The Blind Hammer Column
*Blind Hammer reviews team options for the visit to Fulham *
Last week we achieved, in just one week, nearly a quarter of the points needed to guarantee our Premiership survival. The result is that we should have a squad which confronts the rest of the season without fear, certainly for the squad and hopefully for the fans in the London Stadium. For once positivity reigns.
The most impressive aspect of this achievement is that it has been realised against a staggering list of injury setback. On top of long term injuries to previously automatic first team picks, Lanzini and Reid, Pellegrini has seen his summer investment plan decimated. Sanchez is out for the season, as are possibly Yarmolenko and Fredericks. Wilshere, sadly, predictably has also barely figured. Perez participation is in doubt after picking up an injury against Palace. On top of this Arnautovic is not expected to return until January.
Without tempting fate, Balbuena and Diop have proved more robust recruits in defence and will again feature automatically. Ogbonna will continue an important squad role but not for this game.
Pellegrini declared that Zabeleta would need resting during December. Yet with a 7 days breather since his last outing he should be fine.
. Pellegrini famously hooked Masuaku at half time against Manchester City. Despite this Pellegrini has shown surprising faith. Masuaku was retained for Palace despite Creswell’s availability. To be fair Masuaku did little wrong. Despite this Cresswell offers more defensive solidity. Fulham have little confidence at the moment but this could change in a flash if West Ham gift them an early goal.
Defence is still a concern. Palace managed to score twice despite only rarely threatening. Whilst Cresswell has his share of defensive howlers he offers more solidity. His return may be important for our success on Saturday.
In midfield Rice is another who Pellegrini has signposted for a rest. Yet Rice’s ability to provide not only calm distribution but also to recover possession is an important part of our current composure.Obiang is waiting in the wings to step in. However Rice’s rest, and Obiang’s chance is more likely to come in the Cup against Birmingham.
Up front, Perez’s likely absence will probably provide Antonio the opportunity to again show his versatility. I suspect that combination play with Hernandez will have featured prominently in training this week.
Carroll’s return provides a welcome bolstering to the squad. Still he seems unlikely to start despite his pivotal role in our success against Palace. One Palace commentator considered Carroll’s mere presence allowed West Ham to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Haunted by his previous success against them, Palace’s defenders were preoccupied. This allowed Snodgrass and Hernandez the space to turn the game on its head.
Despite this critical influence, Carroll showed he is still some way from peak fitness. His rehabilitation into the squad, for the foreseeable future, lies with his providing options and impact from the bench.
Fulham will be scrapping and fighting every inch. Notwithstanding, if we can avoid gifting goals there is no reason why even our depleted squad should have enough to secure a result.