West Ham host Premier League champions and Champions League quarter-finalists Leicester on Saturday hoping to end a run of four games without a win.
Slaven Bilic’s men have drawn two and lost the other two of their last four matches, and go into this weekend’s encounter against Craig Shakespeare’s side off the back of a 3-2 defeat at Bournemouth, the Cherries’ first league success of 2017.
And one glaring omission from the Hammers starting eleven at the Vitality Stadium was £10 million January signing Robert Snodgrass, with the Scottish international yet to set the world alight since his move from Hull at the start of the year.
However, the attacker, who scored seven goals and laid on three assists for the Tigers earlier this term, should come back into the starting line-up against the Foxes on Saturday for one very clear reason – his set-pieces and crossing ability.
Leicester may well have been resurgent since Shakespeare took over from the sacked Claudio Ranieri on February 23, but they have been hopeless defensively from set pieces this term, and they have seriously struggled to win their fair share of aerial duels.
The Foxes have conceded 11 goals from set plays this season, only Southampton, Hull, and Crystal Palace have leaked more, while the champions have won just 44% of aerial duels this term, only Liverpool (42%) have fared worse.
Contrast this with Bilic’s West Ham, who have scored 13 times from set pieces this term and conceded only six, as well as averaging 49% success in aerial battles, and there’s little doubt that Snodgrass should be on the pitch as his delivery towards striker Andy Carroll will cause problems in the Foxes box.
Although he has yet to net or provide an assist in his time at the London Stadium, it’s not through the lack of trying, with his delivery particularly good against West Brom back on February 11, but not having Carroll in the box somewhat restricted his chance to have an impact.
Time and again on that afternoon the West Brom backline looked shaky defending Snodgrass’ delivery, be it from a free-kick, corner, or open play, and with Leicester evidently struggling more from those passages of play than the Baggies, the combination of Carroll and Snodgrass could reap the rewards for the Hammers on Saturday.
The Scottish international is clearly a very talented midfielder, arguably he is the reason Hull still have a fighting chance of avoiding relegation, and although he hasn’t replicated that form in East London yet, playing against a Leicester side who have picked up just three points away from home and clearly struggle from set plays could be the making of Snodgrass at West Ham.
Guest post by Marcus Oades.