Now don’t let the headline fool you. This isn’t another article recommending we get rid of Big Sam, proclaiming the season to surely end in relegation if he stays. But there are enough worrying signs about that point to a change certainly being needed.
The change isn’t of the all too often get rid of him variety. Owners nowadays happily get rid of beleaguered managers with alarming regularity. It’s far easier to rid the club of a manager then of under performing players.
Whereas in the past a clubs ownership seemed to understand it takes time and faith in a manager to allow him to develop a club in their own image, instant results are now the name of the game. Due to the massive financial benefits of a club staying in the Premier League, win at all costs is the name of the game.
David Gold and David Sullivan have stuck with Sam Allardyce through think and thin thus far, rewarding him with a new contract after ensuring survival in the English top flight last season. A rough patch last January in particular had people saying enough of Sam.
Big Sam Out was all over various fan sites, Twitter and Facebook. A mid season slip in form, much of it down to the injury of Mo Diame, had many fearing the worst. At the time we advised our readers that keeping calm and placing faith in Sam was what was needed.
We finished the season in tenth place, unimaginable last August. While so many fans were quick to reign judgement on Allardyce, they seemed oblivious to just how lifeless the squad looked during that rough patch. Creativity and hard graft were no where to be found.
Luckily the team came out of it. Sam lit a fire and we saw the season out in style. The problem start to this campaign is an entirely different story.
The issue almost certainly starts with the lack of a second striker signing. The club put a lot of faith, and not to mention cash, into the permanent signing of Andy Carroll. While only the most cynical of supporters will bemoan the signing, there was still the baggage that came with Andy.
Injuries are a persistent problem for the big man, his swashbuckling antics on the pitch not good for staying healthy. But those antics are also what made him the signing he wanted so badly, able to win almost every aerial battle, hold the ball up, and hold defenders off it, going forward and put the ball in the back of the net.
When we signed him, the club knew he was injured. A safe risk to take, thinking he’d be back on the pitch by late September. They couldn’t have foreseen another injury occurring before he even made his return, but surely had to think another layoff was possible at some point in the season.
That sort of possibility made signing a second striker all the more important. Carlton Cole was shown the door, the David’s judging his wage demands excessive. Modibo Maiga was the only other fit striker, and never impressed in his appearances last season. Surely the club were going to bring in another striker.
Cue daily rumours of Demba Ba returning, Romelu Lukaku coming in on loan or some great big striker from the Eredevise or Bundesliga coming in. We were going to sign somebody!
We shockingly never did. Well that’s not entirely true, we did sign Stewart Downing. A fantastic signing on its own, a poor one in the context of how the window played out. Downing is a fantastic winger, make no doubt about it. People forget just how great he was at Aston Villa, prior to moving to Liverpool and playing in a system he wasn’t built for.
He’s made for Big Sam’s system, a player to bedevil defenders and whip crosses into the box. The only problem is, at the moment, he has no one to whip them into it.
As the clocked ticked down on deadline day, the reality of situation set in. The window was closed and we only had Maiga to lead the attack. He’d already proven by that point he wasn’t cut out for it. More alarmingly it was the first sign, to us, of very bad judgement on Big Sam’s part.
No one who has watched the career of Sam Allardyce needs to be told he’s not not for flair. He’s a grafter, who knows what it takes to win and stay in the Premier League. His preferred system is far from the flashiest on show, but it does a job.
His signings up until this past transfer window had always been shrewd and sensible. He got what his squad needed, signing a player like Mo Diame on a free and bringing in Andy Carroll on loan. He started the most recent transfer window much the same, bringing in Romanian captain Razvan Rat on a free and making Carroll’s stay in East London permanent.
But when he chose to spend the rest of the transfer money available on Downing rather than a striker, it showed very poor judgement on his part. Downing was a luxury, not the striker we needed. Yes he landed Downing for a steal, but what good is a winger who has no one to cross too.
Mladen Petric has been signed since the end of the window, a player more in the mould of Carroll. He’s certainly looked better than Maiga in his limited appearances, but has yet to start in the league.
And things are so worrying right now because Sam insists on playing Maiga in a system that doesn’t work for him. If he’s going to insist on starting Maiga, then he needs to adapt. Ricardo Vaz Te has looked one brilliant whenever on the pitch this season. It’s worth a shot to allow him to complete the trio up top with Matt Jarvis and Maiga.
With Maiga unable to win crosses, having Vaz Te play off him as an inside forward seems a much more sensible proposition. Maiga needs the ball on the ground, not in the air. The other problem here is why is Mo Diame playing as a winger right now?
The man is best when breaking up plays in the middle of the park and bursting forward, providing an extra attacking threat. His place isn’t up front. He needs to be dropped back into the midfield alongside Mark Noble. It worked all last season, why change it now?
The other big question mark is what to do with Kevin Nolan. While we’re not advocating his time being over, it’d be worth a punt to have Ravel Morrison take his spot for at least a match. Ravel has many aspects to his game that can’t be provided by Nolan.
Of course the problem boils down to the stubbornness of Big Sam. We aren’t likely to see any of these changes. And if we don’t, the club is going to flounder until Andy Carroll returns. With the uncertainty of when that would be, its the sort of thing we simply can’t wait for.