West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic admits he faces a selection headache for the Premier League visit of Tottenham Hotspur after the impressive 3-0 Carabao Cup third round win over Bolton Wanderers. Bilic made 10 changes for the game, which included giving debuts to Sead Haksabanovic and Nathan Holland, but the Hammers swatted aside the Championship's bottom side without alarm.
Marko Arnautovic made his first start since serving a three-match ban and played a key role in the win, setting up Angelo Ogbonna for the opening goal before he laid the ball on for Diafra Sakho to double the lead. Victory was secured in stoppage time when Arthur Masuaku thundered home from 25 yards to send the two-time runners-up into the fourth round.
Bilic had called on the peripheral members of his first team squad to impress him ahead of the remainder of the season and having answered the call, the Croatian must now decide whether to revert to the team who drew at West Bromwich Albion in their last top flight outing, or include players who impressed in the cup. Title contenders Tottenham travel to the London Stadium on Saturday [23 September], where their bid for the Premier League fell apart last season.
"That's what I said to the players before the game; 'Look, you deserve a chance, we want to go through, and everyone of you who thinks he deserves to be playing ahead of the guy who is playing, impress me and my staff! The only way you are going to impress us is in the game or in the training, so give us a headache with your performance'," said Bilic on his team selection for the Tottenham game, following victory in the newly re-branded EFL Cup, according to the official West Ham website.
"It was really good, so the key thing is that we are through in the cup, hopefully we're going to get a good draw and this is going to take us into the Spurs game with more confidence and for me and my staff, we are also more positive after this performance from some of the players, we have more to choose from. It's very good and we're going to need it on Saturday, definitely."
Among the stand-out players for West Ham was record signing Arnautovic and defender Declan Rice, 18, who is quickly becoming a key player for Bilic having already made four starts this term – having only made his debut against Burnley on the final day of the 2016-17 campaign. And Tottenham have now been warned that they face coming up against two in-form players this weekend.
"Declan Rice is only young on paper, but he has a brain and concentration as if he was 30 years old," Bilic enthused. "He's thinking about the game, he's thinking about his positioning and everything. He is totally in the game, which is putting him in a position that he has everything to become a really, really good player.
"Declan can play in both positions. He is naturally a centre-back, but he has enough skill and stamina in his legs to play as a holding midfielder, and the brains to play both. Where he is going to play in his career, I really don't know. If I had to choose I would say centre-back, but I don't see anything he doesn't have not to be a top holding midfielder, as he can pass the ball and has good stamina, so both!"
He added on Austrian Arnautovic: "I want him to do more. He has got that quality, he has got that extra, he is that kind of a player and he knows that I like him, but sometimes he gets happy with the few things that he does and I want him to continue like this and push the borders, because he is unstoppable when he receives those kind of balls.
"He received it maybe 15 times and five or six times he did a great job, with two assists, but sometimes he is happy just to pass it back or do a little trick. I know what he is capable of. He should never be happy, in a positive way, if you know what I mean. Did he do the job on Tuesday? Of course, and that's why we got him."
"I think he was determined to do well after he was sent-off last month and this was a good beginning of the comeback for him, but there is no point or reason to stop, to go 'OK, I've done the job'."
Opposite number Mauricio Pochettino is unlikely to have the same king of problems when considering his Tottenham team to face West Ham. The Argentine boss made six changes for the visit of Barnsley, but it took a second half goal from Dele Alli to claim victory after The Tykes produced a spirited display.