Sunday 7 December 2014

West Ham Selection Headache: How Ruthless is Allardyce?

What a season so far! Did anybody really think that when we brought back the infamous strip of '86 that we might enjoy a season to match? Today if we can overcome a visiting Swansea side who have won only once away from home all season, we will move to third place in the league! Moreover, this has been achieved without a host of key players along the way.

For Big Sam this success has brought pressures and none more so than today. This is not Man City or Barcelona where top players accept that they may not start every week. Instead, Sam needs to carefully juggle with the minds of a squad that includes a surplus of talent, especially in midfield and up front.

The defence should be straightforward enough. The full backs berths are pretty much nailed down by the impressive Jenkinson and Cresswell. At centre back, James Tomkins has recovered his best form while games like this demonstrate why Winston Reid must stay at West Ham. With him we are confident that we can handle the strength and pace of Wilfired Bony. Without, we proceed in hope rather than confidence.

Midfield poses some real teasers for Sam. We want to impose our style on proceedings rather than vica versa as Swansea are best when allowed to play their passing game. Without that they can retreat into the purposeless performance that characterised their visit to the Boleyn last February where they hardly seemed to mount an effort despite having an extra man for much of the game.

Kevin Nolan scored twice that day, courtesy of Andy Carroll doing his mayhem thing, and also scored against West Brom in midweek. but if Alex Song is fit it is hard to see how Nolan can justify a starting place as Stewart Downing has stolen his attacking midfield role, while the return of Sakho and Valencia mandates that we play two up front.

Kouyate is back and playing well from the holding spot in midfield. The main question mark seems to be around Mark Noble's niggling problems. If he is out, Allardyce will probably look to Amalfitano or Nolan.

Up front we will really get a sense of where Allardyce's real preferences lie. The easy option would be to use the returning Sakho from the bench, but returning to the Valencia-Sakho partnership of early season is tempting. Meanwhile, Carroll is doing his bit and for all Gary Monk's protestations about not fearing the dominant striker, Swansea are clearly preoccupied with trying to find a strategy to handle Andy's huge physicality.

And let's not forget Mauro Zarate who has really done nothing wrong when given a change to play and must be feeling frustrated at the lack of game time.

Our money is on Carroll to start and to finally move into double figures for career Premiership goals by adding to his present haul of nine.

3-1 West Ham.  

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