Eye On The Opposition: West Ham vs Crystal Palace (30/1/2018)

Written by Jack Pierce

You'd be hard pushed to have a worse weekend than West Ham fans who travelled to Wigan on Saturday. A loss as well as the sight of youth and squad players unable or unwilling to make an impression, a player sent off for spitting at an opponent and another injury (Pedro Obiang) to one of the first team regulars to add to a relatively long list. 

We're not really in a position to be offering sympathy for others with long injury lists considering we're still waiting for Andy Thorn to return from knee injuries but the last few weeks have limited David Moyes' options considerably. Carroll, Lanzini, Arnautovic, Antonio - all players the manager would love to call upon aren't there for selection and pressure is mounting on the club's charming owners to spend in order to supplement the squad.

Moyes' appointment, back in November, was greeted with the sort of skepticism you'd expect a manager whose previous tenure at Sunderland had been so bad to be greeted. To say that Hammers' fans were unenthusiastic for the Scot's arrival was an understatement but in time he's got the ship in order and has given his new club a fighting chance of staying up.

That said, there appears an air of stagnation looming around the club in recent weeks and the cup defeat will have done nothing to limit that. January is a time clubs can add to their existing playing squad while at the same time lift the mood around the club. The club's supporters are yearning for some new blood and even went to the lengths of speaking with club's owners after the game on Saturday. Joao Mario's arrival on loan from Inter is a start but for all the quality he brings, it must also be noted he's played very little football since joining Inter from Sporting Lisbon in 2016. Whatever the reason, he's not settled at his new club and Inter were offering him to clubs across the continent happy enough to pay the Portuguese's wages as well as a small fee. West Ham were that club.

What is certain is that Moyes will want Mario to hit the ground running. There can be little time spent adapting particularly when you consider those already unavailable to the Scot. 

Palace's maiden trip to The London Stadium was a year ago this month and it was not good. Andy Carroll scored a contender for goal of the season in a 3-0 win for The Hammers. Palace were dreadful that day and I hope, especially for those travelling across town for the match, it's a better showing than that.

We obviously don't know who may be bought or loaned by either side before the closing of the window on Wednesday night but that won't affect this game. Given the injury ravaging of the West Ham squad in recent weeks and the return to fitness of some of Palace's recent injury list, the emphasis should be with Palace on Tuesday night.

Note I said should.

Key players 

Adrian

A goalkeeper who was very much given the impression he could leave the club after the arrival of Joe Hart on loan last summer has reclaimed the number one spot and put in some stunning performances since. It's unlikely Hart will be back between the sticks again in the league any time soon.

The Spanish keeper was rumoured to be a target for Palace in August but the move didn't materialise. Palace could've done far worse than move for the then unfavoured keeper although it appears the wish for a Spanish custodian hasn't evaporated completely.

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Mark Noble

As each season passes, more and more questions are asked of Noble. "How does he keep his space in the side?" being perhaps the loudest. But the midfielder continues to remain a pivotal part of the playing squad and has, after being dropped by Moyes, earned his place back and become trusted by his new boss and retains his place most weeks.

A one club man, Noble is adored by the West Ham faithful. Never the most technically impressive, he makes up for it hard work and graft and given his side's current league position, that's needed by the bucketload between now and May .

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Andre Ayew

Despite known interest from former employers, Swansea, Ayew is expected to start against Palace on Tuesday. The scorer of a stunning goal at Selhurst in October, Ayew clearly possesses the talent to produce moments like that but he's still not considered a West Ham favourite.

Clever outside the box and sharp inside it, if Palace keep the Ghanaian quiet, they may go a long way to keeping West Ham out.

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