HUGH SOUTHON has been covering the fortunes of West Ham for several decades, and in more recent years for his hugely popular website, www.claretandhugh.info Here is his insight into what Wolves can expect from the Hammers at Molineux on Wednesday night.
West Ham head for Molineux tonight on a high after the tale of the unexpected at Chelsea where they grabbed their first win in 17 years last Saturday.
After a seven game run without a win it was a case of ‘only West Ham’ as Frank Lampard’s outfit were second best throughout.
Boss Manuel Pellegrini finally switched goalkeepers bringing in David Martin – son of the Hammers legend Alvin – after the summer free signing, Spaniard Roberto manage to ship 19 in the previous eight games, including a 4-0 humiliation in the Carabao Cup against Oxford United.
On Saturday, however, it all came good with the buccaneering Michael Antonio, who has only recently returned from a hamstring injury, playing in the manager’s favoured one up role.
However, he could – given his ‘Tinkerman’ reputation – restore record signing Sebastien Haller to the team, along with central defender Issa Diop, who was suspended for the Stamford Bridge game.
The Irons were seen at their worst last season at Molineux when they simply didn’t get started and lost 3-0, but after the Chelsea win they will see the game as coming at the right time with them having been the victims of a double League defeat at Wolves’ hands last term.
Pellegrini will be looking for the kind of grit and determination he saw on Saturday from a team which, unusually in this day and age, included seven Brits: Martin, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Mark Noble Robert Snodgrass and Antonio.
Pellegrini needs to come away unbeaten given that he still remains on shaky ground which has seen many fans calling for his head.
A defeat would put him back where he was ahead of the Chelsea game but there was certainly the sort of grit and courage weekend which will be needed against a very strong outfit.
Commenting at his pre-match press conference, he said: “Last season, Wolves played very well and this season they are repeating that, so there’s not any doubt that this is a tough game to play away or at home.
“It’s a team that believes in what they do and they repeat it with, fortunately for them, the same names – they rarely have injured players, or they have had few injured players during these two years.
“Nuno Espirito Santo is doing a big job with Wolverhampton, and he is demonstrating his ideas in the way that Wolverhampton Wanderers play.
“It’s not easy to come from the Championship and finish in seventh place like they did last season.
“Now, they didn’t have a good start to the season but they recovered, because as I just said, he believes in what he does.
“If you see the first results of Wolverhampton this season they were very bad, but they never changed (philosophy), and that demonstrates they have a manager with personality.”