By James Wood

14th Apr, 2021 | 2:10pm

WHZ View: West Ham must break our Saint-Maximin curse to win

West Ham will have their work cut out when they travel to Tyneside to take on Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon. 

The Hammers go into the clash as heavy favourites, despite being beat 2-0 at home in the reverse fixture. They’ve improved drastically since then, in particular in 2021. David Moyes’ side have won 10 league games since the turn of the year.

But Newcastle will pose a different threat. Their 2-1 win over Burnley has improved their chances of survival massively, along with the return of Allan Saint-Maximin. He got a goal and assist within minutes of being introduced as a substitute.

Unplayable

Much like Callum Wilson, Saint-Maximin appears to relish lining up against the Hammers. Although he is yet to score against us, he’s a constant thorn in our side whenever we play against Newcastle.

His first appearance came against us came in November 2019 – Newcastle came to east London and beat us 2-3. On the day, Saint-Maximin was unplayable. Everything about him was frightening, his pace, his passing, the way he carried the ball and passed players.

We remember thinking what a special player Newcastle have on their hands with him. The Frenchman ran rings around Pablo Zabaleta. He attempted 12 dribbles and was successful with 75% of them [WyScout].

The 24-year-old also had three shots, all on target, and won 65% of his duels against our ageing former right-back. He was all over Zabaleta, even winning possession three times in our half. Thankfully, he was taken off after 79 minutes.

We scored late to make it 2-3 but the scoreline flattered us. We were awful and Saint-Maximin was sensational. He continued that form in our next meeting. This time a 2-2 draw at St James’, he still had two shots at goal, attempted eight dribbles and completed 89% of his passes.

It was a similar story at the London Stadium in September. Moyes deployed Ryan Fredericks at right-back to try and handle the pace of Newcastle’s number 10.

It didn’t do much. He completed 71% of dribbles successfully, made three recoveries in our half and completed 95% of his passes as they won 2-0. In short, he has never lost against West Ham – by the looks of things, he isn’t keen to start Saturday either.

The winger has had a stop-start season. He suffered from Covid for a prolonged period and has been in and out of the side. His 33-minute cameo at Turf Moor would have alerted David Moyes, it appears he is back to his best in time for the Hammers.

The attacker was outstanding in his time on the pitch. He picked up his fourth assist of the campaign before excellently scoring his third of the season. The Frenchman also made 83% of his passes and completed 100% of his dribbles.

Garth Crooks, along with Jesse Lingard, included him in his team of the week. He said: “Within minutes of the sub appearing on the scene the French winger assisted Newcastle’s first goal and scored the second. Burnley had been destroyed in a matter of minutes.”

Vladimir Coufal will certainly have his work cut out for him this Saturday. He’s performed well against some strong wingers this season – Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish to name a few.

Hopefully, he’ll be adding Saint-Maximin to that list. It will be far from easy, though.

In other West Ham news, it appears the Hammers will have to battle hard to sign Lingard on a permanent deal this summer.