It all began with Kyle Walker getting injured in a night full of bruises at Atletico Madrid. Ever since, it seems as if every match demands a sacrifice from one of our defenders. At this rate, we might need to play Gundogan and Bernardo Silva as our Center backs against Aston Villa. I am very sure that every other team including Liverpool would have suffered immensely if their back line had so many absentees. I mean Liverpool would have been blown away just with the absence of Van Dijk, let alone their entire defensive line being injured.
The best thing about this season is that we have not allowed injuries to key personnel in our defensive department effect our flow. There was a time in 2019-20 when the injury of Laporte lead to our entire season being dismantled. In contrast, we have lost most of our defensive talismans and yet remained undeterred this season. This for me points to the evolution of the squad to deal with any of the worst case scenarios thrown at them.
We are now at a stage where our defensive resources are almost close to nothing. Ake is the lone man available and he will not know his partner until tomorrow at the very least. The injury of Laporte might just be the biggest blow for Pep. Laporte plays a vital role in helping us play out from the back and also his passing is among the best of our center backs. If you look at out heat map, most of our attacks are down the left hand side and Laporte is responsible for every one of them.
West Ham are extremely well organized and they are one of the best counter attacking teams in the league. Now, you might say that we have played Liverpool successfully, who are an even bigger counter attacking threat. But, Liverpool play a high line and the battle is generally in the midfield and you have chances at both ends. But with West Ham, they defend very deep and then hit you on the break. This means each time you lose the ball, the chances of you conceding a goal are very very high. Also, with the lack of recovery pace in our defense, this just scares me.
Pep said in a press conference before the Wolves match that we will find solutions to this defensive crisis. I think the obvious and only solution available is playing Gundogan and Rodri in a double pivot like he did against Wolves. This will be even more crucial against a West Ham team that has so much physicality and ball retention prowess in the midfield. I also think that Bernardo silva will be crucial in breaking down attacks and committing those tactical fouls.
There are many questions than answers heading into this West Ham game and i am honestly scared how we are going to deal with the physicality and pace of their forwards. This is going to be one of the most challenging games of the season and Pep will have to be at his creative best to navigate us through this period of time when we are just on the brink of achieving an extraordinary feat.