It’s like staring down the barrel of a gun. You don’t know for sure what’s going to come out in the end, but there’s one outcome you most definitely don’t want. Such is the lurch West Ham United are in at the moment.
It’s worrying times at Upton Park. Gone is the initial optimism of July, the signing of Andy Carroll serving as a signal of intent for where the club was going. The real question then was who would we sign as a second striker, someone to fill in during Andy’s absence during the first few weeks, having let Carlton Cole go.
The real question now: How did we fail to sign a second striker? Many will say the club’s ownership mucked it all up declaring that Andy was definitely going to be first choice. I, for one, don’t buy it for a second. Yes any player worth his salt is going to have a hard time being second choice. But if the money’s right, they’ll come in and fight for a place.
Others have it all down to the purchase of Stuart Downing. This is the most obvious, and sensible, reason. And it seems to have been the unraveling of Sam Allardyce.
He was made well aware that there was only so much money to go around. He still went ahead and purchased Downing. Downing proved to be a luxury we couldn’t afford, regardless of the form he’s been in thus far. He may have been the best player on the pitch in claret and blue over the last couple of matches, but the sad truth is he shouldn’t have even been there in the first place.
To be clear, this isn’t railing against the player. He’s been tremendous, and the denial of his goal against Crystal Palace was a cruel slap in the face to a man whose worked so hard as of late. He’s the kind of quality player the squad needs, and whenever Big Andy makes his return it will most certainly be a delight to watch Downing whip in crosses for him.
But we needed a striker. When Sam Allardyce was informed it was Downing or a striker, and he’d have to sell if he wanted both, Sam should have taken a step back and reevaluated the priorities. We’ve all bought something lavish after a rush of blood and its accompanying lack of judgement.
Lucky for us, it’s not normally a six million pound lack of judgement.
Sadly, the poor judgement has continued. Anyone who has read this website for any period of time will be aware we’ve long been supporters of Sam Allardyce. When most are calling for his head, we’ve tried to remain the voice of reason. Supporters in their passion tend to let their judgement become clouded by that emotion. We’ve tried to steer clear of that.
Last January, as the wheels looked to be falling off in large part due to Mo Diame’s injury, we pleaded for calm. As we continued to weather the storm, barely, we pleaded for Sam to put the fire back into his squad and get them performing. Back then it wasn’t down to Sam, the players looked completely uninterested for far too long a stretch.
This season is different. Allardyce certainly needs to be celebrated for his tactical masterstroke at Tottenham. At a time when many were at their most venomous regarding the tactics employed by Big Sam, he turned the world on its head and employed Spain’s infamous False Nine formation and led us to a 3-0 victory.
But what’s followed has been shambolic. Lighting doesn’t strike twice, and we’ve never had the squad to play that kind of football match after match. Sam insisted on doing so, getting no results in the process. When he switched back to his favored style of play, against Fulham, another 3-0 win was on the cards.
But then came Tuesday night against Palace and a series of bizarre selections. Players who had shone in the destruction of Fulham were dropped. Mo Diame was out on the wing again, for some inexplicable reason. Razvan Rat, injured but playing anyway, was a liability.
This is where the problem lies. Sam is a manager who strives on consistency. One for a rotational squad policy, Sam isn’t. He instead prefers a core group that he can start week in, week out which injuries or abhorrent form being your only ticket out of the squad. This season he seems to be going against the grain.
Flipping between formations and playing players out of position. It doesn’t seem like the Sam that has never had a team relegated is still present on the touchline. The situation, as far as I can tell, stems from one massive problem: Ravel Morrison.
Now before you think I’m about to say we need to drop the lad, it’s the complete opposite. Allardyce has a deep sense of loyalty, and nowhere is that more evident then with our captain Kevin Nolan. He was a star all last season, but this season the rhythm seems to be off. Allardyce refuses to drop him though.
Now the problem arises in that Ravel Morrison is perfectly suited towards the Nolan role. But whereas Nolan supplies goal, getting himself into the box and causing havoc, Morrison is a playmaker the likes Sam has probably never seen before. He’s not going to play Nolan’s way, he has his own way to thrive.
Much of Nolan’s best play last season came from playing off Big Andy, letting him knock down balls that he could then convert into goals. He doesn’t have the big front man to play off of up front this season. When he’s lacking that, he’s lost his effectiveness.
Ravel on the other hand has the creative flair to create goals for those around him, while also possessing the ability to score himself. We need his creativity in the squad, involving everyone in build up play. He see’s those passes that 99% of players don’t. If we want to succeed, it’s time to really let him shine.
One can only hope Allardyce can realize this. While it’s not quite time for a new manager, that time seems to be coming nearer with each match. This site has always supported Sam, through thick and thin, but he needs to get things back on track. And he needs to start by dropping Nolan and giving Morrison a chance.
What he’s doing now isn’t working. And the window to resurrect that is closing fast.