As departures go, Declan Rice’s departure from West Ham seemed to have come off about as well as anyone could have imagined. Having led the Hammers to European glory in the Europa Conference League, the talisman could at least bid a fond farewell to the club at which he had spent almost a decade of his senior career. HIs £105m move already looks worth every penny and pound as he’s stepped in confidently and, at times, triumphantly even as he’s played alongside an ever-rotating cast of midfield partners. Going into London Stadium for this fourth round League Cup clash, I’m sure Rice feels a mixture of emotions—but he’ll know where his priorities lie.
David Moyes’s side are in a bit of freefall, having lost three on the bounce—after a creditable draw at home to Newcastle, they got trounced at home to high-flying Aston Villa before losing away to Olympiacos and again at home to woeful Everton. Even if their squad is free from injury, even if their reinvestment has been shrewd (including the signing of one Konstantinos Mavropanos…), they’re floundering. In the Prem, they sit ninth. In their Europa League group, they’re level on points but trail Freiburg on goals scored and have Olympiacos nipping at their heels. Long story short, I wouldn’t be surprised if Moyes, ever the cautious one, rationed his resources carefully here.
That’s not to say that we should underestimate our hosts. West Ham have shown in fits and starts that they give as good as they get. As for us, at a risk of, well, underestimating our hosts, we really should be able to get away with some rotation. If Saka starts, I may just throw a fit. In fact, I’ll go one further and insist that Arteta name an XI that features Trossard, Nketiah, and Nelson as the front three with Smith Rowe, Rice, and Vieira in midfield, and a back four of Zinchenko, Gabriel, Kiwior, and Tomiyasu in front of Ramsdale. That last bit might be me going out on a limb even with Raya’s uneven form of late, but there’s an argument worth making for giving Ramsdale a chance at proving his worth.
Simon Hooper will oversee proceedings, and it’s understandabl if that name doesn’t strike any chords. Hooper’s only overseen four of our matches, and we’ve come away with record of 3W 1D 0L and a combined scoreline of 13-5 in our favour. That’s not to say that we should expect to waltz past West Ham on Wednesday, but the winds do feel like they’re at our backs even if we’re going in without Partey or Jesus.
In the end, we really should get in and get out with the result even if the League Cup is a lesser priority. Let’s not forget that Man City, Tottenham, and Aston Villa have already crashed out. One of Man U or Newcastle will crash out. Klopp doesn’t care about this trophy.
None of that matters if we can’t rotate our squad and still get past West Ham, who are not to underestimated. If anything, their poor form in the Prem and Europa League might make this particular trophy all the more precious to Moyes. Winning this particular piece of silverware may not be all that exhiliarating, but it could kick us on to other glories—who knows? Maybe it’s not too much to dream of a domestic double or even—gasp—a treble.
Lest we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first see if if we can take care of business against West Ham.