West Ham United is the first game of the 2022/23 Premier League season and the London Stadium is the place where our title defence will be tested.
Manchester City was held to a 2-2 draw in the penultimate game of last season, where Jarrod Bowen’s two goals in the first half gave fans a scare but a comeback to earn a point proved pivotal going into the final game of the season.
Since then, we have seen Declan Rice rumours shushed, Jesse Lingard flirt but go for the up-and-coming model with the riches and DAvid Moyes missing out on other multiple first-choice targets.
Gianluca Scamacca is the player that Hammers have been missing, while they have also signed Maxwell Cornet, Nayef Aguerd and Flynn Downes as the like-for-like replacement for Mark Noble.
Those new signings are going to take time to bed in and make an impact, particularly as manager Moyes has confirmed that Scamacca will not be fit enough to feature and Aguerd remains out injured.
“Gianluca has only just joined us and he’s a little bit behind so I’m not expecting him to be available this weekend. He’s not played any minutes in pre-season so it makes it very difficult to put him out so soon”. Moyes admitted
So where will the threat come from?
There’s going to be no surprises to the way the opposition will play against Pep Guardiola’s men as Michail Antonio’s strength and direct running will be the main focus of that attacking intent, allowing the wingers to come into strong attacking positions.
While it was Bowen who grabbed the headlines with the double, the new Jamaican striker caused havoc in and around the City box. That day Guardiola fielded Aymeric Laporte and makeshift Fernandinho as the defensive pairing and they struggled to cope. The pairing of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake/John Stones should hopefully fare better in central defence due to their physicality and comfortability.
David Moyes also put a lot of high balls on and in behind Oleksandr Zinchenko, now he has left, there is a likelihood that the same ploy will be deployed on the deputizing left-back. Joao Cancelo will be the likely man and he will come away from London with better efficiency in defensive duels (fingers crossed). If Josh Wilson-Esbrand starts then that tactic will be plan A from the get-go.
Their star man, Declan Rice, also poses a threat with the England midfielder likely to break up any neat City build-up in the midfield and recycle it quickly to the wingers and Antonio. Their pace will cause any defence problems with an improvement in finishing required.
The Hammers underwhelming pre-season in terms of transfer activity and games will make City fans nervous about what to expect, however City will be favourites to come away with three points and build on that title defence.
MCS Predicted Lineup: Areola, Coufal, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Fornals, Benrahma, Bowen, Antonio.