After last season’s disappointing 13th placed finish angered the West Ham faithful, the last thing manager Sam Allardyce needed was his side to start badly, and they’ve avoided it with great style.
With 18 points from their opening 12 games, this is the Upton Park outfit’s best ever start to a Premier League season. With the likes of Diafra Sakho and Stewart Downing performing well and firing on all cylinders, Allardyce’s men are becoming difficult to beat.
The change of playing style has played a significant part in West Ham’s fantastic form. With the fans showing their frustration with the football that was being played, their short and crisp passing on the deck has been catching the eye of the Premier League in this current campaign. Instead of playing with a lone striker, Big Sam has reverted to playing two up front, with Downing excelling in his new role behind the two forwards. This has notably added prowess and instinct in front of goal, and striking coach Teddy Sheringham is certainly playing his part on the training ground.
So far, from what we have seen in the first 13 weeks of the season, West Ham’s attacking unit has become a lot more potent, even from the full back position where on loan right back Carl Jenkinson and new recruit Aaron Cresswell love to occupy both flanks. However, the Hammers’ new style of play could potentially have a flaw. This new 4-3-1-2 or 4-1-2-1-2 formation is very open to the dreaded counter attack which, if perfected, is nearly impossible to stop.
This was very evident in last Saturday’s agonising 2-1 defeat at the hands of Everton at Goodison Park. Although the Boleyn Ground side did not deserve defeat at the hands of Roberto Martinez’s side, Leon Osman’s winner, on his 400th appearance for the club, typified the major problem West Ham now have to contend with. Looking at the midfield three that started against the Toffees, captain Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble and Morgan Amalfitano, the one element that is missing from that is pace. Coming up against the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku wasn’t going to be an easy ride, and Everton exploited the lack of speed in the West Ham centre with great effect.
The importance of keeping the likes of Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Downing fit and firing has become ever more fundamental for the Hammers to mount a serious challenge of competing in the Europa League next season. Both Song and Kouyate not only offer more strength and power than Nolan and Amalfitano, but they also can track back to help the defence very quickly.
West Ham’s next two home games against high flyers Newcastle United and Swansea will show if the Irons have learnt their lesson, with both the Magpies and the Swans having good pace in their sides, as well as technically good players. If this problem continues to hinder West Ham’s season, then could Allardyce dip his hand back into the transfer market in January?