West Ham have picked their form up overall since a dismal start to the campaign, but are still liable to struggle against Chelsea if the past is anything to go by. Other top teams, like Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, have all taken three points very easily from the London Stadium this season.
Moving from Upton Park has given the Hammers a platform to grow as a club, but it has also taken away one of their main assets in previous years. The atmosphere, thanks to the noise of the fans and tightness of the stadium, made opposition clubs feel uncomfortable when they played there. But the size of the pitch at their current ground made it easier for the likes of those three clubs, used to playing in similar surroundings, to stretch the play and pick apart a team who are always encouraged to attack by fans and manager alike.
Chelsea do not play as openly as City and Arsenal particularly, so there won’t be the space for West Ham to exploit, meaning this encounter is already set to be more cagey than both of those. The Blues tend to control proceedings and will look to edge away with the game, just as they are with the league title, currently sitting ten points clear at the top.
Michail Antonio’s sending off at Watford is a real body blow for Slaven Bilic’s men, because he was one of the men who could have stretched the play wide enough to possibly cause a threat to Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation, which very few clubs have found a way of countering.
When set up correctly, as Antonio Conte has done this season, that system ensures security all over the pitch. Two central midfielders mean there is no space to attack at the heart of the defence, and the wing backs help the flanking central defenders cover the wide areas. In attack, the front three are then afforded freedom to win the game. Eden Hazard vs Sam Byram will be a particularly interesting match up in terms of this.
Other than Antonio, West Ham don’t have many other wingers who like to attack on the outside with pace, reducing the chances of pulling the wide central defenders away and leaving Andy Carroll one-one-one with David Luiz, which will likely be the idea from the home side’s point of view. Chelsea are the masters of patience, and even if they have to wait for a chance, you’ve got to back them to take it when it comes.