Saturday 19th April 2014
West Ham United vs Crystal Palace
After contrasting midweek performances and results against Champions League chasing Arsenal and Everton, West Ham entertain Crystal Palace in a match that could finally see the Hammers reach the 40 point mark, or see Palace open up a six point gap over their cross city rivals.
The one and only Palace fan I know happens to be coming to an Easter barbecue at my home on Saturday evening, so we really need to win this one!
Crystal Palace come into this game on the back of four straight wins, having pretty much secured their safety with wins at home against Chelsea and Aston Villa, and recording back to back away wins at Cardiff City and Everton.
Throughout their brilliant run, every player has performed admirably. Joel Ward has been mightily impressive filling in at left back, Scott Dann has rolled back the years to his Birmingham City form of a few years ago, Mile Jedinak has been a dependable rock in midfield, while Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome are striking up a very effective partnership up top.
But the areas that Palace are very strong is on the flanks. You can tell they have strong, in form wingers when Tom Ince is sat on the bench. In those four games, Yannick Bolasie has bagged himself two assists, created a further three chances for team mates, and attempted a massive 27 take ons - completing 11 of those.
But the real star of their recent form has been right midfielder Jason Puncheon.
The former Blackpool and Southampton winger has always been a capable, but erratic and inconsistent attacking force when cutting in from the right. In recent weeks though, he has been devastating.
In the run of four wins, Puncheon has created 8 chances for team mates (one assist), has a pass completion of 80%, has won 7 of 15 attempted tackles, completed 10 of 21 take ons, and has a shot accuracy of 67%.
But what Puncheon has added during this run, is goals. Of his seven Premier League goals this season, four have come in the past three games. The image below shows the Englishman's goals this season - all of which have come on his favoured left foot.
How do you stop them?
As I said above, the key to Palace's recent success has been the pace and direct running of their wide men and fullbacks.
The last time Palace failed to score (and win) was away at Newcastle United a month ago.
As you can see in the image below, is that Newcastle forced the play inside. By congesting the middle of the park and outnumbering the Palace central midfielders, Newcastle forced Puncheon (#13) and Bolasie (#28) into very narrow positions to support their midfield. This meant both wingers struggled to get into dangerous, wide positions up against fullbacks.
This approach is likely to be the most effective way of stopping Palace from doing what they are best at - particularly now that Marouane Chamakh has again taken up the role of the number 10 behind Cameron Jerome.
While the Moroccan was injured, Joe Ledley played in the position. As a central midfielder, Ledley played far deeper than Chamakh does in the role, forming a midfield trio with Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi.
When Chamakh plays in the role, he stays further forward, creating more of a 4-4-2 formation than a 4-2-3-1. This means, by congesting the middle of the park, West Ham should be able to dominate the midfield pairing of Ledley and Jedinak (Dikgacoi is likely to miss out again through injury), forcing Puncheon and Bolasie to move into narrow positions to support their teammates in a way that Chamakh is not adept at.
If you compare what Newcastle did to the performance of Everton on Wednesday night, you can see the dangers of letting Palace spread their play.
What you can see below, is that Everton left huge amounts of space in the middle of the park, with only Ross Barkley (#20) playing in the centre of midfield. Gareth Barry (#18) dropped off deep between the centre backs, who split wide to cover Leighton Baines (#3) and Seamus Coleman (#23) who pushed forward. Kevin Mirallas (#11), Aiden McGeady (#7) and Gerard Deulofeu (#10) were the three attacking midfielders for Everton, but formed more of a front four with Romelu Lukaku (#17).
Although this meant that the Palace wingers (particularly Puncheon #13) were forced to defend (look at Puncheon's deep position in front of the fullback) it meant they were also able to stay out wide and exploit space, where they are most dangerous.
As a result, Puncheon scored, grabbed an assist and completed four out of five take ons, whilst Bolasie got an assist, hit the woodwork and completed five out of nine attempted take ons.
