Stopping Stoke’s supply should be West Ham’s main concern

Premier League

West Ham v Stoke,

Saturday, March 5, 3.00pm

The opposition

SIX points above the bottom three and seven away from the magical 40, Stoke City seem likely once again to avoid the drop.


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Tony Pulis’ side have been inconsistent this season, beating the likes of Everton and Liverpool, but losing to struggling Blackpool.

Seven wins at the Britannia have played a huge part in their success as of course has their direct style of play.

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Maligned by football purists for the way they play the game, their victory over Sunderland at the beginning of the month underlined why they play the way they do, with all three coming via a Rory Delap long throw or cross into the box.

The signing of John Carew from Aston Villa and the subsequent sale Sanli Tuncay gave a good indication that Pulis was not about to change his tactics soon and with the value of staying in England’s top flight increasing all the time you could hardly blame him. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Recent results have been far from positive though and the victory over the Black Cats aside, they have won only twice this calendar year, beating Bolton 2-0 and Everton by the same scoreline on New Year’s Day.

Key to the game

BIG target men Carew and Kenwyne Jones thrive on balls into the box and stopping that supply will be key.

Worryingly, West Ham have been dreadful at defending set pieces, while their inability to stop crosses into the box will also be a major concern.

Former Hammer Matthew Etherington, who is still well-liked by the West Ham faifthull will be Stoke’s main man.

With eight assists this season from the left, there is no doubting his quality, while Jermaine Pennant on the other flank is one of the fast players in the league and to neutralise the pair will be half the battle.

Verdict

WEST HAM beat Stoke in the Carling Cup earlier season and snatched a draw at the Britannia in the league and generally do well against their aerial bombardment.

Hammers should change to a 4-4-2 formation to help their full backs deal with the Stoke wide men and their attacking power could be too much for the shaky Potters’ backline.

Prediction: West Ham 2 Stoke City 1

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