Sam Allardyce’s West Ham side lookS like one of the most adaptable teams in the Premier League. After a run of four Premier League games without a win, West Ham returned to winning ways with a flourish after beating Hull City 3-0 on Sunday.
It was a game that was a real tale of two halves as the Hammers struggled to get going after their midweek FA Cup drama against Everton. Despite the lacklustre first half showing in which Hull were unlucky to score, it was Andy Carroll’s presence up front that really upset the Tigers’ back line.
After the game, Sam Allardyce was quick to relent the coveted ‘tippy-tappy’ style (he probably means tikka-taka) that many Hammers fans wanted the team to play this season. Although West Ham have played their fair share of quality attacking football, it was the direct approach that unlocked the Hull defence in the second half.
West Ham struggled at times to play the ball around in a congested midfield, something Steve Bruce clearly set out to do in order to stop West Ham from dominating possession. Many sides would have stuck to the same approach across the 90 minutes. However, the Irons’ ability to quickly switch to a ‘plan B’ paid dividends when the team often went directly for goal rather than focusing on build-up play.
Andy Carroll clearly plays an influential part in West Ham’s direct approach and he was often the focal point for the Hammers’ play in the second half. The change of tactics almost confused Hull, who stuck to their initial plan of cramming players behind the ball.
But it was a direct shot from outside of the area that led to the first goal. Enner Valencia’s shot was too hot to handle and Allan McGregor spilt the ball into the path of Andy Carroll who slotted home from close range. It was plain sailing from then on as West Ham continued to get the ball forward quickly, exposing the gaps in Hull’s defence.
The variation in attacking play is something that can really work to West Ham’s advantage this season. They have gifted technical players such as Alex Song, Stewart Downing and Morgan Amalfitano. However, the presence of Andy Carroll accompanied by the crossing abilities of Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell mean that West Ham are a real threat out wide as well. Credit has to be given to Sam Allardyce who realised that a change in style was what was needed to unlock the Hull City defence on Sunday.
If he can continue to balance West Ham’s attacking approach, there is no reason as to why they cannot qualify for the Europa League this season.
The anticipated return of Senegalese duo Cheikou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho will only add further quality to the side, as Sakho’s understanding with Enner Valencia can also be a real threat to Premier League defences, as well as providing another attacking option up front.
Kouyate’s relentless energy in midfield has already made him a reliable performer in the top flight and it his presence in midfield that often allows Alex Song time on the ball in order to pull the strings in the middle of the park. Overall, West Ham fans should not be too reluctant to return to the direct approach. The win against against Hull proved it is sometimes the more effective tactic.
If the Hammers can keep providing tactical variation to their game, European football could be the just reward for a team that has improved dramatically this season.