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West Ham boss faces formation headache with Cresswell suspension

PUBLISHED: 08:50 21 October 2016

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic before the Premier League match at London Stadium.

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic before the Premier League match at London Stadium.

PA Wire/PA Images

Hammers boss Slaven Bilic must decide whether to stick to his wing-back system

West Ham United's Aaron Cresswell is shown the red card by  referee Martin AtkinsoWest Ham United's Aaron Cresswell is shown the red card by referee Martin Atkinso

Just when he seemed to have hit upon a winning formation, West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has been left pondering this week if he can continue with it for the visit of bottom club Sunderland to the London Stadium tomorrow.

Bilic fielded three centre backs and two wing backs, but one of those was Aaron Cresswell who is now suspended for one game following his ludicrous sending off during the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

It seems clear that the manager would like to stick with that formation, but he may be stymied by a lack of suitable candidates to replace Cresswell.

“That formation was used not only because we wanted to be more solid, but also because it meant our best players were in a good position on the ball,” explained Bilic at his pre-match press conference.

West Ham United's Pedro Obiang has a shot on goal during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.West Ham United's Pedro Obiang has a shot on goal during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.

“Are we going to stay in that formation? It depends a lot on the personnel we can use in the game.

“Without Cresswell it is still possible to play it, some of our players are very versatile and it looks ok on paper.

“We have a few options, but it is not ideal to play that system without players like Cresswell.”

One option being mooted is to bring Michail Antonio over from right to left and play Sofiane Feghouli as right wing-back, but Bilic may just opt to return to a four at the back with Angelo Ogbonna at left-back.

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic on the touchline during the Premier League match at London Stadium.West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic on the touchline during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

Whatever he chooses, West Ham will still be overwhelming favourites to beat Sunderland, who have lost six of their eight league games so far this season.

But he had a word of warning for the fans with his admiration for former Hammer Jermain Defoe.

“He is always in a good position and his timing is spot on. For 90 minutes he is thinking about where he should be,” said the boss.

“Niko Kranjcar played with him at Portsmouth and Spurs and he was a number 10, trying to put in those through balls.

“Niko played with a few good strikers for the Croatia national team and others, but he said that by far the best of the strikers is Defoe and he still has it as well as a clinical finish – he is a great player.”

Defoe has scored four league goals so far for the Black Cats, but after the win at Crystal Palace last Saturday, confidence is likely to be high tomorrow.

“The best way to get the confidence back is to win a game, especially with a clean sheet in a very tough away London derby,” said the West Ham manager.

“But the mood was good three weeks ago, we didn’t stop trying, but with three points there is a better mood.”

It will be a chance for West Ham to earn a second home league win at their new stadium, but Bilic points out that it was a similar story last season.

“The press are writing about it and it is a fact that we have lost two of our four home games.

“But it was a similar case last season when we lost at home to Leicester City and Bournemouth. But we soon turned it around and Upton Park became a fortress.

“It would be really good to get a couple of wins on the trot. After this we face Chelsea, Everton away and Stoke at home so we will have a good chance to win some games.

“We have a difficult run coming up, but it was difficult at Palace and we managed to win that.”

Confidence certainly seems to be on the up, but the team will certainly miss Cresswell.

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