Bilic must show adaptability to end West Ham’s Everton curse

Slaven Bilic’s reign at West Ham has undoubtedly started with a flyer, but after succumbing tamely to Watford last weekend, a visit of Everton on Saturday will be the true acid test of his credentials.

To say the Toffees were a bogey team for the Londoners would be somewhat of an understatement.

The last time the Hammers bagged three league points against the Merseyside outfit was way back in 2007 when Bobby Zamora nabbed the only goal of the game.

Only James Collins and Mark Noble from the West Ham squad that day are still Irons players, and they have seen plenty of suffering at the hands of Everton since.

Of the 14 subsequent league encounters, four have been drawn while the points have headed north west on 10 occasions.

One man that has been instrumental in that misery has been Romelu Lukaku, who has netted in all six of his Everton appearances against the Upton Park outfit, and is 7/4 to find the net once again.

For the man in the home dug-out though, he will not be hoping for a continuation of the performance in Hertfordshire last week.

While the Hornets were excellent, Bilic’s side were poor, with individual mistakes capping a muddled team performance that has been rare this term.

The Croat has devised a counter-attacking philosophy since arriving in the East End in the summer, and that has worked to an extent with victories over Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool on the road.

However, there comes a time and a place when things need to be switched up.

Quique Sanchez Flores reacted to the visitor’s preferred style perfectly, not allowing them to get a hold of the game at Vicarage Road.

West Ham could be best served to coming at Everton on Saturday, with the Toffees boasting a penchant for conceding first.

In fact in their last 20 away games, Roberto Martinez’s men have opened the scoring on just five occasions.

Get that early goal by pushing forward and seizing the initiative, and then Bilic can resort to allowing their visitors to come at them and hitting them on the break.

Personnel changes are also likely after the Watford defeat.

The omission of Diafra Sakho forced a change in approach, or at least it should have done, as Andy Carroll filled the lone striker role, with support coming from the wings.

At times last weekend, ignoring his defensive clangers, Carroll looked isolated on his own up top.

And with Sakho set to sit this game out, the former Newcastle man is likely to be given the nod once again, but whether he is given a strike partner in front of the Bobby Moore Stand could be key.

Working alongside Kevin Nolan in the past, the Geordie was able to provide countless knockdowns for goal after goal after goal.

Pair Carroll in attack with Enner Valencia or Mauro Zarate, two men who won’t be afraid to take a pop from a distance, and the big man could have the perfect foil to send the Upton Park crowd into raptures.

A better performance will be needed if Bilic is to keep West Ham on the charge for a European place, and if he can show that he is more than a counter-attack-king then the 6/4 on the Hammers taking three points and ending their Toffee hoodoo could prove fruitful.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.