Saturday 21st December
Manchester United vs West Ham United
I think it's safe to say that most West Ham fans are looking forward to this game a little more now than they were on Wednesday morning.
Whilst we might usually expect a tough game with little to show in terms of points from a visit to Old Trafford, the Capital One Cup quarter final victory over Tottenham Hotspur in midweek has seen a surge of optimism come back to most Hammers.
Manchester United also progressed through to the semi finals on that night, but it seems that now could be a good time to face United. Okay, so they've now won their last three games on the spin having recorded back to back home league losses against Everton and Newcastle, but they certainly haven't been at their best recently.
And the champions, like ourselves, have a number of key players missing. It's possible that Wayne Rooney may feature, but the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie are definite absentees.
Whilst both sides have players missing, one area that West Ham are far better stocked than the Red Devils is in the middle of the park. The expected midfield triumvirate of Mark Noble, Mohamed Diamé and Ravel Morrison are ably backed up by the trio of Jack Collison, Matthew Taylor and Alou Diarra, who showed on Wednesday that they have the capability to step in if required.
On the other side, United have just Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs fit as recognised central midfielders - although Phil Jones could well step into the middle of the park again.
This area is the key.
After last weeks bore draw with Sunderland, I wrote about the importance of Mo Diamé to the middle of the park. He attempted 11 take ons last weekend, continuously picking up the ball and driving at the heart of the opposition. This style of play could be crucial on Saturday, as the core of United's midfield is undoubtedly their weakest area.
The table below shows a breakdown of key information for the main central midfielders used by United this season. As you can see all of them are more than able to keep the ball - Ryan Giggs posts the lowest pass completion rate with 81%. However, there are obvious areas in which they struggle. Only Jones (who has also played in defence on a number of occasions) and Shinji Kagawa have a tackle success rate of more than 50%. The absent Michael Carrick is the only one to have created more than a chance per game for team mates, and Tom Cleverley's goal last weekend is the first time any of the six have managed a league goal this season.
This is a very ordinary Manchester United midfield, and an area that West Ham must look to expose, and attack.
Despite possessing a rather ordinary midfield, United are more than capable of hurting any team they come up against. West Ham will hope that Wayne Rooney will sit this one out alongside Robin van Persie, but that's not to suggest there aren't dangermen in their side.
Danny Welbeck bagged a brace last week, and I hope it's him who lines up against us tomorrow. Although he has quadrupled his goal tally from last season, the England forward isn't a prolific forward. Since the start of last season, Welbeck has made 37 Premier League appearances, scoring 5 goals (four of those came in two games, so he's failed to score in 34 of his last 37 appearances). In that time, he has attempted 1.1 shots per game, and has a conversion rate of 13%.
Compare this to the other striking option, Javier Hernandez.
Chicarito has played in 30 Premier League games since the start of last season, and scored 11 goals - particularly impressive when you consider that he started just 12 of those game. He takes slightly more shots per game than Welbeck (1.4), but his conversion rate is twice as good, sitting at 26%.
The image below shows the goals that Hernandez scored last season. As you can see, all of them came from within the penalty box. If the Mexican has a glimpse of a chance in the box, he usually takes it.
As we saw at White Hart Lane in midweek, West Ham are capable of taking the game to big teams away from home. The chances are, we won't get any points from this game - that's what the bookmakers are saying, anyway - so why not go for it? Why not attack? Let's expose Manchester United for what they are, a team in decline.
Cup wins are great, and the mood has certainly been lifted around the place. But we need points. When better to start than now?
