Welcome to our new ‘I’m the Boss’ feature in which I’ll be analysing Bilic’s tactics and performances each week, before picking my own line up for following weeks fixture. Our opening fixture away at Manchester United was always going to be a tough ask but what’s most worrying was the manner of the collapse in the second half and also the limited number of attempts on De Gea. Bilic set out a 4-5-1 with new boy Chicharito leading the line. Whilst I would have picked a similar formation, I felt that using Ayew out-wide began to isolate Chicharito as Fernandes fell deeper to help cover the defence. Using him just behind Chicharito and using another winger could’ve improved the link-up play between the two.
We also seemed to be using the five foot nine striker as an outlet when in defence. Against the likes of Jones and Bailly, the Mexican was able to offer very little in winning and holding the ball. This had a ripple effect, never really allowing the defense a reprieve from the relentless Manchester United attack.Although we held well, cracks began to appear and eventually the flood gates were breached. In future, we should play a striker alongside Chicharito, like Bilic tried to shift to when introducing Sakho. Alternatively, the relief balls should look to be hit towards the wings. Arnoutovic and Ayew would have had a much better chance of winning and keeping the ball in the oppositions half.
Positives from the Weekend include the performances of both Hart and Zabaleta, despite the score-line played well. Hart pulled off a series of good saves and seemed vocal throughout. I was particularly impressed with the speed and size of Hart when coming out of goal. Zabaleta was similarly solid on the right side. Most of the goals seemed to come from attacks cutting through the heart of the defense.
We must now look ahead to Southampton away. They drew with Swansea last time out and must to feel that they can improve on their opening day fixture. We have a good opportunity to get our first three points against a side that are struggling for goals at home. We are likely to have a massive boost with Lanzini and Antonio returning to the squad this week. Similar to last week, I would use the 4-5-1 formation. Despite last weeks poor defensive show, I would continue with the same back four and aim to strengthen the relationship between the back four. Masuaku would also retain his place to offer an attacking threat on the left.
The midfield would see Mark Noble and Obiang return as the central two, Obiang had a poor game against United and needs to prove his worth with Kouyate soon returning from injury. Ahead of the two would be Lanzini returning from injury. He would be vital in bringing the ball from the midfield into the attacking third and creating chances. Obiang and Noble should be looking to win the ball and distribute to the Jewel as often as possible. As Antonio has stated that he is not 100% ahead of this weekends trip to Southampton, Ayew would start on the right. Whilst not ideal, Ayew should look to come inside and create inside the box as he is much more suited for. Drifting inside when the ball is out left will add to the attacking presence of Chicarito and have another poacher around the goal. Arnautovic should provide that outlet out wide and look to stretch the Southampton side. Driving runs and dangerous balls into the box will aim to panic and disrupt the Southampton defence.
Whilst Chicharito did not have a Premier League return to remember, Southampton will be another chance to prove his worth. He worked tirelessly at Old Trafford but often with little support. A much more open and even game should provide him with the outlets he needs to release the ball and make runs into the box. He managed to link up with Ayew well in the Fernandes chance last week and more of the same will certainly present him with chances.
Introducing the likes of Antonio, Sakho, and Creswell, later on, could offer an aerial threat from crosses later on. Young Rice also impressed at Old Trafford looking composed and confident in possession. I would certainly be looking to provide Rice with some minutes should the match situation be suitable.
Swansea failed to carve out any real chances against the Saints last week. Having Chicharito and Ayew lingering around the box and Lanzini creating should cause the Southampton defense to struggle this time around.
My West Ham United XI:
CM: Noble (C)