STEVE Clarke is ‘hopeful’ James Morrison will be fit to face Arsenal on Saturday – as he explained his reasons for adopting a 4-4-2 formation at West Ham.
Morrison missed yesterday’s 3-1 defeat with a hamstring injury suffered in the goalless draw at Stoke a fortnight earlier.
Clarke is now keeping his fingers crossed the Scotland international recovers in time for the visit of the fifth-placed Gunners – especially with Youssouf Mulumbu beginning a three-game ban.
“I’m hopeful James will be available for next week,” said the head coach.
“Yesterday, we used a system we’ve used on occasion this year.
“I felt it was a good chance to use it.
“Obviously, we were missing James, who gives us that little connection between the midfield and forward areas.
“James being out injured was a blow to us.
“But the 4-4-2 has worked well this season.
“Shane and Romelu have done well for us before as a forward partnership. We’ve had good results playing that way.
“But the formation wasn’t the key to the game yesterday.
“The key to the game was the ugly bits in the first half, when the game was a little bit scrappy, that West Ham did a little bit better than we did.”
Clarke remains upbeat about the progress Albion have made this season, with the team remaining four points clear in eighth spot despite yesterday’s defeat.
But he was disappointed for the 1,500 supporters who made the long journey to East London.
“It’s been a good season,” added Clarke.
“We’ve been competitive in all of the games.
“We’ve played some good stuff – like we did at times yesterday – and given the supporters a good time.
“But it’s disappointing when your standards do drop and you don’t get the results that you want to give your supporters.
“That was the case at West Ham.
“All season, we’ve tried to keep a realistic ambition and feel about what we’re trying to do.
“Yesterday was a disappointment – but we’ll bounce back.
“Arsenal at home is a game we relish and look forward to.”