The one key decision Slaven Bilic must make in upcoming Palace clash

Slaven Bilic

West Ham United take on Crystal Palace this weekend.

West Ham United make the short trip to South London on Saturday as they take on rivals Crystal Palace in an intriguing Premier League clash at Selhurst Park.

Slaven Bilic’s men head into the encounter boasting the best away record in the league - securing three impressive victories and a draw on their opening four trips out on the road.

Spectacularly, the three wins have come at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, as the Hammers’ compact midfield and counterattacking style has worked a treat.

However, when the onus is on them to attack, West Ham have often struggled and come unstuck.

Against Palace, Bilic has one key decision to make and it’s all about approach. Do the Hammers go to Selhurst Park and play on the counter, or do they look to attack their opponents from the off?

Considering past results, one would suggest a counterattacking approach is wise, but Palace aren’t your ordinary gung-ho opponents and instead have reaped the rewards of measured pressure.

  Fouled in Final ThirdFreekicks WonPenalties WonRanked
Chelsea 35 104 0 1
Leicester 33 83 4 2
Bournemouth 31 99 2 3
C. Palace 30 101 2 4
Arsenal 27 100 0 5
West Ham 23 102 1 9

As per the table provided by Opta Stats, Palace are among the top five clubs to have been awarded free-kicks in the final third, while their two penalties won is only bettered by Leicester City.

The Eagles’ threat is fairly obvious. They have Yohan Cabaye acting as a deep-lying playmaker, while their ability in wide areas is comparable to the very best in the Premier League.

In Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie, Bakary Sako and James Puncheon, Palace have skill, trickery, pace and inventiveness in abundance it is little wonder they win so many free-kicks.

Centre-back duo Brede Hangeland and Scott Dann are both 6ft 5inch plus and a huge threat at set-pieces, a weapon which has already yielded more than one goal this season.

Can West Ham really afford to sit back, allow Palace to take control of the ball and feed their talented wingers in the final third at any given moment? It’s a potential recipe for disaster.

Bilic, however, certainly isn’t short on tactical nous and whichever approach he decides to opt for, Hammers supporters can be confident of an entertaining and competitive performance.

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