumstances his team find themselves in.
For Tommy Smith, the young defender has only just taken the armband from Mark Hudson, who retired from the game after Huddersfield clinched promotion this summer.
Having yet to contribute to the Terriers attack so far in the Premier League, he has already made 10 assists and scored four goals for his side in the previous three seasons.
His primary instinct is to help his side maintain a clean-sheet though and his last-gasp goal-line clearance from Ryan Bertrand’s header saw his team earn a draw against Southampton and it is this kind of awareness which will again be needed on the pitch.
An injury-prone saviour
Many of Bilic’s problems this season have stemmed from defensive mistakes, with a regular partner for Angelo Ogbonna looking like a critical piece of the West Ham puzzle which is missing.
It could be a pairing at the other end of the pitch which could come to Bilic’s aid on Monday evening if he starts Andy Carroll in attack with Chicharito.
Having failed to score in two of the three Premiership games, West Ham have a clear deficiency up front which will be exasperated by their injury worries.
In choosing to play an extra forward instead of a five-man midfield, Bilic could stumble across a winning partnership.
Carroll’s unique ability amongst the West Ham squad to win aerial balls could be just the ammunition that Hernández needs to feed on to shoot his way up the scoring charts.
While this pairing has a good chance of bearing success for the Hammers, the next question will be how long Carroll can stay fit and available for selection this season.
Keeping it Clean
David Wagner saw his efforts recognised when the FA awarded him the August manager of the month. While the Terriers have surprised with their unbeaten start to life in the top-flight, the most surprising part of this has been just how solid the defence has looked.
Having conceded 58 goals in the Championship on their way to a fifth-placed finish last season, they were only the joint eighth best defence and this was expected to be a weakness for them in the Premier League.
While Werner’s gegenpressing style has always made them a tricky opponent to play, they have often been caught out by teams catching their players out of position.
Yet to yield from their first three games, the Terriers defence travels to London aiming to record a fourth successive clean-sheet against a team who are finding goals scarce.
PREDICTION: West Ham United 1 – 0 Huddersfield Town
The international break came at the wrong time for Huddersfield who were enjoying life in the top flight.
While a good start is important, there’s still another 35 games to play and they’ve now set themselves a high standard after a fruitful honeymoon period.
West Ham’s run of bad results can’t last forever and after a time of reflection, they have enough quality and experienced players in the dressing room to turn around their fortunes and I can see this game giving them their first taste of glory this season.
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