In the second round of the Capital One Cup Latics destroyed Nottingham Forest through superb finishing. They fielded a mixed team, but with an experienced back three providing defensive stability. Let’s hope the back three for tonight’s game have that kind of experience and resolve to deal with the aerial bombardment that is to be expected.
West Ham beat Crewe 2-0 in the last round, Nicky Maynard scoring the first goal, but refusing to celebrate against his old club. We saw the same on Saturday with Rodallega’s goal at the DW Stadium. Let’s hope that Mohamed Diame does not appear on the scoresheet tonight to repeat that. He was most people’s man of the match in their last minute draw with Sunderland at the weekend. West Ham put out a mixed team for the encounter with Crewe. They have a tricky London derby against QPR coming up on Monday, but still might be tempted to put on a few more first team regulars given the six day gap involved.
What can we hope for in this difficult match? Neither Callum McMananan nor Ryo Miyaichi started in the Forest match, but both came on as substitutes against Fulham on Saturday. We can expect Mauro Boselli to start at centre forward and the attacking option would be to put the two young wingers upfront alongside him, although Albert Crusat also justifies being brought back into the fold. However, this is not the normal Martinez formation. On Saturday we went back to the lone centre forward system, with midfield players on each side. Playing the pedestrian Gomez nominally on the right wing deprived the team of pace and power. Both Gomez and Maloney are creative players but playing them together just does not seem to work.
Antolin Alcaraz is still unable to return from injury, so Adrian Lopez will probably replace him. More than anything else it has been the sheer physicality of the English game that has caused Lopez most problems since his move from Galicia. Tonight will provide him with another stern test if he is included in the lineup. In the Forest game Ivan Ramis played in the most central position of the back three and looked comfortable there. Gary Caldwell was our player of the year last season, but his recent form has been poor. His apparent petulance after being rightly substituted on Saturday was not what one would expect from the captain who usually leads by example. His form has dipped – being outjumped by Rodallega for the opening goal on Saturday being symptomatic – so he may be given the chance to redeem himself tonight.
David Jones is likely to appear, either as left wingback or in central midfield. We can expect Ronnie Stam to come in at right wing back. Ben Watson has looked rusty after his long layoff from first choice duty, so he might figure in central midfield. There also remains the option of testing James McArthur’s fitness and giving the young and promising Fraser Fyvie his first start .
Whatever lineup Martinez puts out we can expect a hard and physical tussle. Sam Allardyce is not the Hammers’ fans favourite all time manager, but he has brought them back to the Premier League. For the Crewe visit there was a crowd of over 18,000 at the Boleyn Ground, sizeable by League Cup standards. The small pitch and crowd support make West Ham a difficult side to play away from home. Not knowing what strength of lineup each team is going to put out makes it hard to predict any kind of outcome to this encounter. With the exception of the fine display at Forest, Wigan Athletic’s performance in cup competitions over recent years has been infuriating. Let’s hope that whatever the lineup the Wigan team will play with enthusiasm, style and pride.