Whisper it, but Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham are slowly building momentum.
Two impressive league results were followed up by a dismantling of Macclesfield Town in midweek.
That saw many of Pellegrini’s fringe players grasp their chance to be centre stage; which offers him some selection dilemmas ahead of the weekend visit of Manchester United.
The only downside was the injury suffered by Carlos Sanchez, which could keep him out for months. Combined with Jack Wilshere’s absence, Pellegrini suddenly looks light in midfield. We look at what he should do about it…
What are the options?
As it stands, Pellegrini is preparing to face Manchester United with just three fit central midfielders; Declan Rice, Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang.
The alternatives are thin on the ground. Pablo Zabaleta can play as a holding midfielder at a push and youngster Conor Coventry made his debut in midweek.
If Pellegrini wants other cover on the bench, he may consider moving to a 4-2-3-1.
Who will they be up against?
Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Paul Pogba will line up in his midfield this weekend. Despite all his off-field controversies, he remains a formidable opponent.
Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini are likeliest to round off the midfield trio; Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay and Fred are among the other options.
It’s a physical United midfield, but one that lacks guile. It will be a scrap in there.
Pellegrini may consider a change of midfield shape; it would allow him to accommodate Robert Snodgrass, who was hugely impressive in midweek.
However, moving away from the 4-3-3 that has brought recent success would be a risk. Perhaps the 4-2-3-1 should be kept in reserve in case the Hammers are chasing the game or face another injury blow.
Zabaleta’s lack of legs mean that putting him in the centre is a last resort, in truth. That all opens the door for Conor Coventry to take Sanchez’s place on the bench for the visit of United.
He enjoyed a strong debut on Wednesday night and Hammers fans would love to see one of their own in the matchday 18; first in line to face United if there’s another injury.
The Young Hammers showed what they could do on Wednesday and Coventry should be the first beneficiary of that.
Moving Zabaleta inside as a quick fix is a short-termist decision; West Ham need to look to the future and put their trust in Coventry.