Under Ian Holloway at the start of the season, Palace's weaknesses were obvious for all to see, conceding 17 goals in their first 8 matches. However, in Pulis' 22 league games in charge, the Eagles have conceded just 20 goals. Gone are the defensive errors and amateur positioning, and in is the Pulis approach of defending in numbers, and defending well.
Where Palace are weakest, is sticking the ball in the net. Despite their recent winning run, Palace are still the leagues second lowest scorers tihis season, with their tally of 27 only beating Norwich City's 26.
And aside from Puncheon's recent fine form in front of goal, no one player has been a consistent goal scoring threat, particularly from their attackers.
Former West Ham loanee Marouane Chamakh, and his striker partner Cameron Jerome have mustered just 7 goals in a combined 55 appearances this season, with three of those coming in Chamakh's purple patch in December.
The image below shows Chamakh's attempts on goal. What is most striking, is that the striker has attempted just 17 shots on goal in 29 appearances. That means that Chamakh has only attempted one shot every 122 minutes this season for Palace.
Jerome, on the other hand, has attempted more shots than Chamakh, 39 in his 26 appearances, or one every 42 minutes. However, Jerome is far more wayward with his finishing (7 shots blocked, 16 off target).
And this season, the target man has a conversion rate of just 5%, his worst in the past five seasons (average of 10% since 2009), and has managed just 12 goals since the start of the 2010/11 season.
If West Ham are to hop Palace in the table and put a stop to their unbeaten run, we will need to do one key thing: dominate the midfield.
By losing the midfield battle, Palace are unable to involve their wide men in the areas they are most dangerous. As a result, they struggle to create chances, and those they do create fall to their rather impotent strike force, rather than their dangerous midfield.
A midfield trio of Mohamed Diamé, Antonio Nocerino and Mark Noble should be more than capable of upsetting Palace in the middle of the park on Saturday.
Win the battle, win the game. And make my barbecue a lot more enjoyable.
Head to Head
42% Head to Head Win % 28%
30 Won 20
22 Drawn 22
20 Lost 30
129 Goals Scored 92
92 Goals Conceded 129
L L W W L L Last 6 D L W W W W
7 Goals Scored 8
12 Goals Conceded 3
W W W L W L Home/Away Form L D D L W W
10 Goals Scored 7
6 Goals Conceded 6
Form Player (excl. GK)
(Last 6 League)
Andy Carroll - Jason Puncheon
6 Appearances 6
527 Minutes Played 449
135 Sum Squawka Performance Score 281
23 Average Squawka Performance Rating 47
193 Passes Attempted 156
120 Completed 125
62% Success Rate 80%
5 Chances Created 11
1 Assists 1
15 Attempts on Goal 17
5 On Target 11
2 Goals 4
6 Take Ons Attempted 26
2 Successful Take Ons 13
33% Success Rate 50%
12 Tackles Made 19
5 Successful Tackles 11
42% Success Rate 58%
1 Interceptions 12
8 Clearances 8
1 Blocks 0
2 Defensive Actions Per Game 3
109 Aerial Duels 4
64 Won 1
