The Inside Track: Saints vs West Ham

By SFC Media Fri 03 Feb Saints vs West Ham
Photo by Reuters

Dave Evans, the West Ham correspondent for Recorder Newspapers in East London, gives us the inside track on Southampton's next opponents.

What has West Ham’s form been like recently, and how is the mood there?

It is fair to say that the form has been up and down. Since the turn of the year they have lost unluckily at home to Manchester United and been thrashed twice by Man City at home – 5-0 and 4-0. But, in between those two embarrassing home defeats by Pep Guardiola and his team, they managed back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace at home and Middlesbrough away, which has hauled them into mid-table along with the Saints. In terms of the mood in the camp, things have certainly improved now that the Dimitri Payet situation has been resolved. The rest of the squad did not take kindly to him refusing to play, and he kept himself very separate from them. His strike action seemed to have galvanised the rest of the squad and all seemed to be going well until the game against City on Wednesday night.

What is the style of play and approach like right now?

Slaven Bilić’s team still look to play some attractive football, but, with Andy Carroll as the pivot for the whole team, there is plenty of knocking the ball into him and players working off him. The manager, like many others in the Premier League this season, had been playing with three centre-backs, but he now seems to have reverted to a flat back four, which gives them more balance. However, after the City thrashing, he may well be rethinking that strategy for Southampton,

How important is this game to West Ham, given the proximity of both teams in the table?

I think that the team need to bounce back from their midweek drubbing and get back to the form which saw them beat Palace and Boro. Both teams are in mid-table, so the importance of the game is debatable. Southampton have other things on their minds with the EFL Cup final, while for West Ham they are looking to push higher into the top ten positions. After the thumping win for Saints at the London Stadium earlier in the season, a result which could have been more emphatic, West Ham will be looking to reap some sort of revenge for that.

How has José Fonte been received, and would you expect him to play on Saturday?

I think his arrival was met with a few raised eyebrows. It was unclear why the Hammers would play so much for a 33-year-old when they had other defenders to choose from. However, it became clear just a couple of days after his arrival that centre-back Angelo Ogbonna was about to undergo an operation and suddenly all became clear. He did not have the greatest of debuts, as West Ham let in four and he conceded a penalty, but he is undoubtedly a class act and will be an important player for West Ham for the rest of the season.

Who are the players in form, and who would you say will be the key men for West Ham on Saturday?

Andy Carroll is certainly in fine form, scoring an absolute wonder goal against Crystal Palace and then adding two more at Middlesbrough. He has been aided by Michail Antonio playing further forward to help him out, and he has been as consistent as anyone this season, scoring eight Premier League goals, most of them with his head. Midfielder Pedro Obiang is the top tackler in the Premier League, with a 91 per cent success rate before the City game, so he is also an important player, while new boy Robert Snodgrass will look to make his mark and José Fonte will no doubt be keen to impress on his return to St Mary's.

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