Friday 27 December 2013

And Now The Season Begins in Earnest

and the sack, surely?
 So, as we recover from a predictably disappointing Christmas, we could still end up bottom of the Premiership  when the bells ring in the New Year.  It’ s fair to say that we are in REAL trouble and need to have a rethink about what’s actually wrong – are we just misfiring or do we need to ask whether we are not actually good enough? All the talk about Andy Carroll has tended to distract from the fact that we have not really played well for any sustained period all year. Moreover, as we await the return of the saviour, it’s probably worth noting that he scores a colossal seven goals last season. Although the hirsute one is back in training, Big Sam is notoriously conservative about playing players who are short of match fitness and in reality if the Hammers have Carroll starting for the final ten games it will be as good as it gets.

The departure of James Collins against Arsenal was a frightening moment as without Winston Reid we are really down to the bare bones in central defence. George McCartney did a decent shift as fill in alongside James Tomkins but who amongst the West Ham faithful really believed we could hold out against a forceful Gooners attack after we managed to steal the lead. Moreover, thinking back to the Pre-season period – who would have ever predicted that we would be playing McCartney-Tomkins as our central defenders, with Matt Taylor in a crucial midfield  berth and Carlton Cole as our main striking threat?

It’s good to know that the Davids intend to splash cash in January as the signs are that this squad may not have the cutting edge required to win enough games to stay up. It usually requires ten victories and at a mere three wins to date, we are well short of that figure at almost the half way mark of the season. The next two matches against West Brom and Fulham are now crucial and West Ham really need to put in two decent performances and win at least one of the games.

Perhaps a more worrying possibility that has currency amongst many Hammers faithful is that Allardyce’s tactical limitations have been rumbled by opposing teams. It’s easy to attack against a side who don’t score goals against you and it’s hard to see beyond the recurring statistics of 40% and less possession during games. A midfield with Noble, Morrison and Cole in it should be able to hold on to the ball much more than these figures suggest.

On the plus side – there are plenty of struggling sides down at the bottom half of the table who we would expect to compete well against as the season really kicks off and especially when Reid, Downing and Carroll return and with possible reinforcements (whatever happened to all that guff about salary caps and avoiding fines for excessive spending?). 

A final thought – how many of yesterday’s side will survive as far as the Olympic Stadium? We reckon Noble and Tomkins with the rest moving on through retirement or natural justice.


  1. The worrying thing is the three wins so far....i think the stats show that Avram Grant had a slightly better record at this stage of the season when we down, correct me if im wrong on that one!
    Sam said we had eight clean sheets before the xmas program , which in his world was better than last year when we finished mid table.Can some one tell him please that another eight clean sheets is only eight points ..not enough to stay up!..
    Is it because Sullivan, Gold and Brady all decided at the time to pull out all the stops to get Andy Caroll ( when he obviously was dragging his feet last summer to join us) that they now can not admit to that mistake?
    Allardyce was/ is never going to produce teams that entertain supporters..His arrogance came out for me last season when asked if there was another british manager better than him ..his answer?..."Sir Alex Ferguson"!..
    Yes we might beat WestBrom and Fulham..but it wont be enough in my opinion unless we change our manager NOW!!

  2. Overall, I buy David's analysis of the situation But, the devil is in the detail. Big Sam placed his faith in a tactical system based on pin-pointing Carrol to knock-on and knock-down balls lofted up the park, or banged into the 18 yard box from the flanks, for Nolan, Diame and perhaps Vaz Te to feed off the scraps. Some Hammers pundits suggest this would be enough - if Reid were holding Collins together at the back and even without adequate full back quality - to turn 1-0 defeats into 0-0 draws and the latter into the win by the odd goal, or perhaps better on a remarkable day. Overall, the present squad is, I believe, adequate for this kind of 'tactical regime' when fit. And, such a tactical regime offers the means to survive if not to thrive in footballing terms.

    If I am on point here, then this high-risk strategy for Premiership survival is presently failing because of the awful contingency Big Sam would have sweated cobs over, but could never be expected to control: Carroll's fitness on the one hand, and a rapidly depleted squad on the other.

    However, before any reader thinks I'm a Big Sam apologist rather than a Hammers-loving realist, I would suggest that good leadership is being able to make a pitch to the Board for the monies needed to build a robust squad. In this, Big Sam failed signally. And, consequnrtly, 'the Cole's' squared, O'Brien, Taylor, Tompkins, Vaz Te (maybe) McCartney, Petric, Diarra, Collison and Demel do not pass muster as a robust squad. Many Hammers fans would slaughter me for daring to defile the icon that is Joe Cole; however, his qualities at this level were desperately on the wane some time prior to Chelsea off-loading Joe to Lens in France, and yesterday Joe was woeful in terms of pace, legs and technique.

    The problem at Upton Park goes beyond a single player, a glut of injuries, an appalling directorial set-up, and even Big Sam and his limitations (whatever his strengths). What we have at the Boleyn is a desperately inadequate squad - excepting from this damning summary the likes of Noble, Jaaskelainen and Reid who have been heroic this season and have performed at Premiership level, sometimes capably abetted by Collins, Noble and even Downing (to my surprise) - and the squad's inadequacy is a direct consequence of Big Sam's even bigger gamble in Carroll in committing his budget to the 'risk' of Andy VCarroll providing the 'silver bullet'. This is, I believe, the seemingly terminal flaw in Big Sam's tactical wisdom: that his tactical plan was based on a single player. Yes, I would concede, the 'idea' if risky offered some kind of starting point for premiership survival, though never much more. Now it seems less than a pipe-dream, and one in which Gold and Sullivan have played their part.

    Big Sam's dream is likely now to become a Hammers Nightmare for us all. And, I have little faith in the Board of Directors.

    1. Yep, we are indeed in real dooh-dah - the problem with Carroll is that even when he returns, his problem is often recurring and tends to run an unpredictable course. we did a serious review of platar fasciitis for KUMB some time back which outlined treatments and prognosis ( {ignore the sarcastic title}. Ultimately, we will find it hard to get a top-quality back-up striker to play undrestudy to a 4-5-1 formation, even amongst today's mercenary types! As such, if the system is based around an unreliable forward then periods like this with aimless displays lacking any real system or scheme for breaking down opposition defences will occur. It'll be interesting to see what the board do if Carroll returns and bangs away a few before the end of the season - will they really be able to refuse a decent offer for him? Moreover, a lot of the attraction to West Ham was apparently linked to his friendship with Kevin Nolan - who surely won't be still leading us out for next season (unless we drop to the Championship where he would still be able to cut it!). Hmmmm. Happy New Year and here's to a decent January run.

  3. I know nightmare scenario for me championship next season with Allardyce in charge and Nolan still at the club..i think he signed a seven year contract when he joined us!..Trying to keep the faith but unless the pair of them go i think we are down.


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