League leaders Chelsea will play host to West Ham United, in the Boxing Day fixture on Friday. This is the Blues’ 2nd game out of a total 3 this week, with Chelsea winning their previous one away to Stoke by 2 goals to nil.
Jose Mourinho’s team are in a situation where they can’t afford anything less than the 3 points if they want to stay at top of the table. But the busy December schedule, which has put West Ham in front of us next, can prove to be a hurdle.
Let us analyze our next opponents in our Opposition Scouting Report:
THE TEAM AND THE RECENT FORM
West Ham United is an English football club, based in Upton Park, East London. Founded in 1895, it is one of the eight existent clubs never to have been relegated below the second division of English football. But unlike other seven, which also includes Chelsea, it has never won the league title.
The club has three FA Cup trophies to its name, winning it in 1964, 1975 and 1980. It has also managed to secure the runners-up position of the tournament on two occasions, in 1923 and 2006.
Out of all fourteen teams, apart from the six elite ones, it will be fair enough to say that they have been the best performers if the league table is something to go by. The team managed by Sam Allardyce is currently placed at 4th position with 31 points in 17 matches, only one behind 3rd placed Manchester United with 32 points. In this campaign, they have 9 wins, 4 draws and 4 losses to their name.
Looking at their last 5 fixtures, Chelsea have something to be worried about. The hammers have grabbed all the three points in four of them, playing a draw in the remaining one.
FORMATION AND STYLE OF PLAY
The 2013-14 season for the Hammers saw them emphasize on playing long balls and crosses into the penalty box. But an experimentally strategic switch to 4-4-2 formation, and the coming together of Andy Carrol and Kevin Nolan being both fully fit, has made them a far better side. Despite playing a diamond formation they are dependent on crossing from wide, in a system which generally includes flooding the centre. But this problem has been overcome by their fullbacks pushing forward.
Another transformative change was brought by new signings Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. Kevin Nolan was the Hammers’ highest goalscorer with a mere 7 goals to his tally for the whole season. On the other hand, Sakho has already matched his tally of last season in just 17 games this season, while Valencia has also found net 3 times.
As of recent games, Carrol and Valencia have been pairing up for the strike partnership, with Sakho playing as an attacking midfielder. Kevin Nolan plays in central midfield with Song and Kouyate on either side.
STRENGTH – Their Defence
The new 4-4-2 system puts extra emphasis on full-backs for providing much-required width. The two new signings, Aaron Cresswell and Arsenal loanee Carl Jenkinson have provided them just that. Creswell has considerably improved in the left back position, which has made him Sam Allardyce’s ‘Mr. Dependable’. He has been good offensively as well, and it was proved by his winner and the only goal in West Ham’s 1-0 win against Newcastle. Similarly, Jenkinson has been good going forward as well, but defensive duties remain his main priority.
Their defence has been rock solid, with only four teams conceding fewer goals than them to the surprise of many. Their performances have proved that they are not afraid to take risks. Parking bus isn’t their style, with Allardyce constantly asking his back four to push forward.
West Ham’s new formation and style, demands for full backs to push forward and play a risky game by leaving huge spaces in defence. It has hardly had affect on them so far though, registering impressing victories over Man City, Liverpool, and Newcastle. But Chelsea are a totally different side altogether, as far as this season is concerned. With Fabregas at No. 10 position and Costa displaying his best physicality, like against Stoke, the Blues can tear their defence apart.
HEAD TO HEAD
This London Derby has witnessed 93 games overall and none of the two teams has been clearly dominant over the other, with Chelsea winning 38 of them and West Ham with 36. Both have settled for a draw on 19 occasions.
The Hammers are a team to watch out for. Jose Mourinho’s men will have to give it all to retain their 1st place and survive yet another cold barrier in the space of 3 days. Let’s have a positive attitude and expect something good on Boxing Day!
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Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni