Hi, my name is Jack. I’m a 21st century kid, born in 2000. One thing in my life has been consistent, West Ham United; not the form, the club, the players, the manager or the league, my support. I’ve been watching West Ham since the 2006 FA Cup final, West Ham vs Liverpool, we lost. Why do I support West Ham then? ‘West Ham needs me.’ That was 6 year old me, Liverpool didn’t need my support, they won the final without it. West Ham lost and they needed me behind them. That was the thought process in my 6 year old brain, subconsciously, or consciously. Here I am, eight years later, writing my thoughts about the club I love, a lot of thoughts.
Where to start? Let’s start with the league; we are a Barclays Premier League club, sitting in 12th place, on 37 points after 35 games. We look relatively safe, from relegation of course. Our manager is Sam Allardyce, ‘Allardici’ and David Gold and Sullivan own the club. We’re moving stadiums in two season’s time, to the Olympic Stadium, leaving the Boleyn Ground and all its history behind us. The owners want to move us forward, take us from a mid table side, just about avoiding relegation, to a side that can challenge for places in European cups and competitions. A lot is going to need to be done to take us there and it will be a quite an achievement if we make it to that calibre.
If we want to get there we’re going to have to look at many things, staff, manager and squad. Let’s start by looking at the squad. I’m going to analyse each player, subs, starting XI and some others, and give my view, from the stands, on them.
Adrian San Miguel – An outstanding purchase from Real Betis by Allardyce. He has been a very good keeper since his arrival and has performed multiple outstanding saves. He has good distribution and reflexes. A good shot stopper, my only worries are sometimes his handling and command of the box. On a side note, one of the things that is best about this goalkeeper is not his performance on the pitch but his way of interacting with the crowd which has quickly made him a fan favourite.
Jussi Jaaskelainen – Again a very good signing from Bolton by Allardyce. Jaaskelainen is a fantastic keeper to have on the bench as he could make the grade as a first team keeper at some other clubs in the league. Jussi is a fantastic keeper but has arrived in the twilight of his career. Being 39 means that his level and performances are starting to worsen and his handling has become a lot more of a problem this season.
Guy Demel – Yet again, I must mention that this was another good purchase by Allardyce. Brought in from Hamburger SV he has been a very good right back for us since he overcame his injury problems. Demel is very good at attacking and providing an overlap for the right winger. He has good skill going forward and enough to get past some left backs to get crosses into the box. However, being a right back means he has to do a lot of defensive work as well and he is not as solid in this area as I would like him to be. He has good strength; no one in their right mind would doubt that. Although in my opinion he doesn’t stop crosses from the oppositions left winger coming into the box enough. He doesn’t shepherd players well enough and shield the box from shots or crosses. He doesn’t get tight enough to his man as well. Demel is also 32 years old and for the reasons provided I think we need to improve in this area.
Joey O’Brien – Brought in from Bolton by Allardyce, Joey has done well to overcome his injury problems and feature multiple times in the starting line up. For me, he is too inconsistent, when I see his name on the team sheet I don’t know what O’Brien I’m going to get. A solid full back that gets forward well and shuts out wingers or a player who loses the ball and doesn’t deal well with attacking players. He doesn’t cut it in the starting XI but is good enough for the bench/reserves for now. Being 28 years old, age is not too much of a worry just yet as well.
Pablo Armero – On loan from Napoli until the end of the season, Pablo has only recently made a burst into the first team. From what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been impressed other than his silly tackle on Cameron Jerome in Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win over us he has been good. Good enough, in fact, for me to suggest that we should attempt to purchase him permanently. The 27 year old has shown he is good enough for the side and my only problem with him is that he seems afraid to cross the ball when supporting the winger. Whip it in Pablo!
George McCartney – Another buy from Allardyce, McCartney has been a solid player and is ever the consistent. Being 32 years old he is also in the twilight of his career but considering his form I am happy to have him as a substitute left back. Side note: Not to be played at right back on evidence from West Ham 0-1 Crystal Palace, poor performance.
