There can’t be many of us who aren’t both surprised and pleased at the influx of players during the recently closed transfer window, and more importantly cautiously optimistic that a playing style change may be about to happen. It is clear that the type of player imported does not have that indelible stamp of a Sam Allardyce robot: 6’2, functional and unspectacular. There is an air of pace and trickery about the new intake with the emphasis more on creativity and forward momentum.
Mauro Zarate’s Premier League debut at Crystal Palace was impressive and gave a whole new dimension to the attack, and with smaller more mobile guys like Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia in the mix, there surely has to be a seismic shift in emphasis from the dull and tedious ethic of goal prevention at all costs (even at the cost of trying to win winnable games) to a mind set of goal creation and scoring.
Whilst Allardyce and the board have rightly been applauded in some quarters for their squad upgrade and enlargement policy, all will have been in vain if our uninspiring manager returns his to Kevin Nolan safety blanket which seems to comfort him like a child’s cuddly toy. The fact that the simply woeful Ricardo Vaz Te and the never improving Carlton Cole remain in place is bad enough, but a return to the plodding and predictable Kevin Nolan would send out all the wrong signals to both fans and players alike; can you imagine how a Zarate, Valencia, Poyet or Morrison would react to being dropped for our ageing goal-hanger?
The time for a style revolution is here and is long overdue. Sam Allardyce can no longer complain about lack of numbers, or cover, or ability, or pace, or quality. Alex Song from Barcelona knows how to pass a ball to death. Valencia has shone at World Cup level and already Cheikhou Kouyate has won us over with his quality and strength. Diego Poyet and Ravel Morrison (just check out the 4th goal West Ham scored against Ipswich Town on Thursday in a closed doors friendly at Upton Park) needs to be given game time with both providing the guile and un-coachable skill and ability on the ball that we have so badly lacked for so long.
With young and energetic full-backs in Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson, there is enough pace at the back to cover players going forward, and this has been the problem for me. Once West Ham get the ball, the mind set MUST be to build an attack and shift up a gear. Forget defending; we are now in possession and the aim is to put THEM under pressure by deploying numbers and quickly! The speed with which we turn defence into attack is painfully slow and its this main reason that we barely trouble opposition defences, let alone the goalkeeper. We were given a clear, and painful, lesson by the Saints last week. The Southampton system of winning the ball high up the pitch, and at speed, followed by a pacey multi-player raid on the Hammers goal was a delight, and stood out in stark contrast to our bog-standard low-energy stroll. By the time the ball has hit the Hammers midfield, or heaven forbid the front man, our opponents have had more than enough time to file back, form up and present more defenders in well formed ranks than we are capable of outwitting. This pattern has been a clear feature of West Ham’s playing style for seasons and is so slow and predictable, one would have thought that any reasonably competent coach would have analysed the problem and taken steps to change things. Clearly not. We pose no threat going forward apart from the odd raid from the quick and tricky Stewart Downing. Any other forward movement is easily read, and even easier to counter. Two markers on Carlton Cole and it’s job done. We have no runners from deep, and no one who has the nous or will to get beyond the front man and cause some problems. Until such time as three or four players are in and around the box moving defenders around and creating spaces to explore then nothing will happen. That is a coaching fact.
Let’s hope that the signature West Ham move of passing along the back four from left to right, then right to left, then into midfield, then back to the centre half who then fires a long “fight-ball” to the outnumbered and incapable Cole is a relic of the past. It hasn’t worked; it won’t work, so why persist? With the clever, mobile and more dynamic players at Allardyce;s disposal, it’s time for some new thinking, some positive encouragement to new and fired-up players, and certainly time for the manager to let players play in an atmosphere of freedom and positivity once the ball is in claret & blue possession.
The players are in place, the fans are expectant, and it’s now time to show that the recent spending spree has a real intent and purpose behind it. The fan base now demand a policy of attacking football that might just restore some belief to an oh so loyal support that is desperate for some glimpses of the past days when style, panache and quality ran through West Ham United from top to bottom.
This set of players could well be your get out of jail card Sam. Use them properly, give us what we want and for gods sake get rid of those heavy, rusty defensive chains that have crippled the club for way too long.