West Ham will be confident of dispatching Wolves on Monday but they must beware of an old adversary in their ranks.
Adama Traore has had a rotten season for the Midlands outfit and he is still yet to directly contribute to a Premier League goal despite scoring four goals and assisting nine in the previous campaign.
It hasn’t been a great season for Wolves, either, as they sit 13th and without a win in their last four games.
They were battered 4-0 at the London Stadium in September but they can take solace in their prior record against the Irons – the four fixtures before this season’s drubbing saw Wolves win every game and rack up an 8-0 aggregate.
The first of those games saw Traore net a 93rd minute winner while his second-half introduction in a 2-0 victory last June changed the course of the game with his direct running as seen below.
Here he gains possession on the right-hand side and Cresswell starts to lumber over to resume his responsibilities as the left-sided defender in a four-man defence.
Manuel Lanzini is there for company as the duo look to close the Spaniard down.
You can see Cresswell is slow to cover round Lanzini and thus the Argentine is in immediate danger.
There’s no one quicker in the league than Traore and giving him the freedom of the wing is to the defence’s peril.
He breezes past Lanzini and heads towards the touchline.
Cresswell has to get tight and close him down to block the cross but he fails in his duties.
The task for Traore is simple – swing it in and Raul Jimenez’s head will do the rest, which it did.
Jimenez is still absent from the side after suffering an awful head injury against Arsenal on November 29.
However, they still possess a handy man in the air in Willian Jose whose 5.76 aerial duels per 90 puts him just outside the top 30 in the league [Wyscout].
Despite his own patchy form in a Wolves shirt (zero goals in nine so far) his La Liga record for previous club Real Sociedad (double figures in the past four seasons) still warrants credit and he will be on hand to tuck away any similar crosses on Monday.
So how do the Irons stop the threat of Traore?
Well, the formation utilised in their previous encounter with Wolves might have been the golden ticket.
At the start of the season, before Arthur Masuaku’s injury, Moyes was deploying a 5-4-1 formation.
That meant the DR Congo international at wing-back with Cresswell tucked in alongside him as a central defender, and Pablo Fornals just ahead of them on the left of midfield.
Traore endured his worst dribbling performance of the season as a starter – he failed with 66% of his 12 attempts [Wyscout].
His xA and xG were both zero – he was completely nullified by the Irons defence before he was hauled off on 62 minutes.
Since that game West Ham have changed to a four-man defence to brilliant success.
However we have seen signs recently that the left-side of our defence is looking increasingly vulnerable and in our last game before the international break, versus Arsenal, this was particularly evident as all three goals we conceded came from there.
The examples below show the numerous occasions that we were breached down that side and Cresswell just could not get tight enough to his man.
Can you imagine if Traore is allowed this much space and time? He would surely break his assist or goal-scoring duck.
We don’t want to be his first victims.
The question in Moyes’ head will be whether we stick to our principles and potentially just outscore them.
With his defensive tendencies, he might well consider reverting to the five-man defence in a bid to double up on Traore and protect Cresswell.
That could mean a call up for Ben Johnson or Ryan Fredericks with Cresswell pushed back inside.
That might be the only way to stop the might of Traore.