Head to Head
46% Head to Head Win % 34%
58 Won 43
26 Drawn 26
43 Lost 58
233 Goals Scored 167
167 Goals Conceded 233
D L L W W W Last 6 L W L L D W
8 Goals Scored 6
4 Goals Conceded 9
W W W L L W Home/Away Form D W L L L W
9 Goals Scored 6
4 Goals Conceded 9
Form Player (Last 6 League)
Wayne Rooney - James Tomkins
5 Appearances 6
444 Minutes Played 506
182 Sum Squawka Performance Score 151
36 Average Squawka Performance Rating 25
182 Passes Attempted 199
147 Completed 149
81% Success Rate 75%
13 Chances Created 2
3 Assists 0
14 Attempts on Goal 1
7 On Target 1
3 Goals 0
15 Take Ons Attempted 2
7 Successful Take Ons 1
47% Success Rate 50%
12 Tackles Made 18
5 Successful Tackles 11
42% Success Rate 61%
7 Interceptions 8
6 Clearances 73
3 Blocks 4
3 Defensive Actions Per Game 14
14 Aerial Duels 48
6 Won 38
43% Success Rate 79%
0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
17 April 2013
1-0 Ricardo Vâz Te 16'
1-1 Antonio Valencia 31'
2-1 Mohamed Diamé 55'
2-2 Robin van Persie 77'
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-2-3-1
David de Gea - Jussi Jääskeläinen
Rafael da Silva - Guy Demel
Rio Ferdinand - James Collins
Nemanja Vidic - Winston Reid
Patrice Evra - Joey O'Brien
Michael Carrick - (67') Gary O'Neil
Phil Jones - (82') Mohamed Diamé
Antonio Valencia - Ricardo Vâz Te
Wayne Rooney (71') - (82') Kevin Nolan
Shinji Kagawa (79') - Matt Jarvis
Robin van Persie - Andy Carroll
Ben Amos - Stephen Henderson
Jonny Evans - Emanuel Pogatetz
Ryan Giggs (71') - (82') Jack Collison
Luis Nani - (67') Mark Noble
Tom Cleverley - (82') Matthew Taylor
Javier Hernandez (79') - Carlton Cole
Danny Welbeck - Modibo Maïga
Manchester United: Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie
West Ham United: Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Stewart Downing, Ricardo Vâz Te, Mladen Petrić, Andy Carroll
Manchester United: n/a
West Ham United: Kevin Nolan
Opposition Last Time Out
vs Stoke City
Goals Scored: 2
Goals Conceded: 0
Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1
David de Gea
Rafael da Silva Chris Smalling Jonny Evans Patrice Evra
Phil Jones Anderson (58')
Antonio Valencia Tom Cleverley Ashley Young
Danny Welbeck (82')
Darren Fletcher (82')
Javier Hernandez (58')
Top 5's (Min 5 Apps)
Wayne Rooney 8 - 3 Ravel Morrison
Robin van Persie 7 - 2 Ricardo Vâz Te
Danny Welbeck 2 - 2 Joe Cole
Adnan Junzaj 1 - 1 Carlton Cole
Javier Hernandez 1 - 1 Winston Reid
Wayne Rooney 6 - 2 Matt Jarvis
Robin van Persie 2 - 2 Ravel Morrison
Antonio Valencia 2 - 2 Kevin Nolan
Patrice Evra 2 - 1 Stewart Downing
Javier Hernandez 1 - 1 Mohamed Diamé
Tom Cleverley 89% - 86% Ravel Morrison
Marouane Fellaini 89% - 84% Mark Noble
Rio Ferdinand 89% - 83% Jack Collison
Michael Carrick 87% - 82% Stewart Downing
Jonny Evans 87% - 81% Joe Cole
Chances Created per game
Wayne Rooney 2.1 - 2.1 Stewart Downing
Luis Nani 1.4 - 1.9 Mark Noble
Michael Carrick 1.2 - 1.2 Matt Jarvis
Patrice Evra 1.2 - 1 Kevin Nolan
Antonio Valencia 1 - 0.9 Rǎzvan Raţ
Successful Dribbles per game
Luis Nani 2.8 - 2.5 Mohamed Diamé
Adnan Januzaj 2.1 - 2.2 Ravel Morrison
Wayne Rooney 1.6 - 1.7 Mark Noble
Antonio Valencia 1.4 - 0.9 Stewart Downing
Robin van Persie 1 - 0.9 Guy Demel
Tackles per game
Patrice Evra 2.7 - 2.8 Mohamed Diamé
Phil Jones 2.5 - 2.7 James Collins
Tom Cleverley 2.3 - 2.6 Mark Noble
Chris Smalling 2.2 - 2 Kevin Nolan
Antonio Valencia 1.9 - 2 Winston Reid
Aerial Duels Won per game
Nemanja Vidic 4.1 - 6.5 Modibo Maïga
Marouane Fellaini 2.9 - 4.9 James Tomkins
Patrice Evra 2.3 - 4.3 James Collins
Chris Smalling 2.2 - 3.2 Winston Reid
Jonny Evans 1.9 - 2 Carlton Cole
David Moyes - Sam Allardyce
56% Current Club Win % 40.5%
14 Won 45
6 Drawn 30
5 Lost 36
44.4% Managerial Career Win % 39.8%
345 Won 339
203 Drawn 229
229 Lost 283
1 League Titles 2
1 Cup Wins 0