Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United face the difficult prospect of Crystal Palace tomorrow who, following an impressive 3-2 away win at Everton on Wednesday night, sit third in the Premier League form guide.
The Hammers themselves have collected six points from the last possible 18 and sit three points adrift from their opponents.
A win for the Irons would see them reach the 40 point mark, though they already have seven points breathing space on the relegation zone.
Last time the sides met, Tony Pulis snatched a 1-0 win on his home debut as manager, thanks to former West Ham loanee Marouane Chamakh’s header. Up until Pulis’ appointment, Palace had four points from their opening 11 games. It was the Welshmen’s arrival replacing Ian Holloway that sparked the revival which has seen the south-London club blossom from relegation favourites to safe mid-tablers.
The Eagles have collected 13 points from their last six games, a run that includes a current four-game winning streak including beating Chelsea and Everton.
The ability to pick up points from the teams around them has proved just as important in stretching away from the dreaded trap door, and a comprehensive away win at struggling Cardiff preceded a 1-0 home victory over Aston Villa, both of whom are now beneath them in the table.
Under Pulis it appears Palace have adopted the old George Graham Arsenal adage, with seven of their 12 victories this season coming via 1-0 score lines. On the strength of that, Palace are the second worst goal scorers in the top flight with 27, one behind Norwich. Conversely, they do boast the sixth best defence overall. Notably, West Ham have the fifth worst defensive record at home in the league and find themselves 11th in the goals scored charts.
Jason Puncheon has been a revelation at Selhurst Park this season and is currently the team’s leading scorer with seven efforts. Although seven goals doesn’t sound like an enormous contribution, given the slender margins Palace are accustomed to winning by, his goals often prove to be the difference. When cutting in from the right-hand side, Puncheon has shown his tricky feet and hammer of a left-foot is a major threat.
Miles Jedinak and Damien Delaney have been constants at the spine of the Palace side and both embody the work-ethic and determination Pulis considers key fundamentals in any side under his stewardship. 24-year-old Joel Ward has also had an impressive debut campaign in the Premier League, with his athletic displays at full-back.
Pulis lines his men up in an increasingly unpopular 4-4-2 formation. Where a variation of 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 (depending on what kind of ethos the team is gunning for) has become common place in the game, Pulis has installed his troops with truck loads of desire and intensity to make it work. His Palace side have remnants of his notoriously hard to beat Stoke side, though perhaps exhibit more creativity and flair through Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie, who shoulder the majority of the attacking responsibility.
The two banks of four provide a stubborn resistance to the opposition and Joe Ledley has added a bit of quality alongside Jedinak in the middle to keep them ticking.
Puncheon and Bolasie are burdened with an immense work-load, but their willingness to be involved up and down the pitch has brought out their best form, instead of the inconsistent, patchy displays their careers had hosted before. Bolasie in particular gave Leighton Baines, arguably the most consistent left-back in English football this season, a truly torrid time in a man-of-the-match display on Wednesday night.
Chamakh’s role as the focal point of the Eagles attack should not be underestimated either. Whilst his goal scoring prowess has probably been left-back in France, his aerial ability and constant pressing has given many centre-backs an uncomfortable afternoon this season.