West Ham vs Bournemouth: 3 key battles as Pellegrini looks for first win

Coming off the back of their 4-0 loss at Anfield last Sunday, Manuel Pellegrini will be desperate for an improved performance when West Ham host Bournemouth this weekend.


REUTERS/Carl Recine

After breaking the £100 million barrier during the summer transfer window and bringing in former Premier League winning manager Manuel Pellegrini, many around the London Stadium believe a push for European football could be on the cards.

However, after shipping four against last years Champions League finalists on the opening weekend, West Ham will be focused on starting their season afresh this Saturday. 

Making the trip to East London this weekend will be a Bournemouth side looking to build on their impressive ninth-place finish last year.

Neutrals will be hoping for a repeat of the 3-3 draw that occurred when these two sides met last season.

Here are three key battles that could decide who leaves the London Stadium with the three points.

Marko Arnautovic vs Nathan Ake

Despite working tirelessly during West Ham's 4-0 loss to Liverpool last weekend, Marko Arnautovic only had scraps to feed on and was often isolated up top by himself.

However, with new boss Manuel Pellegrini likely to swap to a more attacking formation for Saturday's matchup, the Austrian will be looking to open his goal-scoring account.

Finding the net 11 times last year and finishing as the clubs top scorer, the former Stoke man also recorded six assists and his physical strength paired with his willingness to work the channels undoubtedly makes him West Ham's biggest threat.
REUTERS/Andrew YatesWith the Austrian international gaining a firm reputation for his devastating turn of speed and willingness to make runs behind defensive lines, Nathan Ake will be given the job of trying to contain Arnautovic. 

Likely to start alongside Steve Cook at the heart of The Cherries defense, the former Chelsea man possesses far more pace than his defensive partner and will need to offer cover whenever he can. 

Making more tackles than any other Bournemouth defender throughout the whole of last season (53), Ake must have a strong afternoon both on and off the ball if he intends to keep last years Hammer of the Year quiet.

Jack Wilshere vs Lewis Cook

Often a spectator for large spells of his Premier League debut against Liverpool last weekend, the fact that Pellegrini is likely to swap to his customary 4-2-3-1 should give Wilshere a chance to play in a more advanced role.

With Mark Noble and potentially Declan Rice offering him protection defensively, the former Arsenal man will have a new lease of life in a free number ten role and will be entrusted to try to link up with last years top scorer as much as possible. 

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Coming up against a side that he spent a year with back in the 2016/2017 season, Wilshere should relish the chance to make an impact on his home debut.

Although Lewis Cook had to settle for a place on the bench for The Cherries 2-0 win over Cardiff in their Premier League opener, the 21-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough year last season and after making Gareth Southgate's World Cup reserve list, the midfielder was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham this summer.

With Eddie Howe often keen to rotate his midfield players and keep things fresh, it will be no surprise to see Cook come back into Bournemouth's side on Saturday. 

He is likely to be given the job of stifling Wilshere's creativity, last year Cook made 67 tackles in his 29 appearances, more than any other player at the club. 

Along with making more passes than any other midfielder for Bournemouth, a battle between the two English youngsters could be a key battle in the centre of the park.

Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena vs Callum Wilson

West Ham's summer signing Fabian Balbuena must be hoping for a smoother afternoon than his Premier League debut last weekend. 

Up against a lethal Liverpool front three, the 26-year-old was asked to play a high line and was often caught out by the pace of Mo Salah and Co. 

Looking far from comfortable with the ball at his feet, in the absence of long-standing defender Winston Reid, former Juventus man Angelo Ogbonna must take the role of senior centre half. 

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

With Wilson likely to be as energetic as usual, Ogbonna must be in constant communication with his latest partner and avoid the Bournemouth striker bringing the likes of Ryan Fraser and Josh King into play.

Much like Arnautovic will be doing in the other half, Wilson offers a physical presence and a constant nuisance in the final third. 

Scoring eight goals for The Cherries last season and finishing the campaign as the joint top scorer, West Ham must keep a watchful eye on the 26-year-old who will constantly chase down all lost causes. 

The forward also has a history of enjoying his afternoons against The Hammers, Wilson scored a dramatic equalizer in the 3-3 draw last year and also grabbed his first professional hat-trick against West Ham back in 2015.

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