[dropcap]W[/dropcap]est Ham United were within a whisker of recording a hard-earned draw away to Chelsea on Monday night, only for a late Diego Costa winner to rob Slaven Bilić’s men of a point.
The Croatian manager was without key players and blooded a number of summer recruits, but he could not really disagree that his side were second best for long portions of the game.
Bilić opted to play a 4-3-3 system of sorts, which resembled the more defensive 4-5-1 formation when the hosts had the ball.
However, a number of tactical observations that can be derived from the game are there to reiterate that West Ham would be a much more effective team playing 3-5-2 – here’s why.
Collins holds his hand up
In West Ham’s usual back four, Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna usually command the centre-half positions, however on this occasion the Italian was replaced by James Collins.
Although the Wales international grabbed the attention by scoring the visitors’ equaliser, his defensive steadfastness was an even more impressive part of his game.
Given Collins’ man-of-the-match performance, there is an argument to suggest Bilić should play all three central defenders.
Carroll isolated in attack and needs a partner
Enner Valencia, André Ayew and Gökhan Töre all struggled to support lone striker Andy Carroll throughout the clash at Stamford Bridge, with the attackers operating from wide and having minimal impact.
As a result, when the Clarets cleared their lines it was up to Carroll to hold the ball up but he simply had no support from those around him.
With this in mind, and to make the most of the frontman’s aerial ability, a second striker alongside him – which would be present in a 3-5-2 formation, makes sense.
Antonio doesn’t want to play right-back
Michail Antonio had a calamitous start to the second half, giving away a penalty and quickly being removed from the action by Bilić as a result.
The former Nottingham Forest man has been utilised at right-back due to a lack of tried options in the position, but has been vocal in his desire to operate further forward.
Using Antonio as a wing-back rather than full-back would give him more of an attacking licence and remove him from defensive situations like the one that saw him concede a penalty on Monday.
Three central midfielders an option for Bilić
Having an added option in this area, where Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyaté are seemingly ever-presents, will bolster West Ham’s boiler room and allow Bilić’s side to dominate possession.
A 3-5-2 formation would give all three of the club’s recognised central midfielders the opportunity to play and could unshackle either Noble or Kouyaté to get further forward.
Arthur Masuaku just as offensive as Aaron Cresswell
Of the new faces in the West Ham line-up, left-back Arthur Masuaku looked the most competent and put in an industrious shift down the flank.
The former Olympiakos man is similar to his positional incumbent Aaron Cresswell in that he relishes getting forward – something that will be more on show in a game that the Hammers are more competitive in.
Masuaku looks like an able deputy for the injured Cresswell and could well replicate the attacking threat that the ex-Ipswich Town man displayed last season by the club switching to 3-5-2.
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