Winston Reid – Probably the best player in our team. Brilliantly consistent, barely every puts a foot wrong in defence and is only 25. Definitely not someone we should look to replace and definitely not someone we should let go to a bigger club. If we want to become one of those bigger clubs then we can’t let players like him go.
James Collins – ‘The Ginger Pele’! What fantastic neck muscles this man has! Brilliant in the air and uses this to his advantage in defence and attack. Not always the same with his tackles. In some games he has been quite superb and has put in a lot of great tackles however, in others he can be inconsistent, applying pressure to far up the pitch and breaking the defensive line, rushing into tackles and leaving gaps in behind. Good enough to retain his place in the XI or to switch around with Tomkins although, I really wouldn’t mind another very solid, consistent centre back to partner Reid. Furthermore, he is 30, meaning he will also come into the twilight of his career fairly soon.
James Tomkins – Solid centre back and someone I’m happy to watch in the side. Could give Collins a run for his money and make into the starting line-up consistently. Further consider the fact that James is only 25 meaning he has quite a lot of time to grow and improve yet, only more reason to keep hold of him and possibly play him more often. Despite all of this I will say the same thing as I did with Collins; I wouldn’t mind another centre back to partner Reid who is better than both of the James’. Another option to consider is bringing in another centre back simply for squad depth because, as we have seen this season, we don’t have enough depth in this position and Roger Johnson is not good enough as a fourth centre back.
Roger Johnson – ‘The Relegator’! On loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Roger is known as ‘The Relegator’ because he was involved in Wolves’ double relegation to League 1. He is not Premier League quality and needs to be offloaded in my opinion as I am sure he will be. It was a panic loan from Wolves due to our situation earlier in the season with injuries. He just isn’t of Premier League class in my opinion. He should be replaced with a better centre back for stronger squad depth.
Mark Noble – Mark must have claret and blue blood! He grew up in Canning Town and has come through the ranks to be a West Ham player and vice captain. He is one of the most consistent players in the league and always provides defensive solidity in front of the back four and is always ice cool from the penalty spot. Mark is a shoe in for next season’s side. The only area where Noble can be unconvincing is when it comes to going forward. He can sometimes look lost once he gets near the oppositions box and often looks afraid to shoot. Furthermore, he is simply not very good at free kicks, I don’t know why he takes our free kicks and if he is the best we’ve got, we either need to practise free kicks on the training ground or invest in someone who can take them.
Kevin Nolan – Either played in an attacking midfield role or in behind the striker Kevin Nolan is incredibly good at feeding off scraps or knock downs. Nolan is our top scorer this season with seven goals. He has virtually saved us from relegation when he had his run of sparkling form in our four wins in a row. Kevin is 31 and is entering the twilight of his career, being the captain he can’t exactly be dropped to easily but in my opinion, his form has been too inconsistent this season. Furthermore, his two red cards highlight is inconsistency and volatility I would like to see Kevin played at the start of next season but if he doesn’t start it well, replaced in the starting XI.
Antonio Nocerino – On loan from AC Milan, Antonio is a player who can thrive in behind a big striker as he did with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Milan. He has not quite reached those dizzy heights with us and Andy Carroll and I wouldn’t want him signed on a permanent basis at the end of the season from what I’ve seen. He is too inconsistent, loses the ball too much and Allardyce seems to agree with me considering the fact that Antonio is only making appearances from the bench.
Mohamed Diame – Diame is the most inconsistent player at the club. You have no clue what you’re going to get from Mohamed! My problem with Diame is that he is too much of a solo player and doesn’t seem to hold the team in his best interests. This shows in a lot of his laziness on the pitch. However, Diame is a fantastic player when he wants to be and can make brilliant, driving, skilful runs through the opposition on occasion. Personally, I think Diame is too inconsistent to be in the starting XI and should be dropped to the bench.
Ravel Morrison – Ravel is an attacking midfielder and is a very good one at that. At the age of 21 there is a lot of time for Ravel to grow and improve. My main issue with Ravel, as I am sure is everyone’s, is that he is too full of himself. His character and ego are a major problem and he needs to put his past behind him and focus on the football. If he focuses on the football and the team then he has a big chance of becoming a wonderful player and England international. He has the skill but not the mindset, putting him out on loan at Championship clubs is the right idea but I would like to see him back at the club and on the bench next season. Side note: Very good at coming on as an impact substitute, not sure if he is a 90 minute Premier League player quite yet.
Matthew Taylor – Another good player for squad depth, Matthew is useful because he can play in the centre of midfield, on the left wing and at left back. He is not the classiest player and does not really have the skills for Premier League football however; I like Taylor because he always puts 100% effort in and gives his absolute all every game. Being 32 years old means he is in the twilight of his career and should be kept for squad depth.
Alou Diarra – What a terrible signing! Wrong attitude, wrong fitness, wrong work rate and he’s 33. Needs to be sold in summer because of the money we’re wasting on his wages. Doesn’t seem to want to be at the club and should be sent on his way.
Jack Collison – His name is Jack and he’s Welsh, keep him! I think he still needs time to grow and should be given further loan opportunities in the Championship after his loan at Wigan ends; he’s only 25 after all.
Stewart Downing – Fantastic signing by Allardyce and he’s blossomed well under the system that Big Sam plays. Has a fantastic cross on him and he can cut in and shoot. He’s a very good winger and someone who should definitely retain his place in the starting line-up. He is 29 so age isn’t a problem yet either.
Matt Jarvis – Jarvis has been rather inconsistent since his arrival and has never really found himself among the goals like he did at Wolves. He doesn’t score enough for me or have consistent enough crossing. However, the fantastic thing about Matt is his pace. He can outpace many of the Premier League’s full backs and then can crosses in from the by-line. He should definitely be kept because he is only 27 but could possibly be replaced by a summer signing.
Joe Cole – Joe is a good player but he’s definitely lost the pace he needs to play on the wing at the age of 32. His defensive work as a winger is not good enough for me and I think he can either be kept for squad depth but I would very much like to see him replaced in the summer.
Ricardo Vaz Te – Ricardo was an amazing player for us in the Championship and scored that famous 88th minute goal at Wembley to see us promoted back to the Premier League. He hasn’t really shown the same class in the Premier League but has been injured for most of this season. I would like to see Vaz Te kept and trialled at the start of next season.
Andy Carroll – Andy was brought in by Allardyce and the side has been built around him. Some call him the most aerially talented striker in the world. I would have to say he is a fantastic striker in the air and is often dominant against Premier League centre backs. However, I think that we can’t always play it up to Andy because it’s too predictable and other teams are dealing with it. We need a variation on our style, a ‘plan B’.
Marco Borriello – Marco has been injured for the most part since is loan from Roma. He’s 31 and I would be happy to see him sent back to Roma and not bought on a permanent basis. However, he would need to be replaced with another striker who would have to be signed on a permanent basis as a backup for Andy Carroll.
Carlton Cole – Carlton is somewhat a West Ham fan favourite and has been with the club a long time. He is not the most talented striker and is also 30. Should be kept because of his ties to the club and because he isn’t an easy player to sell. Could however, be replaced with a striker of better calibre. He simply doesn’t win enough in the air or put the ball in the back of the net enough.
Modibo Maiga – Modibo should definitely be sold in the summer because he has been somewhat of a flop in English football. Scoring only 3 goals in 31 appearances is certainly not good enough.
