By Matt Farr
Slaven Bilic should make three changes to his West Ham side to face Southampton in their Premier League clash on Saturday.
The Hammers boss should welcome Cheikhou Kouyate back from international duty with an immediate start, while he should also bring James Collins and Robert Snodgrass into the starting line-up.
He should also switch back to a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Pedro Obiang, Sofiane Feghouli and Manuel Lanzini dropping out, following the 4-0 drubbing by Manchester City midweek.
Southampton are far from the most prolific goalscorers in the Premier League this season, but if West Ham don’t improve from their defensive horror-show midweek, things could get ugly once again.
That is why he should play three-at-the-back, with two wing-backs in Aaron Cresswell and Sam Byram.
Recalling veteran defender Collins to the line-up can help West Ham prioritise defensive security for their trip to St. Mary’s.
Although he, Reid and Fonte would not present the fastest defensive-partnership, Bilic can rely on the trio’s vast experience to see them through the tie relatively unscathed.
They have a combined total of 548 Premier League appearances between them.
Meanwhile, the returning Kouyate should partner skipper and primary midfield influence Mark Noble. The Hammers lost most, if not all of the midfield battles against a superior Man City side on Wednesday, with Obiang in particular, making a host of costly errors.
Snodgrass made a bright start to life in east London after his brief substitute appearance against City, but Bilic should hand him a first start against the Saints.
Lanzini and Feghouli were both pretty ineffective against City, and should be axed in West Ham’s new-look formation.
The main goalscoring threats lie in Carroll and Antonio, while the presence of Snodgrass in the attacking trio would also be a boost.
The Hammers can jump two places in the Premier League table to ninth with a victory, and would be the perfect way to make amends for their last performance.
Defeat, however, could see them drop as low as 14th, and end a miserable week for the club. Bilic is already under-pressure, and a second consecutive defeat would see him in even more hot water.
In other West Ham team news, the Hammers are considering an approach for this Premier League winner in the summer.