After West Ham United’s 5-0 FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest on Sunday the pressure continues to mount on manager Sam Allardyce.
He has clearly set Wednesday’s Capital One Cup as his second priority to Premier League survival; he knows where his priorities lie and it is no longer focussed on cup victory.
In response to this change in direction, the club owners issued an open letter to Hammers fans, giving their continued support to Big Sam as manager. They voiced their personal ‘frustration and hurt’ over West Ham’s season thus far, but they appear to have come to the conclusion that it would not be appropriate to remove Allardyce from his position at this time.
This support has been ever present in the owners’ mind; during an interview on Football Focus David Sullivan was quoted as saying they would review the manager’s performance at the end of the season. For now, Big Sam’s place is as secured as it could possibly be given the club’s situation.
In his press briefing on Sunday ahead of the meeting with Forest, Sam stated that he was going to give some of the youngsters a chance because he only had 14 first-team players available. Having got to the semi-final on Wednesday he realises that now, being so close to Wembley, he has to try and finish the job against a Manchester City side with an as yet unblemished home record.
As far as team selection for the match itself is concerned, Allardyce mentioned that the reason he took Stuart Downing and Alou Diarra off at Forest was because he wanted them to be a part of Wednesday’s starting line up. He also stated in his post-match interview that both Matt Jarvis and Modibo Maiga, who both played the full ninety minutes, would also be starting at the Etihad Stadium.
As for the weekend’s trip to the Welsh Capital, Allardyce seems likely to name a much changed starting eleven. With the likes of Joey O’Brien, Jack Collison, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Carlton Cole ready to play, it seems likely that Big Sam will put out as best a team as possible given the current injury status.
There is, of course, widespread speculation that the club are close to signing Wolves central defender Rodger Johnson; the deal could be completed in the next few days and would give the Irons’ defence another solid player.
Another question the former Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United boss might want to ask himself is who to select as captain for the upcoming games. With regular skipper Kevin Nolan suspended and both Mark Noble and James Tomkins out injured, would he give the responsibility to Downing again?
With his first shot at captaincy receiving mixed reviews from fans, the debate over who will take lead will continue to be up in the air until the team news is announced on the day of the games – and fans will be waiting with baited breath to see what type of team Allardyce will put out in these two very important games for West Ham’s future.