James McArthur isn't a headline-grabbing midfielder. He doesn't score 30-yard screamers, he doesn't posture as he struts around the turf at Selhurst, nor is he a thunderous midfield destroyer. He does what he does for Palace with a wry smile and a ruthless effectiveness.
McArthur's return to the team last season following a prolonged injury spell gave Palace's listless side a significant lift -- helping to propel the team to safety at a time where fans were losing faith. His injury came shortly after Palace defeated Stoke City in late December, and his omission coincided with the side's alarming dip. While his was one of many injuries the squad suffered, it affected Palace's midfield work significantly.
It's no surprise that since his return, Alan Pardew's side have played with more verve and less fear. This season especially, McArthur has become the cornerstone of a side that presses more intensely and forces turnover of possession more effectively. The squad know they have a midfielder alongside them that can do the dirty work, retrieving possession and keeping play ticking over.
His influence is that of a player that contributes to the greater whole. He cannot win games with his talent alone, but his effort ensures that players like Jason Puncheon and Yohan Cabaye get the freedom to be more expressive.
It's interesting to observe how McArthur functions in Scotland's midfield. He featured in the second half of the draw with Lithuania, scoring the late equaliser that seemed to save Gordon Strachan's job, only for Scotland's side to perform miserably in the Slovakia game that followed.
McArthur's strengths all seem to fade when lining up for Scotland. He still does what he would for the club side, but it all seems less effective. Players taking possession of the ball aren't as composed, meaning that the work needed to defend and retain the ball is increased. To watch it is frustrating -- to be McArthur in that situation can't feel much better. As a proud Scotsman, the defeat to Slovakia will have hurt him.
The box-to-box midfielder will have his work cut out against West Ham, who despite their recent poor form still have a talent pool capable of turning any game around. In Dimitri Payet, McArthur will have a formidable opponent.
The midfielder is likely to line up alongside fellow international Yohan Cabaye, with Jason Puncheon resuming the attacking role in Palace's midfield. The trio now have a tendency to rotate duties, and McArthur seems quite adept at playing the No.10 role too.
Behind the midfield trio, Palace will hope to welcome back Scott Dann to line up alongside James Tomkins. Joel Ward and Martin Kelly will take the full-back roles, while Steve Mandanda will resume his reassuring role in goal.
In attack, Palace will line up with Belgian hat trick hero and record breaker Christian Benteke, who scored the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history in midweek. He will be flanked by Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha.
Palace will have to show patience against Slaven Billic's strong team. With the help of McArthur restlessly harrying in midfield, Pardew's side might just be able to continue their unbeaten run.