That’s what I think of the squad! In summary, I think our goalkeepers are good and we don’t need any replacements in this department. I think our defence is good but we need a new right back and a centre back to partner Reid that is better than Collins or Tomkins or just another centre back for squad depth. I think our midfield is good but needs some changes, we need a new attacking midfielder, someone who can pass the ball with a bit of flair, someone like Diame or Morrison but isn’t so full of themselves. We either need a replacement for Jarvis or another winger for squad depth to have on the bench, preferably someone like Downing. Furthermore, I think Carroll is good but we need another striker to back him up in case of injury or someone to bring off of the bench. This all is if we keep the style, formation and plan the same. This is what the team would look like:
GK – Adrian
RB – New Player
CB – Reid
CB – Collins/New Player
LB – Armero
RM – Downing
CM – Noble
CM – New Player
LM – Jarvis/New Player
CAM – Nolan (Trial Run)
ST – Carroll
GK – Jaaskelainen
RB – Demel
CB – Tomkins/Collins
CM – Diame
CAM – Morrison
Winger – Jarvis/Vaz Te/New Player
ST – New Player
According to these plans we need five new players and I think the bulk of the money should be invested in an attacking midfielder, striker and a right back. Some ideas being, Micah Richards (RB), Samuel Inkoom (RB), Josip Drmic (ST), Ross McCormack (ST), Jordan Rhodes (ST), Solomon Kalou (ST), Graziano Pelle (ST), Loic Remy (Loan ST), Lewis Holtby (CAM), Jack Rodwell (CM), Craig Bryson (CAM).
This is what I would do from Sam Allardyce’s point of view, from my point of view, I would change one thing. I would stick with the changes I said we should make earlier and the replacements we should bring in. However, I think we should devise a ‘Plan B’ for next season because we have become too predictable. We should stick with the 4-4-1-1 formation or 4-3-3/4-5-1 that we’ve been playing this season for the starting line-up. However, I think we should give ourselves a better option of going 4-4-2 from the bench. This would mean that we would need to buy another striker and this striker should add a dimension of pace and we can begin to use a flick on. In games where we are chasing the game or struggling to break down the opposition we would be able to take our CAM off, most likely Nolan, in the 4-4-1-1 and switch to a 4-4-2 by bringing a striker on. The striker we buy should be similar in his style to Sam Baldock and this way, we would be able to vary our style and make life more difficult for the oppositions defence instead of only knowing one tactic. We would therefore, be able to change the tactic from the knock down to the flick on. I believe this would be very useful if we were struggling to break the opposition down in games like the 0-1 against Crystal Palace.
The bench using this change would now look like this:
GK – Jaaskelainen
RB – Demel
CM – Diame
CAM – Morrison
Winger – Jarvis/Vaz Te/New Player
ST – New Player (Backup for Andy Carroll)
ST – New Player (Quicker player to vary the tactic)
I think that if we did this, it would greatly improve our chances of picking up more wins from losing positions and also make us much less one dimensional. This would mean that Big Sam still gets to use his long ball style and we will still have fans, who I respect, moaning about the style and wanting the ‘West Ham Way’. However, we would be able to change our tactic in games and make it a lot harder for opposition managers to prepare for and a lot harder for opposition players to defend against.
Currently, the way we play, teams can set up for the long ball and knock down and know that that is all they’ll have to defend against for 90 minutes. When you vary a tactic, that makes us more unpredictable, harder to prepare for and I have evidence that varying a tactic can change the balance of play. For example, look at the 0-3 victory away at Spurs. Spurs would have prepared for the long ball and knock down all week, training with their defenders how to deal with this. We came onto the pitch playing 4-6-0 or a false nine formation which nobody expected. This is exactly why we won the game by three goals and Spurs’ defenders looked lost and powerless to deal with what we threw at them. Another example this season would be Liverpool’s success. One of the major reasons as to why Liverpool have been so successful this season is down to Brendan Rogers and the way he sets their team up. They’re hard to prepare for because you don’t know what the tactic will be. They could use the overlap constantly and use the width a lot, whipping low balls into the box. They could flood the play through the middle of the pitch and look to play through you using triangles e.g. Suarez – Sturridge – Coutinho. They could mix it up and use a bit of both of these styles or look to play from deep with a CDM in Gerrard pinging balls out to the wings or through the middle. You simply don’t know and that is why they are going to win the title this season.
If we can bring this element of unpredictability to West Ham and become less one dimensional we could have more success next season.