The Hammers were well beaten yesterday as Chelsea were unlucky to only score twice against a surprisingly leaky back four.
Adrian produced one of his best performances in a West Ham shirt. He made a number of great saves to prevent the score from being something embarrassing. Although Chelsea were deserved winners at Stamford Bridge, the way the Irons approached the game allowed themselves to almost surrender to the opposition. In the first half, Chelsea were totally dominant and it was an achievement if we managed to get over the half way line.
It was far better viewing for West Ham in the second half. Although Diego Costa scored to increase Chelsea’s lead, the introduction of Sakho, Song and Amalfitano gave the team more dynamism, allowing the team to build up attacks and create chances. Amalfitano was unlucky to score after being played through on goal by an exquisite Alex Song pass. The second half was encouraging and must leave Hammers fans feeling confident about taking on Arsenal on Sunday. The game won’t be easy but without Olivier Giroud, they lack a real target man to aim at. If West Ham can dominate the midfield, the result should be positive.
One of the most alarming problems for West Ham at the moment is the form of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. Sakho only has one goal in five matches whilst Enner Valencia hasn’t hit the back of the net in six games.
This dip in form coincides with the return of Andy Carroll. The big Geordie has been in impressive form since he gained full fitness but this seems to have come at a cost. Enner Valencia has been paired with Carroll for a couple of games now and the two don’t seem to click. Valencia looked slightly stranded in the first half as he looked to run at the Chelsea defence.
In situations like this, Carroll is not the ideal strike partner as he doesn’t have tremendous movement when he is far away from the box. The strike duo of Sakho and Valencia may have hurt Chelsea’s defence more than Carroll and Valencia. Make no mistake about it, Carroll has been fantastic since he returned to the first eleven, this is clearly positive news but it has affected Sakho and Valencia.
In the early stages of the season, many would have wondered how Andy Carroll would get back into the West Ham team due to the brilliance of the new strike force. However, injuries to both Sakho and Valencia meant that Carroll played more minutes than he was probably expecting. His good form has now resulted in either Sakho or Valencia competing with each other to play alongside Andy Carroll.
It has been seven games since the original strike pairing started a Premier League match together. They did not get a sniff at goal in the second half against Chelsea but many West Ham fans will be hoping to see the new signings return to the starting line-up soon.
Andy Carroll’s return has punctured the prospect of both Sakho and Valencia rekindling their early season form. His inclusion in the side means that one of the strikers has to be dropped due to the formation Allardyce plays. One of the most noticeable features of the partnership between Sakho and Valencia was the pace and movement. Against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, the opposition defences simply couldn’t handle the strikers as they would often get in behind the back four and punish them.
There was also the added threat of aerial ability, with the majority of Sakho and Valencia’s goals coming via their heads. Carroll adds aerial ability like no other striker in the Premier League, he is an absolute handful. However, when West Ham are relying on playing on the counter attack, it’s difficult for Andy Carroll to have a great effect on the game.
This is the issue for Sam Allardyce, he has to maintain a successful balancing act between the three top strikers at the club. Andy Carroll clearly has his strengths but it does not bring the best out of Sakho and Valencia. West Ham fans have seen the lethal combination of Sakho and Valencia before so it is of no surprise that many are calling for the two strikers to return to the starting line-up.
Hopefully Allardyce develops a rotation system that gets the best out of West Ham’s strike force, allowing the team to play to their strengths and exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. Sakho and Valencia could have been the preferable option to start against Chelsea as their pace could have hurt them more if they started together. However, if Carroll starts against Arsenal, he will cause their defence a number of issues if we can dominate the midfield.
Overall, the recent demise of Sakho and Valencia could only be a small blip in this very successful season so far. Andy Carroll cannot start every Premier League match so hopefully the pacey combination will return to the starting eleven soon. Sam Allardyce clearly wants to take advantage of Carroll’s strengths but he mustn’t ignore the impact Sakho and Valencia made earlier in the season and they should be given the opportunity to start together again soon.