West Ham will look to end their two-game slump against in-form Sheffield United.
The Blades recorded an impressive home victory over Arsenal on Monday night. This was another one of Chris Wilder’s great team performances and he will look to put pressure on a West Ham side that looked abject last week.
Manuel Pellegrini said that he would’ve taken all of his players off at half-time against Everton. He needs his side to up their commitment if they are going to overcome a stern test in Sheffield United.
Sheffield United will come to the London Stadium fearless. Wilder’s tactics see his centre-backs press high when attacking, so West Ham will come under periods of pressure. As shown against Everton, this is the type of play that they shy away from.
Whilst West Ham got it tactically wrong against Everton, the defence held firm for a large portion of the game. Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop have proven themselves as first-choice centre-backs, both complimenting each other’s attributes.
Against Sheffield United, West Ham will find themselves under the cosh at times. They need to be resolute in defence but lightening in the counter, exposing Wilder’s attacking philosophy.
This is where I think the key battles will be:
Felipe Anderson vs Enda Stevens
Enda Stevens was integral in Sheffield United’s wing play against Arsenal.
He has great delivery and good pace, making him an asset in both defence and attack.
Unless Manuel Pellegrini makes wholesale changes, Felipe Anderson will be tasked with beating the Irishman.
Whilst Anderson was off the pace last week, he has the technical ability and work rate to make Stevens’ afternoon a difficult one.
This battle will be key to who can create chances for either side.
Mark Noble vs John Fleck
John Fleck represents the industrious side of the Sheffield United midfield.
He has terrific energy and a fantastic left-foot.
He is a key figure in keeping momentum in the Blades’ attack.
Mark Noble has found himself the presser in the three man midfield over recent weeks.
He will have to get touch-tight to Fleck but be wary of creating space for the likes of Oliver Norwood to move into and keep the pressure on.
Mark Noble thrives in this kind of game but will have a tough afternoon in store.
Andriy Yarmolenko vs Chris Basham
There is no doubt West Ham can exploit the Sheffield United full-backs.
Andriy Yarmolenko is a fantastic striker of the ball and continues to find himself in goal-scoring positions.
He’ll be up against the physical Chris Basham, who will play on the right-hand side of a back-three.
Sheffield United’s centre-backs are organised in the absence of a full-back but nonetheless, space will appear just in front of them.
The space in the final third is rarely unfound by Yarmolenko, who ghosts into the right position to get off a shot on his left.
Yarmolenko is West Ham’s biggest threat and, depending on how Chris Basham chooses to deal with him, will be the difference between the Ukrainian delivering a deadly finish or not.
West Ham have to avoid defeat against the Blades to ensure their season doesn’t slide in the wrong direction.
Sheffield United will have their tails up in light of their recent victory. A team with confidence is always the most dangerous to face.