Sam Allardyce claims he was livid after last night’s shower at Selhurst Park. Livid with his players and livid with the officials for disallowing a perfectly good goal in the second-half.
But, on reflection, it’s himself who he should really be livid with. After all, when you make four changes to a winning team and play a central midfielder on the wing, what more can you expect other than a toothless display against a team that plays goal music and are bottom of the Premier League?
There were rumours flying around before the game that Allardyce was preparing to make a few changes to the side that beat Fulham so comfortably on Saturday. “Surely not,” I thought. How could he? It looked like he had finally found the right formula for success without Andy Carroll. We looked good on Saturday and, had we put on a similar show, would have made easy work of Crystal Palace last night.
But it was yet another ‘typical West Ham’ showing, and all because Allardyce felt the need to fix what wasn’t broken.
The first-half took some time to get going with both sides opting for the long-ball approach, which was somewhat unsurprising given the two managers in the dugout. But then we started to gain control of the midfield and began playing some good, passing football. It was one way traffic for much of the first-half and, at one point, it was a case of when we opened the scoring, rather than if.
But, in true West Ham fashion, we concede a sloppy goal against the run-of-play. Barry Bannan whipped the corner in and former West Ham flop Marouane Chamakh got a few split ends on it to divert it between both Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble in the line.
It proved to be the match winner, despite the second-half mostly seeing West Ham huffing and puffing for an equaliser without appearing to try hard enough.
One of the very few shots we did have on goal hit the back of the via Stewart Downing‘s low drive. But, for some bizarre reason, the linesman flagged for a mysterious foul on Chamakh on Joey O’Brien. But replays showed that O’Brien was in fact the one being fouled. If it wasn’t a goal then it certainly should’ve been a penalty.
However, regardless of how poor that decision was, we shouldn’t have been relying on that goal to take something from the game. We should have been out of sight by half-time.
So why weren’t we?
Firstly, Mohamed Diame is not a winger. He’s proved that in the other games in which he’s played there. He has, though, proved that he can be a very important fixture in our midfield. So it was no surprise to see him inneffective and lost out on the left wing where Matt Jarvis should have been instead.
Secondly, why did Sam chose to start Razvan Rat and O’Brien when Guy Demel and George McCartney enjoyed such a good game against Fulham? Demel has been quite a good attacking option for us at time this season, so it was a bit of a mystery to see him consigned to the bench, while Rat looked absolutely knackered after about half-an-hour.
Lastly, just what is Nolan’s role in the team these days? He was lacklustre and almost void again at Selhurst Park and just doesn’t seem to be making the impact we’re also used to seeing him make. Some will say he’s struggles to play in a team without Carroll. He doesn’t, though, because in his first season at the club he netted 13 times, while he already found the net on the opening day of the season before Carroll came along last year. He also did the same this season with a tidy finish against Cardiff City at the Boleyn Ground, so there just is no excuse for him to be performing the way he is at the moment.
Our next four fixtures include trips to Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as a Boxing Day meeting with Arsenal at the Boleyn Ground. They don’t really get you excited for Christmas, do they? The home games against Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion are absolutely vital if we are to stay clear of the bottom three.
But on last night’s evidence, you just can’t be sure where the next win is coming from. Let’s keep the faith, though. After all, we’ll probably record our first win at Anfield for 50 years on Saturday. Because that’s the true West Ham way.