A look at what could be the major causes of West Ham’s dismal season so far
Down at the Boleyn Ground, supporters are praised for their never dying optimism regarding their club. However, right now there are a lot of unhappy Hammers around Upton Park and in truth those fears are well founded.
After a fantastic first year back in the top-flight, West Ham have succumbed to the hotly talked about ‘second season syndrome’. Over recent years a number of clubs have been relegated from the Premiership in their second year and it looks as though the Hammers could become the next to join that ever growing list, as well as becoming the scourge of online bookies as punters are only too willing to back their opponents week in week out.
One theory is that after promotion, club morale is so high that the team is boosted during its first season only to come crashing back to earth in the second. However, that alone does not explain the reasons behind West Ham’s dramatic downturn.
The Bubbles could be about to burst for West Ham, and there’s several reasons why.
Carroll Injury A Hammer Blow
On the pitch, it’s strikingly obvious that the absence of Andy Carroll has taken its toll. The £15 million summer signing is not only the team’s main goal-getter, he is the focal point of their entire attack.
Without a talisman to play off, captain Kevin Nolan has struggled immensely. The Hammers skipper enjoyed great success last season (and at Newcastle previously) by feeding off the lofty front man but, in Carroll’s absence, he has failed to replicate that form.
Last year Nolan led the side with authority and played a starring role in West Ham’s success with a string of fine performances, which were backed up by a return of 10 League Goals. This season, however, he has found the net just twice and those frustrations have surfaced via two red cards in a matter of weeks for the Hammers captain.
Carroll’s lengthy absence has additionally highlighted a huge imbalance within Allardyce’s squad. For a mid-table / relegation battling side, they are pretty blessed in midfield – the likes of Diame, Noble, Nolan, Joe Cole and Collison are all very capable players – but just a single injury up top has left West Ham in disarray.
Petric joined in the summer but was allowed to leave less than six months into his West Ham stay whilst Maiga, despite a cracking goal on the opening day, simply isn’t up to Premier League standard. These troubles led to Allardyce first deploying a 4-6-0 formation and then subsequently re-signing Carlton Cole in an act of pure desperation.
That’s not to take away from Cole, who has arguably been West Ham’s most consistent performer since re-joining the club who had released him last summer, but the whole situation has made the Hammers somewhat of a laughing stock. The striker who was deemed surplus to requirements just six months ago has now been rewarded with an 18-month contract – a telling signal that the east London club are heading in the wrong direction.
Hammers Struggling At Both Ends Of Pitch
Whilst problems in attack have been evident all season, the team has only scored 22 times in as many games, the blame can’t be shifted entirely on the lack of firepower. Another key absence has been that of defensive stalwart Winston Reid.
The New Zealand defender struggled during his first year with the club as West Ham were relegated in 2011 but has since gone on to become one of the key members of Allardyce’s team. Prior to Reid’s injury, West Ham boasted one of the best defensive records in the division courtesy of several clean sheets during the early weeks; since his absence, the Hammers backline has looked a shadow of its former self and had now conceded 33 in the league in addition to 14 in just three January cup matches.
It looks like dire straights for West Ham and Big Sam’s answer so far has come in the form of Roger Johnson, who has been relegated in each of the past three seasons. Hardly inspiring.
For the more superstitious Hammers fans, another worrying aspect is the potential of history repeating itself. Three years ago West Ham enjoyed a decent League Cup run before being knocked out at the semi-final stage; that season they were relegated and the possibility of lightning striking twice is becoming more and more likely as the weeks roll by.
The goals galore aggregate defeat (9-0) to Manchester City was humiliating but more scary was the team selection for that second-leg. At 6-0 down, the tie was dead and Big Sam had no reason to risk first team players. He did and suffered injuries to Joe Cole and Mo Diame, with the latter appearing to be quite a serious problem.
Outside Interference Detrimental To Big Sam’s Plans?
It’s hard to fathom any justification for picking a first choice eleven unless Allardyce was instructed to Gold and Sullivan. Big Sam was given the all clear when deciding to play a second-string outfit against Nottingham Forest and you have to wonder whether the owners forced his hand for Tuesday’s encounter.
After the embarrassment of that first leg defeat, it’s conceivable that the owners told Allardyce to play his strongest side in order to avoid further humiliation. It didn’t work and now Big Sam has another two injuries to contend with. If, and there is a huge stress on that word, the owners have intervened then West Ham are in major trouble.
With the move to the Olympic stadium on the horizon, West Ham simply need to remain a top flight club. A new era beckons for the east Londoners and if they are to have any chance of realising their ambitions then only Premier League status will suffice.
Gold and Sullivan’s financial backing has not been limited to off field matters, and the record signing of Carroll was supplemented by the additions of Jarvis and Downing for a combined total of another £15 million and rightly demand positive results.
Consolidation is pivotal to the future of West Ham as they approach a new start and, at this stage, even a 17th placed finish will be deemed a successful season. If they can retain their Premier League status then Allardyce can regroup in the summer before mounting a serious challenge on the divisons top half. If he fails, then the curtains could come down on Big Sam’s time in charge.
The coming months are some of the most important in the club’s history. Hammers fans could be about to see their dreams fade and die.