West Ham claimed their first win of the season last time out while leaders Chelsea are looking to make it six victories from their first six matches. Sarri is striving for perfection and it brought him limited satisfaction to hear that he has emulated Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Craig Shakespeare by becoming the fourth manager to win his first five EPL games.
“I cannot change my mind because of one match,” Chelsea’s manager said. “My target is to be the best team in England, but not in one month. Maybe one season. Maybe a little more. But at the moment, in my opinion, Liverpool and Manchester City are better than us.”
But how can’t we say that Chelsea are favourites when eight of the top 10 players from both sides according to Twelve’s data are from the Blues?
It’s a derby, Guffo, for gods sake!
Yes I know, you may say I’m far away here in Brazil talking about a classic match between two traditional clubs from London. What should I know, yes?! But the fact is the Hammers only ended their terrible start to the season by getting their first points on the board under Manuel Pellegrini with a victory over Everton at Goodison Park.
It’s too little for a team who signed a lot of players and sold to their supporters some kind of hope to struggle for European places this season. Pellegrini said in his press conference:
“The formula is try to play well and we must try to improve all what we did last Sunday. I need some weeks to be used to play in the Premier League. In this league you not play only with quality, you need pace, you need to prepare tactical things to be important in the game.”
Declan Rice is a good center back. Pellegrini positioned him as holding midfielder with functions as “pivote”, giving good defensive balance and security to defenders Balbuena and Diop. On Twelve’s leader board, he scored only 2,240 points in 140 minutes played (16 points/minute) in 2018/19, which is the 25th best performance between both sides.
We see good off ball work from Rice in his map, and that will be indispensable to the defensive work of Noble and Obiang against the dangerous between-lines movements of Pedro and Hazard.
Taking a look at the performances off ball from both sides, things turn back a little bit: Fabian Balbuena, Issa Diop and Arthur Massuaku figure in the top five best players on pressing shots and passes, closing passing lines and offside traps.
That means Sarri’s boys will find hard opponents in defence at the London Stadium. What the Blues love the most is space, and the Hammers’ off ball’s maps show that space is not in their shop window.
Remember the ugly from last weekend?
In my last preview, I made an analogy with Eden Hazard and the character played by Eli Wallach in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. That’s because the Belgian had a long list of “crimes” against opposing teams, especially when he decides to be the man of the match.
He is enjoying a sensational start to his seventh season at Chelsea and goes into the weekend as the league’s top scorer with five goals. He has previously never scored more than two goals at this stage of a Premier League campaign. Historic!
Not only does Hazard top the goal chart this term, he also leads the way in a raft of per-90 stats, including touches (114.3), successful passes ending in the final third (46.9) and successful dribbles (5.3).
Looking at Twelve’s leader board, the Ugly Sorcerer has scored 11,673 points in his 324 minutes played. He leads as the best performer from both sides, and definitely is now the most highlighted player in the Premier League.
No doubt the Belgian will play a decisive role against West Ham, and we will see important disputes between him and the right side of the Hammers.
Different moments, same gold
Pellegrini’s side is trying to find it’s balance between intensive off ball work and good construction with the ball. West Ham set up in a 4-1-4-1 system, with Andriy Yarmolenko, Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang and Felipe Anderson playing the middle line.
Centre-forward Marko Arnautovic will be assessed after picking up a knee injury in the win at Everton. He went into West Ham’s home game against Chelsea last season without a goal for his new club.
The Austrian played up front for the Hammers for the first time in that game last December, scoring the winner, and he has not looked back since. When it comes to Premier League goal involvement over the past nine months, Arnautovic is in good company; only Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane have directly contributed to more goals.
On Twelve’s shots leader board, he scored 3,694 points in 378 minutes and his 13 shots is second among both sides. That gives him an average of 284 points per shot. Hazard, who leads the shots leader board, made 442 points per shot so far.
The defensive work of the Kanté – Jorginho – Kovacic trio is remarkable. Chelsea have conceded only 0.8 goals per match and that’s because Sarri’s boys like to have the ball. When they lose it they try to recover it as soon as possible. And in the most intense way possible too, so the opposing side realize who’s in charge of the game.
It promises to be a great match between the Blues and the Hammers, where both sides will try to have the ball and not to concede space at the same time. For sure, we can expect goals, maybe both teams scoring. And make no mistake: maybe the run of victories for Sarri will come to an end.