When Mr Allardyce was appointed as West Ham manager following the side’s relegation to English football’s second tier, fans of the East London based club jumped on the bandwagon of pessimism in their hundreds, condemning the former Bolton and Newcastle gaffer as the bearer of ‘ugly football’ and a ‘one-dimensional style’ of hoof and score. Two years on however, West Ham are now mathematically safe and could secure a top half finish in their first season back in the Premier League, with Sam appearing to have successfully converted a proportion of doubters into admirers. This is just the man to take the Hammers forward then, right?
You’d be correct to an extent. Fat Sam (as he is not so affectionately known) has appeared to have made the correct signings to first of all take West Ham United from the Championship to the Premier League and then to keep them there. In 2011/2012, the capture of Kevin Nolan was instrumental. He was a leader in the midfield as captain and additionally chipped in with the goals: a constant attacking threat whilst also reliable. This season, it was the acquisition of Mohamed Diame and the loan signing of Andy Carroll that has been the key to the Hammers’ success. The Senegalese midfielder has appeared to have taken on the dynamic role once held by Scott Parker and also has scored some notable goals, most recently a long range curler against title winners Manchester United. Andy Carroll, whilst not known for a prolific goal scoring record (although in recent weeks he has been on a noticeable run of form) has proved to be a crucial piece in making West Ham’s style of play successful, with his hold up play allowing others in the midfield and on the wings to break forward. Along with these transfers, other decent players brought in by the manager during his current tenure have been Matt Jarvis, Joe Cole and Jussi Jaaskelainen. On the other hand, players such as Emmanuel Pogatetz, Marouane Chamakh, Alou Diarra have not been so pleasing on the eye, but every manager has his personal blips, so we will let some of those mistakes slide.
After critical analysis, decision making during Allardyce’s West Ham career has been sketchy. One particular case that springs to mind occurred during last season. Following a successful change of formation for the home game against Brighton from the default and fairly unadventurous 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, West Ham looked like a different side, winning the game 6-0 and making dreams of automatic promotion ever more realistic. Unfortunately for the away game against struggling Bristol City, Sam made the decision to revert back to 4-5-1 in a game that West Ham needed to win to maintain momentum. They drew 1-1 and ended up finishing the season outside the top two places where they had been most of the season. Even during the current season, he seems to have a habit of attempt to close out games half an hour before the final whistle if the side happens to be leading, and this risky style of play has been punished several times throughout the season.
He also seems to lack a desire to experiment. When the claret and blue side were on a fairly dodgy streak during the middle part of the season, it must’ve signified the need that there needs to be change. Even though Allardyce is familiar with squad rotation (which may have led to a lack of consistency during the period in question) it was always the same sub-standard players being thrust into the starting XI. New signing Wellington Paulista, despite impressing for the development squad, has not made one single appearance for the first team, and it may have been bravery like this where throwing these types of players into the action could’ve signalled a change in West Ham’s fortunes during that difficult time.
Despite these faults, Fat Sam’s reign at Upton Park thus far has been mostly successful. Having fended off relegation for this season, he will now be looking to make sure the Hammers do not fall foul to the infamous second season syndrome that so many promoted clubs before them have fallen victim to. With his ability to sign the correct players needed to fit his system of play, Allardyce will hopefully be able to confirm West Ham’s Premier League status for many years to come, even if the style of football they play has often been criticised at times.
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