West Ham ended their pre-season on a high as they defeated UC Sampdoria 3-2 in the Marathonbet Cup on Saturday, but it was their exciting new formation that caught the eye.
In the first period, Sam Allardyce’s men set-up in a new 3-5-2 system which we are not familiar with seeing from a West Ham side that is often very rigid in a 4-5-1.
The innovative change led to some encouraging signs, though, with the formation working wonders in the first half and new signings Cheikhou Kouyate, Mauro Zarate and Aaron Cresswell all impressing.
Stuart Downing acclimatised well to a right wing-back role with Cresswell on the left, and as we saw with Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side at the World Cup, the formation allows a lot more versatility going forward but also provides defensive stability if implemented correctly.
West Ham were by far the better side in the early stages of the game and looked comfortable in their new set-up, passing the ball out of defence with ease and creating chances for their front two of Carlton Cole and Zarate.
Playing two up top would definitely give the Irons something different this season and hopefully help them to find the back of the net on more occasions – they only managed 40 goals in 38 Premier League matches last term.
Although if they are to implement this new formation, which can also be adapted into a 4-3-3 – as we saw in the second half against Sampdoria – then they will need quality in forward areas, which is something they are light on at present due to Andy Carroll’s injury and Enner Valencia’s fitness.
Not only that, the formation also relies heavily on the work rate and ability of the wing-backs who are an integral part of the system's success.
Downing has played left-back in the past so it is no surprise that he adapted to the role perfectly, joining in with attacks and providing width going forward while also being able to whip in a great cross.
On the other side, however, Cresswell may not be quite as accustomed to his new wing-back role but as he is still only young and eager to make his mark in this West Ham side, he will be committed and raring to impress – as he did against Sampdoria despite being forced off with an injury after half an hour.
The new formation will certainly provide some exciting displays if carried into the season and gives the Hammers a counter-attacking edge that we have not seen from them in recent years.
At the same time, they will be able to keep their defensive solidity by reverting to a back five when under pressure. This will suit Big Sam, who has been set the task of changing the team's style.
It will be interesting to see if they do line up in a 3-5-2 against Tottenham as Allardyce will need to trust the players he has at his disposal, with it looking increasingly likely that another striker may not be brought in in time for the opener on August 16.