27-year-old attacker axed in Bilic 3-4-3: Best possible West Ham XI to face Stoke
By Matt Bullin
Slaven Bilic may have to switch up his formation if he is to deal with Stoke’s physical threat this weekend.
The Hammers travel to the bet365 Stadium looking to stretch their unbeaten run in the league to three games, but they will have to be on-guard against a strong Stoke side.
Stoke have been known to physically dominate sides, so Bilic should look to combat that by playing three central defenders, and operate with two wing-backs.
James Collins filled in at right-back last time out as Sam Byram missed out through suspension, but with Byram returning and Aaron Cresswell fit again – a 3-4-3 seems the obvious option.
It would see Collins slotting in between Winston Reid and Jose Fonte to make a back-three, while Byram and Creswell operate as wing-backs.
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Mark Noble is set to return in the centre of the park as he returns, while Cheikhou Kouyate should retain his spot in the middle of the park over Harvard Nortveit.
Bilic’s two most creative players are Robert Snodgrass and Manuel Lanzini – therefore it is crucial both of them fit into this side too.
If the Hammers play five defenders, their input will be even more important than usual. Although Snodgrass missed out last time out, he is fit again and will likely replace Andre Ayew.
Ayew, 27, has been in lame form in front of goal this campaign and has netted just five goals in the Premier League.
Diafra Sakho has also returned to full fitness and should replace Johnathan Calleri in the striker position.
If West Ham can claim a win at Stoke, they will have to match them for physicality, and beat them in terms of creativity and attacking play – this side would do both.
In other West Ham news, here are three reasons why the Hammers should resign this frustrated midfielder.