No Antonio, no problem: How Moyes could lineup West Ham vs Man United

Michail Antonio of West Ham United and David Moyes (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
Michail Antonio of West Ham United and David Moyes (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images) /

Football managers are creatures of habit, minus the Pep Guardiolas of the world that tinker more than an FPL manager on a wildcard; for the most part, they stick to what they know. West Ham’s David Moyes is no different.

So far this season, his Hammers have lined up the exact same way for every Premier League match. A basic 4-2-3-1 formation with the same starting XI, including his 31-year-old talisman, Michail Antonio, leading the line.

But for the first time this campaign, Moyes will have to trot out with a different XI after two yellows saw Antonio sent off in the final minutes of West Ham’s grueling 0-0 draw against Southampton on Saturday.

So, the question that arises is, how will Moyes lineup his side without the Premier League’s Player of the Month? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you.

How will Moyes lineup his side without Michail Antonio?

The first thing we need to realize about Moyes is, he’s so consistent with his team selections that the last time West Ham lined up in a Premier League match in a formation other than a 4-2-3-1 with Antonio up top was in a 1-0 loss to Chelsea on April 24th.

And the only reason Moyes switched it up was because Antonio wasn’t fit.

Fortunately for us trying to figure out what West Ham will look like against Manchester United this Sunday, that match against Chelsea was actually the third game in a row Antonio wasn’t fit, so we have a decent sample size to work with.

In those three matches, Moyes deployed the exact same formation each time, a 3-4-1-2, with slightly different combinations of players each game—mainly due to suspensions and injuries in the defense and central midfield positions.

But in attack, the selection remained the same in each of those matches with Jarrod Bowen and the then on-loan Jesse Lingard tucked inside from their usual wide positions to form a rather traditional striker partnership with Pablo Fornals slotted in behind the pair as a No. 10.

Given Moyes’ tendency to go with what he knows, I’d lean toward this 3-4-1-2 formation being his go-to tactical switch without his forward of choice.

Predicted XI for West Ham United:

Goalkeeper: Fabianski.
Center Back: Angelo Ogbonna, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma
Wing-Backs: Aaron Cresswell, Vladimir Coufal;
Holding Midfield: Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice;
CAM: Pablo Fornals
Strikers: Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen.

Formation explanation:

Three center-halves—Angelo Ogbonna, Craig Dawson, and new signing Kurt Zouma—defending, the ever-effective holding midfield pair of Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice sitting in front of the back three with Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal flanking at their respective wing-back positions, Fornals in playing the creative No. 10 role with Bowen and Said Benrahma filling the Lingard role to form the striker partnership.

Given this squad’s lack of depth at the out-and-out No. 9 position, it’s pretty clear cut that Moyes will go with this formation, relying on his converted wingers to fill Antonio’s role with the support of a creative playmaker in Fornals behind them and the wing-backs pushing forward to provide width in attack—the three center-halves and double pivot should provide enough defensive cover to allow the wing-backs to do that.

As for the FPL managers and what they should do without Antonio

As for the FPL managers out there wondering how not having Antonio will affect the other West Ham FPL assets, well, the more advanced positions of Bowen and Benrahma could increase their chances to bag a goal, and the increased necessity for width higher up the pitch could mean plenty of crosses from Cresswell and Coufal.

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But given Man United’s form in their last Premier League match, you probably shouldn’t expect much possession for West Ham, regardless of how they lineup.