David Moyes’ square pegs in round holes team selection worked last season, aided by the Hammers’ favourable run of fixtures towards the back end of the campaign. Michail Antonio found form as a striker and Pablo Fornals looked the part on the left wing.
Mark Noble was often deployed as the most advanced midfielder and that worked too. The Hammers went unbeaten in their final seven matches after the restart to secure survival.
But that was then, and this is now.
Moyes stuck with the same out of position players for the Newcastle game and it, well, flopped. Antonio was starved of service, Fornals was outpaced by Andy Carroll at one point and Noble had barely any influence on proceedings before being subbed off.
In midweek against Charlton, players stepped up. Sebastien Haller scored twice and Felipe Anderson scored the third in the 3-0 Carabao Cup victory. Arthur Masuaku and Josh Cullen had good outings too.
Moyes didn’t give anything away at his press conference on Friday in terms of drafting in the good performers in midweek to replace the ones who struggled last weekend.
Well I’m not going to tell you the team because that would give Arsenal and Mikel too much information,” Moyes said.
“But I was really pleased with the result against Charlton, we went about it really well and the players who played performed well.
“I thought getting the players 90 minutes as well was really important. Like Robert Snodgrass for example, that was his first game since February and he got the best part of 80 minutes, he’s an important member of the squad.
“Is he ready [for the Premier League]? Probably not because of a lack of match practice but for a lot of the other players who only had pre-season games, it was good.”
The manager could be forced into a change at the Emirates when the Hammers face Arsenal on Saturday evening as skipper Noble is struggling with a toe injury that saw him miss training on Friday.
That could see Cullen drafted in or an extra striker in Sebastien Haller play in a pairing up top with Antonio.
Why should you sign up?
In each football.london West Ham bulletin, we’ll be bringing you the latest breaking news, transfer features and comment pieces, as well as the key talking points for fans.
We’ll also send special newsletters when big stories break or there’s a special event happening.
How do you sign up?
It’s easy and only takes seconds.
Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article – or any article on the West Ham section of football.london in fact – labelled ‘Get the biggest daily stories by email’ and click ‘Subscribe’.
And that’s it, you’re all set.
If you decide later that you no longer wish to receive the emails, simply follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we don’t think you’ll want to.
For more details, click here.
But apart from enforced changes, Moyes has decisions to make at centre back, left back and left wing. Should he choose to stick with Aaron Cresswell and Pablo Fornals on the left then it will give the aura of a manager not wanting to deviate to try and get results.
Yes it worked last season buit the early signs are that this season, it won’t. Natural left winger Anderson had his best game for some time in midweek playing in that position and centre forward Haller found the net.
Moyes will not want to give the impression that he is regiment stuck in his ways because that will earn a backlash from the Hammers supporters. The Scotsman needs to show he can adapt to try and change things.
While not many are expecting West Ham to pick up a result in north London on Saturday night, it could be a turning point for both the team and, more importantly, the manager.