Tactically Speaking

The Official Website takes an in-depth look at how visitors Fulham could line up on Saturday, while also focusing on the contribution of West Ham United midfielder Mark Noble.

West Ham United

Mark Noble

WhoScored.com tell usWest Ham United are undefeated in their last six home Premier League meetings with London rivals Fulham. They have studied the numbers ahead of this weekend's clash with the Cottagers and you have to go way back to November 2001 to find Fulham's last victory at the Boleyn Ground, a 2-0 win.

Martin Jol's side make the short trip across the capital on Saturday on a worrying run of form. Fulham have lost their last four league encounters, conceding eleven goals in the process. As a result this run has seen their 'goals against' column rise to a 21. Only Norwich (23) and Sunderland (24) have conceded more goals this season. Fulham currently sit in 18th place in England's top tier.

West Ham will, therefore, draw on the confidence of their recent results against Fulham in east London as they aim to secure all three points. When the two teams met at the Boleyn Ground last season, the Hammers romped to an impressive 3-0 win, comfortably dispatching of their Premier League counterparts. The goals scored by Kevin Nolan, Winston Reid and Matt Taylor.

One player who impressed that day was Mark Noble, with the midfielder garnering a WhoScored rating of 7.9 in the encounter. The 26-year-old may not have been awarded the man of the match in the win, the honour bestowed upon Jussi Jääskeläinen (9.3), but he turned out a first-rate performance nevertheless.

Noble has again showcased his talents in the middle of the park this season, making 12 appearances so far this term, scoring one goal and providing one assist. His average rating of 7.29 has been bettered only by currently injured centre-back Winston Reid (7.52). The all-action midfielder will be expected to pull the strings from deep once again and reinforce his statistically calculated WhoScored strength of 'key passes'.

Noble has played 22 key passes in 12 appearances this season, the most of any West Ham player. This is expected to benefit Sam Allardyce's side as they push for victory, with a weakness of Fulham's being 'stopping opponents from creating chances'.

It is not just offensively that Noble excels, as he is also averaging 2.4 tackles per game, with no West Ham player performing better in that respect. This contributes to his WhoScored strength of 'tackling'.

He will hope to nullify the attacking threat of Fulham, with the west London side having had just 96 shots on goal this term, the fewest in the Premier League. With Noble screening the defence, the Cottagers may find it difficult to add to this, given how they have struggled for creativity this season. However Fulham have scored eleven goals this season compared to West Ham's nine, which suggests a low-scoring game is in the offing.

West Ham will hope Fulham's poor run of form continues at the weekend and if Noble carries out his role to his full capability, then he will potentially be the key man when the Cottagers travel across London on Saturday.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.


Possible starting XI


Zverotic  Hughes  Amorebieta  Richardson


Parker  Kasami


Bent  Berbatov

NO single player has started all 12 Barclays Premier League matches for Fulham this season, making predicting their starting XI this afternoon a difficult task.
Injuries and indifferent results have caused manager Martin Jol to shuffle his pack on numerous occasions.

In goal, Dutchman Maarten Stekelenburg injured his shoulder in the opening-day win at Sunderland, missing two months before returning in mid-October. A huge presence, 6'6" Stekelenburg comes for crosses with confidence, makes good decisions and is a strong distributor of the ball with his right foot.

Right-back Elsad Zverotic has deputised for the suspended Sascha Riether in recent games. The Montenegrin is a compact and alert defender who is neat and tidy in possession. Left-back Kieran Richardson is a converted winger who is speedy and mobile, but can be caught out in defensive situations.

Brede Hangeland's absence through a back injury has seen Aaron Hughes and Fernando Amorebieta form an experienced partnership in the centre. At 34, Hughes remains a composed, reliable figure who still has a bit of pace to deal with more mobile attackers. Summer arrival Amorebieta is a more physical centre-back, left-footed and strong in the air.

In front of them, Ghanaian Derek Boateng was drafted into the side against Swansea City last weekend. Tidy in possession, Boateng is more likely to break up play with interceptions than dive into tackles. Boateng was substituted against the Swans and could be replaced by the more forward-thinking Steve Sidwell. An all-action player, Sidwell works hard for the team, keeps possession and can pop up with the odd goal.

A third option in the defensive midfield position is Greece veteran Giorgos Karagounis. At 36, Karagounis is stocky and mobile and still retains a great appetite for the game.

West Ham fans know what Scott Parker can do. At 33, Parker has adapted his game a little, but he still wins the ball back and uses it intelligently from his central midfield position. Last week, he showed he can still score the odd goal, too.

Swiss youngster Pajtim Kasami is a tall, mobile attacking central midfield player who can run with the ball at pace, tackle strongly and shoot with either foot.

In front of them, Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz is one of a number of enigmatic talents Fulham possess in attack. Blessed with a fine left foot, Ruiz can pick a pass, deliver wicked set pieces or score himself, but his defensive impact is usually limited. Should Jol opt to change his starting XI, Ruiz is most likely to drop out, with Sweden winger Alex Kacaniklic the most likely to come into the side. If he gambles, Jol could even select the unpredictable Adel Taarabt, who scored an outstanding long-range goal against the Hammers for Queens Park Rangers last season.

If Fulham opt for two strikers, they will be Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent. Berbatov has a languid style that makes him appear lazy, but he is deceptively quick over the first few yards, can hold the ball up and has decent aerial ability. The Bulgarian's technique has never been in question, of course. Bent is an out and out goalscorer. Big, strong and fast, Bent looks to run in behind and finish accurately, usually with his right foot, and West Ham will have to cut out balls to him down the right channel.

Tactically, Fulham are almost split into two groups - the defensive eight and the front three. However, the attackers' movement and reluctance to defend does mean they are a constant threat to the opposition.

Defensively, the above, combined with the narrowness of the midfield, means the Fulham full-backs have been left exposed in recent matches, so this is an area West Ham may attempt to exploit.