The FourFourTwo Preview: Burnley vs West Ham
A clash of two clarets.
- Leicester 2-2 Burnley (Prem)
- WBA 4-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Burnley 0-0 S’land (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Burnley 0-0 Man Utd (Prem)
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 2-0 QPR (Prem)
- Man Utd 2-1 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Hull 2-2 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 1-3 So’ton (Prem)
And then, for Burnley, it somehow got worse. Winless since their return to the Premier League, struggling to score goals and with the lowest conversion rate (5%) of any of the top flight’s 20 teams, the Clarets' need for a cold-eyed goalscorer to convert chances into goals is well documented.
With every passing week that they fail to score and fail to win, their need becomes more desperate. But there’s desperate and there’s desperate, and the suggestion that they may have Jozy Altidore in their sights in a daring January move surely falls into the latter camp.
The man with one goal in 34 games for Sunderland is right up there with Ricky van Wolfswinkel as a predator, so unlikely to be the answer to Burnley’s problems. Of course, there may be no truth whatsoever in the Altidore rumour, but the fact the two have been mentioned in the same tabloid breath speaks volumes of the predicament the Clarets find themselves in.
They obviously haven't given up hope yet, as exhibited by the bullish 96th-minute equaliser at Leicester last time out. Some claim it could be a turning point in their season, but with the 4-0 capitulation at West Brom still fresh in the mind, they may be getting carried away.
Yes, they showed some spunk and spirit to plug on deep into injury-time at the King Power Stadium, with an entire midfield missing, but huff and puff won't be enough.
(Note: Burnley have used more English players in the Premier League this season than any other side (13), which may explain their lowly standing.)
At the start of this campaign, Sean Dyche would have ringed West Ham at home as a game Burnley would need to win to stay up. Given the Hammers' previous, he'd have hoped that would be possible.
But things have changed. Somehow, on the quiet while no one was watching, Sam Allardyce has rebuilt the Hammers as a quick, energetic football team with guile, menace, movement and some very sharp teeth.
The Hammers have won three of their first seven Premier League games – last season they took 20 games to record the same number of victories. But it's how they've won those games, exhibiting a hunger and an energy utterly at odds with previous slogs under Big Sam.
Wise investments in the likes of Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Cheikhou Kouyate and Alex Song, plus the reinvention of Stewart Downing as a cunning playmaker, have breathed new and unexpected life into the Irons. It may not last all season, and Hammers fans are hardwired to expect the wheels to come off at some point, but it should be evident and more than enough at Turf Moor.
For the hosts, Danny Ings is expected to have recovered from the gammy hammy that forced him off at Crystal Palace last month. Nathaniel Chalobah is also vying for a place, having sustained a minor facial injury playing for the stiffs. David Jones and Dean Marney are still rated doubtful, Matthew Taylor, Kieran Trippier and Sam Vokes are still nursing an assortment of longer-lasting niggles and knocks.
West Ham did have eight players out injured: Carl Jenkinson, James Collins, Ricardo Vaz Te, Guy Demel, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Joey O'Brien and Andy Carroll. All bar one of those men should be fit and in contention to face Burnley. Can you guess which one will miss out? Have a go. You won't be wrong.
Player to watch: Stewart Downing (West Ham)
With a goal in all five starts for the Hammers, Sakho could well be the difference between the two sides on Saturday. Yet we opt here for the much-maligned Downing, a man reinvented as the creative spark for West Ham. Downing has been a revelation. No player has created more goalscoring chances in the Premier League this season – his 22 put him level with Cesc Fabregas as we type. Two of those chances came against QPR in the last outing, where Downing also topped the stats for most passes (48 of 57 successful), most passes in the attacking third (15 of 19) and ball recoveries (13). These stats were reflective of his season so far and now result in three words this correspondent never expected to be typing: Downing for England. Why not?
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Burnley 0-2 W Ham (LC, Oct 13)
- Burnley 2-2 W Ham (Ch, Mar 12)
- W Ham 1-2 Burnley (Ch, Dec 11)
- W Ham 5-1 Burnley (FAC, Feb 11)
- Burnley 2-1 W Ham (PL, Feb 10)
Despite the obvious limitations of his squad, Dyche still believes. "This season's different because virtually everyone outside of our club considered we were doomed from the minute after we got promoted," he said after the Leicester point. "I'm happy to say we don't think that, and that was on show today, that spirit." Dyche spent part of the international break picking the brains of Sir Alex Ferguson. "He phoned me not so long ago," revealed Fergie, though he kept the contents of their conversation secret. Perhaps it was he who suggested Jozy Altidore.
His opposite number, Samuel Allardyce, was a dead man walking last August by most (bookies') accounts. Now he's the toast of the East End. His co-chairman David Sullivan has been quick to credit Big Sam for rediscovering "the West Ham way", which roughly translated means he's decided to play some proper, pretty football at last. "He changed the style to a diamond formation," chirped Mr Sullivan.
"Sam made that decision so he deserves the accolades because, had it not worked, he would have been castrated." Oh, no, wait, "castigated". Slightly different.
Facts and figures
- The Hammers have scored 6 goals from set-piece situations this season in the Premier League; more than any other side.
- Mark Noble could make his 200th Premier League appearance for West Ham in this match – only Steve Potts (203) has made more.
- Sakho is the first West Ham player to score in 4 consecutive Premier League games since Carlton Cole in the 2008/09 campaign. Cole scored in 5 successive games on this run.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Two very game outfits but a gulf in class suggests away win. Burnley 0-2 West Ham.
Back 0-2 at 14/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication