Five Talking Points - Southampton

Mark Noble's call for unity, the left-back position and Michail Antonio's hot head are all on today's discussion agenda...

Keeping it clean

It has been eight matches since West Ham United kept a Premier League clean sheet – a run dating back to the 3-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on 30 April.

A midweek 1-0 EFL Cup third-round win over League Two Accrington Stanley may not have got fans’ pulses racing, but the value of not conceding a goal in that tie should not be overlooked.

Slaven Bilic and his players talked positively about the confidence boost that success has given them ahead of Sunday’s visit of Southampton.

The Saints have scored just four goals in their opening five Premier League matches, so what price a second clean sheet in the space of five days?

Psychological boost

For a short period on Saturday afternoon, West Ham were rock bottom of the Premier League table.
With Sunderland winning 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace and Stoke City beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0, the Hammers had slipped from 18th to 20th, only for three late goals to leave them where they started.

While it is still early in the season, Slaven Bilic and his players will receive a big psychological boost if they can get the win today and rise out of the bottom three.

A victory would see West Ham rise four places to 14th, but a draw will see them remain in the relegation zone on goal difference.


Left-back in the changing room

With Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku both out with knee injuries, Slaven Bilic will have a decision to make when it comes to selecting a left-back this afternoon. The two standout options for the manager are Alvaro Arbeloa and Angelo Ogbonna.

Arbeloa has featured regularly at left-back for former clubs Liverpool and Real Madrid, despite being predominantly right-footed, and is a more natural full-back.

Ogbonna has also turned out as a left-back for Torino and Juventus, but is more suited to the centre-half position. However, with Winston Reid available again, Ogbonna could move left, with Reid and James Collins in the centre.

Riding the hot head

There is a saying in American sport that you ‘ride the hot hand’ when a player is in form, and the same can be said for Michail Antonio’s head.

The No30 has nodded in five Premier League goals in as many matches this season, enough to take him top of the goalscoring charts.

Antonio also leads West Ham in shots (20), including five of the Hammers’ six goal attempts from inside the opposition six-yard box.

It is obvious that the recent England call-up has the knack of finding space in dangerous areas, coming in off his right wing and getting inside the far post to attack crosses into the box.


Come together

Captain Mark Noble has spoken of the need for the ‘West Ham family’ to ‘stick together’ as the team and Club attempt to rectify a difficult start to the 2016/17 campaign.

It was never going to be all plain sailing, with the Hammers moving to a new home at London Stadium, and a large number of players arriving and departing in the summer.

However, the skipper is a lifelong West Ham fan and knows what a powerful force the Hammers can be when united together by a common goal.

“We have to dig ourselves out of this by working hard and sticking together as a team and a football club,” said Noble – surely it would be foolish disagree with him?