Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Cork, Britton, Ki, Ayew, Gomis, Sigurdsson
West Ham: Adrián, Tomkins, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Song, Noble, Kouyaté, Zárate, Carroll, Antonio
Oh how times can change in Football. Garry Monk, lauded for producing Swansea’s best ever finish to a Premier League season last year, has joined the ever-growing list of managerial causalities after not winning a game since Swansea’s defeat of Manchester United at the end of August. Names have been bandied round (I myself wrote just last week that I thought David Moyes could be a good fit), yet no one has yet been appointed to date, with Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins now in South America supposedly trying to tie down the enigmatic Marcelo Bielsa to a contract (Bielsa to Swansea).
With no appointment made, caretaker boss Alan Curtis is set for a second game in charge against West Ham after his luckless and narrow defeat to City last weekend. Whilst Curtis didn’t ring the changes, he brought in both Rangel and Fernandez for the City game shoring up the ailing Swansea defence. Perhaps his biggest call came with the dropping of Gomis to the bench and implementing Sigurdsson as a ‘false 9’. Whilst Gomis would come on and ultimately score, moving Sigurdsson up the pitch allowed a midfield trio of Cork, Britton and Ki to try and dictate play in the centre of the park. Whilst this formation may lack ambition, Swansea responded and played their best game in months. For a caretaker manager against a top 4 side implementing such tactics is justifiable, it’s more a matter of boosting confidence till a new man comes in but such an approach won’t be sufficient against West Ham.
West Ham have been one of the surprise packages of the season, picking up 10 points in away games to Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool and sit in 8th place ahead of Liverpool, Everton and obviously Chelsea. The appointment of Slaven Bilić looks like a heroic decision by Gold and Sullivan. Yet West Ham’s first choice XI has been decimated by injury. Winston Reid, Victor Moses and Diafra Sakho are all out. Whilst the creative force of Payet and Lanzini, the creators of so many goals and chances so far this year are also side-lined, with only Lanzini of the 5 showing any sign of playing again this side of Christmas. Last weekend saw Bilić hand Michel Antonio his first start since his summer move from Nottingham Forest and his performance certainly would have impressed the West Ham manager against a tough Stoke defence. The stage however does now seem set for Andy Carroll. Finally over his injury woes, Carroll’s talent as a footballer as never been in question (price tags perhaps) but he is at risk of being shadowed by his own fragility and it is in games like this that the big centre forward could really put a marker down that Bilić can rely on him for the rest of the year.
This game potentially offers one of the more intriguing games of the weekend and knowing how either team will approach the game is hard to judge. For Curtis and Swansea, playing at home against an extremely weakened West Ham (in terms of the calibre of players they are missing) becomes a very good chance to pocket 3 very crucial points. The home fans would normally be well entitled for their Swansea team to really try and take the game to West Ham but this is a Swansea bereft of confidence and managerless. 3 points all of a sudden becomes something more of a bonus. For West Ham, these are the kind of games where points can’t be lost. Despite having such key injury problems if European football is to become a fixture next year at the Olympic Stadium these are the kind of situations where you need to really plumb the depths of your squad and whether the storm. After all, why put in such performances against Manchester City and Arsenal to then lose against a team 4th from bottom?
Match Prediction: 1-1