Arnautović pairing the key to unleashing the ‘Little Pea’

 • by James Nalton
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As he battles it out in a Premier League relegation scrap with West Ham United, it’s easy to forget how much of a star name Javier Hernández is in his homeland.

Having begun his football career at the popular Guadalajara club Chivas, the promising poacher made the move to England, and to one of the most high profile clubs in the world: Manchester United.

His star rose on the world stage, and he was already an icon in Mexico. He’s gone on to overtake Mexican goalscoring legends such as Hugo Sánchez, Enrique Borja, Cuauhtémoc Blanco for the national team, before finally pipping Jared Borgetti to become his country’s all-time top scorer – and he’s still going.

There will be people, whether fans or Mexican-oriented media, who will attend West Ham matches just on the off-chance Hernández plays, and it’s always a disappointment when he doesn’t.

So how can David Moyes get this world star and Mexican legend into his side more regularly?

In West Ham’s recent game against Chelsea when they secured an impressive point at Stamford Bridge – a bonus point they may not have been expecting in their battle for survival – it was Hernández’s goal which levelled the scores.

It was a typical scenario for the 29-year-old, who had come off the bench to replace midfielder Edimilson Fernandes three minutes earlier. Presented with a chance thanks to the work of Marko Arnautović, he scored it with apparent ease past the long arms of Thibaut Courtois.

It was the sixth time he’d done this against Chelsea, and after the game he joked that “This is my game, it doesn’t matter the result, Chica is going to score!” A refreshing departure from the usual, “All that matters is the team got the points” line, even if he was joking.

This confidence and mischievousness is part of his game and, along with Arnautović West Ham could have one of the most self-confident forward lines in the division.

Hernández has made just five Premier League starts in 21 games under David Moyes, and while a few of these have been missed through injury, it does appear that the Scotsman doesn’t see him as part of his best eleven.

Despite this he still averages more than a goal every other game in the 570 minutes he’s played under the club’s second manager this season, averaging 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, or a goal every 142 minutes.

When the Hammers have played with two attacking threats they’ve looked more dangerous. Manuel Lanzini worked well with Arnautović in one of the club’s best performances of the season at Huddersfield Town, and João Mário supported the Austrian in the impressive 3-0 win at home to Southampton.

Hernández missed these two games, but his cameo against Chelsea showed he could be useful in the 3-4-3/3-5-2 formation, which the side have used successfully under Moyes, and was the system they were using when Hernández scored his equaliser.

This allows freedom for the likes of Arnautović, Manuel Lanzini, and João Mário in attack, and although they still have to track back in defence, it could also be a platform for Hernández, whose work rate off the ball is pretty good.

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In terms of the players he’s replaced, such as Andre Ayew who left for Swansea City, and Diafra Sakho who departed for Rennes, he’s proved that he was the right man to keep hold of, with Sakho only scoring twice since his move despite regular playing time, and Ayew not scoring at all, though the Ghanaian doesn’t always play up front.

“Chicharito is a goal machine – he gets one chance and scores,” said West Ham captain Mark Noble after the Chelsea game.

“He’s probably not played as many minutes as he would have liked but that’s probably down to the way the season has gone.

“But when you can bring him on, as soon as it fell to him I’m standing right behind him and there were about ten bodies in front, but you know he will find that spot and that’s why he’s the player he is.”

Hernández had revealed that he wanted to leave the club in January to seek more game time ahead of the World Cup, where he will be hoping to add to his tally of Mexico goals and steer his side to the last 16, with them having qualified from their group for the past six tournaments.

However, West Ham prevented any such move, and goals like his most recent one, which secure unexpected points, could be the difference between relegation and survival.

If they can find a way to add his poaching instincts to the side without compromising their midfield and defence, then they could be comfortable come the final few games.

The back three/five which Moyes has used should provide the perfect platform for this, and regardless of whether he appears from the bench or in the starting lineup, the Mexican legend could prove vital to West Ham’s plan for survival.

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