59% Success Rate 25%
0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
03 December 2013
1-0 Marouane Chamakh 42'
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-4-2
Jussi Jääskeläinen - Julian Speroni
Joey O'Brien - Joel Ward
James Collins - Danny Gabbidon
James Tomkins - Damien Delaney
(78') Rǎzvan Raţ - Dean Moxey
Mark Noble - Jason Puncheon (66')
Ravel Morrison - Mile Jedinak
Stewart Downing - Kagisho Dikgacoi
(58') Kevin Nolan - Barry Bannan (82')
Mohamed Diamé - Marouane Chamakh (85')
(58') Carlton Cole - Cameron Jerome
Adrián - Lewis Price
(78') George McCartney - Adrian Mariappa
Guy Demel - Stuart O'Keefe (82')
Matt Jarvis - Jon Williams (85')
Jack Collison - Jimmy Kébé (66')
(58') Joe Cole - Kevin Phillips
(58') Modibo Maïga - Dwight Gayle
West Ham United: Joey O'Brien, James Collins, Kevin Nolan, Marco Borriello
Crystal Palace: Kagisho Dikgacoi, Yannick Bolasie
West Ham United: n/a
Crystal Palace: n/a
Opposition Last Time Out (League)
Goals Scored: 3
Goals Conceded: 2
Starting Formation: 4-4-2
Adrian Mariappa (68') Scott Dann Damien Delaney Joel Ward
Jason Puncheon Mile Jedinak Joe Ledley Yannick Bolasie
Marouane Chamakh (80') Cameron Jerome (76')
Jonathan Parr (68')
Stuart O'Keefe (76')
Glenn Murray (80')
Best Player: Scott Dann (SR: 42)
Worst Player: Adrian Mariappa (SR: -23)
Top 5's (Min 5 Apps)
Kevin Nolan 7 - 7 Jason Puncheon
Carlton Cole 6 - 5 Marouane Chamakh
Mohamed Diamé 4 - 3 Dwight Gayle
Joe Cole 3 - 2 Joe Ledley
Ravel Morrison* 3 - 2 Cameron Jerome
Kevin Nolan 5 - 3 Yannick Bolasie
Andy Carroll 4 - 2 Jason Puncheon
Mark Noble 4 - 2 Marouane Chamakh
Matt Jarvis 3 - 1 Tom Ince
Stewart Downing 2 - 1 Joe Ledley
Mark Noble 83% - 88% Stuart O'Keefe
Stewart Downing 80% - 84% Jerome Thomas
Kevin Nolan 79% - 80% Joe Ledley
Joe Cole 79% - 78% Jason Puncheon
Joey O'Brien 79% - 77% Kagisho Dikgacoi
Chances Created per game
Stewart Downing 1.8 - 1.6 Jason Puncheon
Mark Noble 1.5 - 1.5 Barry Bannan
Matt Jarvis 1 - 1.2 Tom Ince
Kevin Nolan 0.9 - 1.1 Jerome Thomas
Andy Carroll 0.9 - 1 Marouane Chamakh
Successful Dribbles per game
Mohamed Diamé 1.9 - 2.2 Yannick Bolasie
Mark Noble 1.1 - 1.7 Jason Puncheon
Stewart Downing 1.1 - 0.9 Joel Ward
Guy Demel 1 - 0.8 Marouane Chamakh
Matt Jarvis 0.6 - 0.7 Jerome Thomas
Tackles per game
Mark Noble 2.9 - 3.5 Mile Jedinak
Mohamed Diamé 2.2 - 3.3 Joel Ward
Matthew Taylor 2 - 2.7 Joe Ledley
James Collins 1.8 - 2.6 Dean Moxey
Kevin Nolan 1.8 - 2.1 Jason Puncheon
Aerial Duels Won per game
Andy Carroll 8.8 - 5 Maroune Chamakh
James Tomkins 5.1 - 4.4 Mile Jedinak
James Collins 3.5 - 2.9 Damien Delaney
Carlton Cole 2.5 - 2.9 Danny Gabbidon
Winston Reid 2.2 - 2.7 Cameron Jerome
Sam Allardyce - Tony Pulis
41.2% Win % 45.8%
54 Won 11
32 Drawn 3
45 Lost 10
0 League Titles 0
0 Cup Wins 0
01/06/2011 Appointed 23/11/2013
2y 322d Time in Charge 147d
39.9% Win % 36.8%
348 Won 338
231 Drawn 272
292 Lost 308
7 Sides Managed 8
2 League Titles 0
0 Cup Wins 0
Preston North End First Managerial Role AFC Bournemouth
30/09/1992 Start Date 09/06/1992
21y 200d Experience 21y 313d