Team News: Chicharito, Hart, Zaba and Arnie all set for West Ham debuts
Slaven Bilic says Chicharito, Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Marko Arnautovic are all in line to make their Premier League debuts for West Ham United this weekend.
The four summer signings are all set to pull on a Hammers shirt when Bilic’s side take on Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
The manager also revealed that five senior players will miss the Premier League opener, with Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini, Cheikhou Kouyate, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho still working their way back to fitness. However, Bilic is optimistic that all five could all be in action sooner rather than later.
“Most of the injuries we have now are from last season,” he began. “Michail was injured against Swansea in April and the plan was for him to miss a couple of games because he had an operation, it was not just an injury but a big one.
“He was prepared to miss a couple of games and was and is ahead of schedule. He’s a good healer, strong, mentally strong, a hard worker and a bit of a monster also, physically!
“So, the fact is he is ahead so he’s playing on Friday night for the U23s and then he will miss the opening game of the season against Man United away, but he has been in training with us since Monday, he is playing tonight and he should be in the squad, at least, for the game against Southampton. That was planned.
“Andy is a bit further behind but not a lot. At one stage in the pre-season or even last year, he was way behind but now it looks better. He is training individually, still, but he is basically doing all the movements with the ball and all that. If it continues like this, he should train with us next Wednesday.
“He will not start from zero. OK, he didn’t play for a long time, but he will be in OK condition fitness-wise. Of course he needs to train with the guys, because it’s one thing to feel what you are doing individually and another to be part of the group training.
“Since March, it is the most promising situation regarding Andy. Of course I wanted him to be fit for the start of the pre-season, but it unfortunately wasn’t the face. Now, there is a light or a goal which is very near. If it goes well and according to plan, which we hope and expect, then it’s all about how he looks on the pitch regarding the co-ordination.
“Knowing Andy from before, he always need a maximum of ten days or two weeks to come back playing, but that was also one of the reasons why he was getting injured again. It’s about balance.”
The news regarding Kouyate and Lanzini is also encouraging.
Bilic is still hopeful that the Senegal midfielder’s physical prowess will see him back in action in the not too distant future, with both the No8 and the Argentina international possibly returning at Southampton on Saturday 19 August.
“I am fed up hearing from the specialist or the physio that this is an injury they have never seen before in their lives, but I’ve seen it and it’s one of the strangest ones I’ve ever seen!” he lamented.
“The strange ones come out of nothing. It was nothing, basically, not even a sharp movement. It looked bad, bad, but fortunately it is not and, like Michail Antonio, Cheik is a really good healer and is also way ahead.
“He and Manu Lanzini, who was our only other player to be injured in the pre-season, should be ready after the Southampton game, if not Newcastle, but certainly after the international break.
“Sakho has a longer break after his back injury. He joined us in Germany but lacks match practice. I speak with him every day and he trains with us. He looks healthy but he lacks match practice because he didn’t play for a long time.”