West Ham were unlucky not to see out the FA Cup clash against Everton at Goodison Park, with the hosts eventually grabbing a late equaliser through Romelu Lukaku.
Although it wasn’t the best performance West Ham have produced this season, there were a number of impressive individual displays both in defence and midfield. Apart from the goal, West Ham looked very strong defensively. Ironically, Winston Reid had one of his best games this season and James Collins made a number of good blocks as well as taking his goal very well.
The only concern from a West Ham point of view will be Kevin Nolan’s disappointing performance. There were times when Nolan gave the ball away under very little pressure and his touch looked tiresome. For some reason, it looks as if Nolan is not even close to the fitness levels of his fellow teammates around him.
In a way, it actually makes Mark Noble’s job in midfield a lot more difficult, as Nolan does not have the pace to recover if he does make a mistake, leaving Noble with more responsibility in midfield. The presence of Cheikou Kouyate and Alex Song alongside Kevin Nolan in recent games has steered the attention away from the English midfielder but he looked completely out of sorts against Everton.
Although Nolan has been an excellent servant for West Ham over the years, he looks as if his best days are behind him. When Allardyce starts him in central midfield, it just doesn’t work. Using Nolan as an attacking substitute in the final 10 minutes of games is probably the best way to handle his future.
Fans may be calling for another central midfielder to be bought in January. However, the young Diego Poyet has not been given that much of an opportunity in terms of getting a run in the side and playing him alongside Noble in the centre of midfield could be a better option for Allardyce. His playing style is also quite similar to Noble’s as well, he has a tendency to keep things very simple and can pick out a pass. In central midfield, keeping the ball well and using it wisely will give you the upper hand in games. If Poyet gets a run in the side, he could prove to be the ideal replacement for some noticeable absentees in the middle of the park.
The other cause for concern at West Ham at the moment is the current situation up front. With Sakho not featuring for a while, Allardyce is left with Carlton Cole, Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia as his three striking options. Although Valencia performed well against Everton, he looked incredibly isolated at times and it looks as if he needs a strike partner like Sakho in order to really thrive up front. The probable strike force Allardyce will opt for is Valencia and Carroll, something that hasn’t worked as of yet. However, due to the departure of Mauro Zarate (better not open that can of worms), Allardyce has very little choice in who he can play up front. A new striker in January to replace Zarate would make sense, as West Ham now look a little bare in numbers up front.
Another potential problem for Allardyce in January could be the departure of Winston Reid from West Ham. If he continues to play like he did against Everton for the remainder of the season, there is no doubt that Big Sam will want to keep him. However, he has not looked as assured as he usually does at the back this campaign and this is probably due to the rumours linking him with a move away from Upton Park. If the club receives a bid of around £7million for a player whose contract is up very soon, it may be wise to cash in on him rather than lose him for nothing in the summer.
That amount of money would free up wages, giving the manager the budget to explore the market and bring in a quality replacement. Although it would be sad to see Winston go, Allardyce needs to be thinking about potential replacements for Reid and allowing him to leave this window could suit both parties.
Overall, January is a very important time for West Ham as they need to bounce back from a slightly disappointing Christmas. The next few fixtures will reveal a lot about the character of this squad due to the absence of some key players, but the returning Alex Song will add a much needed boost to the side before the trip to the Liberty Stadium this weekend.