West Hammed: The story of a season gone wrong
“We know that Sam has not lost his ambition or desire and is committed to making West Ham United a great Premier League Club” read the open letter issued to fans by owners David Sullivan and David Gold in favor of under fire manager Sam Allardyce.
Judging by the outpouring of grief and consternation of the fans, it can be safely concluded that this letter hasn’t quite had the effect of reassuring them of their chances of safety. Allardyce has cut a forlorn figure in the dugout of late with his team exploring new lows with each passing week, displaying creativity in capitulating rather than, well, scoring goals.
The fans had never taken to his methods and his rather ‘direct style of play’ which in layman’s terms could be expressed as lumping the ball to the big hulking center forward, and yet they stood by him for he claimed to know the secret to staying in the Premier League, a secret which by every passing day, seems to be more and more apocryphal.
Lack of proper back up plan
The Hammers’ early season form was disregarded as just another bad patch mainly due to Andy Carroll’s injury. They would be accorded more time before being judged as they adapted to life without one of their key players. Their plan B would surely be effective in time. But as we approach the second week of January, it seems there is no plan B. Sam Allardyce has put all his eggs in one basket – or rather just the one egg. A rather, pernicious route to take in what is, probably the most unforgiving league in the world.
The players look unimaginative, uninspired and most importantly not bothered at all. Injuries to a few players cannot possibly be the reason for it especially, for such a long period. The manager has to take the blame for this and should not have any complaints should the owners decide it is time for him to step down.
While it is easy to see all their flaws and point fingers in the direction of the manager, it is hard to imagine a man better suited to saving teams from such situations than Sam Allardyce and this perhaps explains the public backing the owners have directed in his direction. This is all well and good for the psychology of the team, but it is about time some changes were made to the playing style of the team.
One of the charges levied against Allardyce is that his teams are too one dimensional which is all too apparent with this West Ham team, even more so with the absence of Carroll. The transfer window offers a great chance for the manager to change this; however, emphasis should be placed on players who can offer something different to what the Hammers have already.
Goals win games – There just haven’t been enough this season
West Ham have found the goals hard to come, even against the most mediocre of teams. They scored 1.18 goals per game last season compared to this season’s 0.87, a stat which suggests they needed reinforcements in that area based on last season’s form alone.
West Ham’s game plan overwhelmingly depends on stretching the width of the game and plundering crosses for their target man to feed at. While, theoretically it may seem like a sound game plan, statistics paint a different picture. Last season, only 1.6% of crosses were converted into a goal which roughly translates to 63 crosses per goal. Of course, it would only take to connect to one of those crosses to score but to depend on it entirely for all your team’s goals would be folly.
Add to this that Stewart Downing, the most accomplished crosser of the ball in the team averages only 2.3 successful crosses per game and you get why West Ham have struggled to score so badly. The only other player in the team to average more than one successful cross per game is Matt Jarvis. Needless to say, these crossing statistics would perhaps be better in the presence of a better target man, namely Andy Carroll. But it still doesn’t accomplish nearly enough to win the number of games West Ham are going to be needing to, to avoid relegation.
In conclusion, buying a striker has been harpooned about as the panacea to all of West Ham’s ills this season and while no one could argue to the contrary it is also imperative that Allardyce demand more from his midfielders to offer an alternative route to goal. The likes of Joe Cole, Mohamed Diame, Alou Diarra and Kevin Nolan are sufficiently skilled and experienced enough to help in this matter. If not, it would perhaps be wise to invest in a good midfielder too.