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Scout Report: West Ham United - What can SAFC expect from the Hammers this weekend?

Another weekend, another game - can we score, let alone win this time around?

West Ham United v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

What Has Happened Since The Last Time They Met? (1-0, 22/10/2016)

West Ham's debut season at London Stadium hasn't really gone to plan for Slaven Bilic. They've collected 26 points from 23 games since the last time the side's met (the 12th best record during this period), but this spell has been marred by inconsistency and injuries.

They find themselves in 14th place, and while a win on Saturday could take them into the top 10, there appears to be a feeling around East London that Bilic should have delivered much more after the move to the former Olympic Stadium. The departure of Dimitri Payet and a five game winless run, ended by the victory over Swansea last weekend, have hardly helped matters.


Tactics

West Ham typically look to sit deep and hit teams on the counter attack. A league-low 15.2 tackles and a league-high 16.6 interceptions per game appears to suggest that they wait for the ball to come to them, rather than seeking it themselves as Liverpool would, for example. However, with Sunderland averaging the 3rd least amount of possession per game (42.3%), they may be forced into taking control of the game themselves. Their 78.8% pass success suggests that this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

With Andy Carroll set to return, we expect West Ham to play even more directly than they normally do. They hit 71 long passes per game - almost one in five - with an average pass length of 20m, while goalkeeper Darren Randolph hits the 6th most long passes per game. With Carroll winning 9.2 aerial duels per game, this tactic makes obvious sense, particularly against a poor Sunderland defence.

Hull City v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

The key for West Ham will be taking advantage of Carroll's aerial ability. Andre Ayew is likely to line up in an advanced midfield position, and he will look to break beyond Sunderland's defensive line to link with the big man.

Down the wings, Robert Snodgrass and Manuel Lanzini will look to cut inside, onto their stronger feet, to link with the two attackers, opening up space for full backs Sam Byram and Arthur Masuaku to run into. This will create opportunities for West Ham to cross the ball from a variety of positions, and you'd expect them to exceed their average of 20 per game on Saturday. Don't be surprised if Carroll finishes one.


Strengths

With a number of physically imposing players in their side, it's no surprise that West Ham are aerially strong. Only three teams have scored more headed goals than the Hammers, who have netted twelve, while their 52% duel success is beaten only by Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Stoke and Spurs. Their average of 19.5 aerial duels won per game is also the 7th best in the league. Andy Carroll wins the second highest amount of aerial duels per game, with 9.2

Middlesbrough v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

As a result, they're pretty handy in set piece situations. Their 15 goals scored is second only to West Brom, while their nine goals conceded from set pieces is by no means the worst record in the league.

While stopping goals has proved to be problematic for the Hammers, their 42 goals represents the 9th highest total (tied with Palace). 9.5 chances created and 13.4 shots per game rank inside of the top 10, so West Ham appear to be decent enough going forwards.


Weaknesses

West Ham's defensive record demonstrates one of their biggest weaknesses. 57 goals conceded represents the 4th worst defensive record. They've also conceded 17 in their last nine games, including three against Leicester, Bournemouth and Arsenal.

This total of 57 goals does not seem to fully correlate with the stats, however. West Ham allow a respectable 13.2 shots per game, while they make the 4th most defensive actions with an average of almost 60 per game, aided by an impressive 2.9 cross blocks and 28.1 clearances. Their 16.6 interceptions per game is also the league's most.

On the other hand, they've made 11 defensive errors leading to goals - no team has made more. They also block just three shots per game, while goalkeeper Darren Randolph averages just 2.5 saves.

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Is it, then, a case of poor concentration when it matters most? A poor goalkeeper? Exceptional chance conversion by their opponents? Or a combination of everything?

West Ham's 15.2 tackles per game is the league's worst, and they own the league's 2nd worst disciplinary record as a result. 68 yellows and four reds is beaten only by Watford.

And while they're decent enough going forwards, improving their 39% shot accuracy, which represents the league's joint worst (tied with Middlesbrough), would certainly see them score more goals.


Key Player - Andy Carroll

The former Newcastle man is set to return on Saturday, having sat out last weekend's win over Swansea with an injury niggle. And that could potentially mean bad news for Sunderland; with five goals in his last nine games, the big man is very much a player in form.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Carroll has only scored once in nine appearances against The Lads, but will hope to add to that tally at the Stadium of Light. He may have only scored two headed goals this season, but his huge average of 9.2 successful aerial duels per game (second only to Christian Benteke), coupled with the fact that Sunderland have conceded the league's highest amount of headed goals (13, tied with Bournemouth), should give him confidence against this defence.


Match Facts

  • Sunderland are winless in their last seven games against West Ham (D3, L4);
  • However, West Ham haven't achieved a league double over Sunderland since 2008/09;
  • Sunderland have failed to score in seven successive games;
  • Sunderland will have failed to score a home goal in over three months by time Saturday's game kicks off;
  • West Ham have lost their last three away games;
  • West Ham have conceded at least two goals in their last three away games

Likely Line-Up

West Ham - Football tactics and formations