Having enjoyed a relatively successful return to the Premier League last season there was fair amount of optimism amongst the Hammers faithful as we approached the opening day fixture against Cardiff City.
We started the new campaign just as we finished the last one. A convincing home win and a real belief that the future was going to positive and successful. “Bring on the rest of the season,” we thought, another top-ten finish was there for the taking.
But now, three days in to January, we’re all sit here stunned, wondering where it all went wrong as we sit three points a drift of Premier League safety with an injury riddled squad and a shambolic transfer policy.
But who is to blame, exactly? Is it the the owners for not ensuring we brought in a back up striker to Andy Carroll? Is it Sam Allardyce for refusing to play two up front and tinker with tactics that don’t work? Is it captain Kevin Nolan for failing to show any leadership skills or example by needlessly getting himself sent off twice in a month? Or perhaps it’s Chadwell Heath that has been the catalyst for a number of squad crippling injuries to a number of our best players?
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s Carlos Tevez’s fault for just being, you know, Tevez? Let’s have a look at each party and see what role they’ve all played in the current debacle the club finds itself in, and then you can make up your own mind.
First of all, let’s get a few things straight. David Gold and David Sullivan have pumped tens of millions of their own hard earned cash in to the club to ensure we’re all still here supporting London’s greatest club, and that I’m sat here writing this pretty hopeless assessment of the club in turmoil.
We owe them a lot for what they have given the club and they should be shown a great deal of respect for that. But that doesn’t mean to say they cannot be blamed for what’s happening.
Firstly, the failure to acquire a back-up striker in the summer was always going to come back and kick us square in the proverbials. David Gold has publicly admitted that he and Sullivan messed up there but, in his defence, a number of their targets had decided to move to bigger and better clubs or chose to remain at their respective clubs. That’s completely unavoidable.
Of course, there will be fans that won’t accept that as a viable excuse and will believe the club should have tried hard enough. Fair enough. Perhaps that may be the case, but we will probably never know.
Following that summer transfer window failure we ended up bringing back the released Carlton Cole and free-agent Mladen Petric. Oh dear.
Secondly, their reluctance to hand Sam Allardyce his P45 as soon as there was the smallest of signs that our season was slipping away from us, particularly after they admitted making the same mistake with Avram Grant, might well be why we are where we are.
We’ve seen all the teams around us at the bottom of the top-flight change their managers and immediately pick up some kind of success. Some have begun slipping back to where they were before, but on the whole a new manager with new ideas appeared to be exactly what we needed.
But they’re backing him and there’s nothing we can do about it. But is that the right decision?
He did what was asked of him by getting us promoted from the Championship at the first time of asking. He then gave us a 10th place finish in the Premier League the following year. Applause all round.
But now that applause has turned in to boos, and because he’s been found out as the stubborn, tactically limited manager that perhaps he has always been.
The false number nine line-up that saw us thrash Spurs 3-0 at White Hart Lane was a tactical fluke, but the praise he earned from such a result caused him to stick with it for the next five games without any further success. And who was surprised?
And of course there’s the over reliance on Kevin Nolan in midfield, as well as captain. I’ll get on to him in a bit.
But, in his defence, he has had to deal with a number of injuries to his best players. He will not have planned to start the season without record-signing Andy Carroll and he will not have planned to have to field four full-backs in a crucial home fixture against West Brom.
There’s no hiding away from the fact that he’s had to deal with a make-shift squad for half the season so far, but then there is the argument that he’s bought injury-prone players, such as Andy Carroll and Joe Cole.
Allardyce accepts all the blame, which what you would expect, but there have been a number of things that have been way out of his control.
Once a vital member of our starting line-up, captain Kev is now a loose cannon in what is fast becoming a sinking ship.
He’s a shadow of his former self. A stranger to us now. But how is it possible to go from influential, goal scoring midfielder, to tired, lazy and unreliable pain in the arse.
I’ve seen several fans argue that he’s no good without having his best pal Andy Carroll to feed off up front. But he seemed to be coping well without him while he was banging in 13 goals in the Championship, nor did it appear to be a problem when he was scoring for fun last year while Carroll spent long periods on in the physio room last season. So not having Carroll really isn’t an excuse you or I should really buy in to.
But there is an element of truth somewhere in the above. Not having Carroll to feed off is not the problem, but merely the fact he hasn’t got a good enough striker to be feeding off.
We all know that Nolan has made a career of feeding off a loan striker. He’s scored goals at every single club he’s played at doing the same thing each and every week. But, without a striker, Kevin Nolan’s services to the side are void.
While that’s not his fault, it still doesn’t explain his lacklustre and quite pathetic performances this season.
There’s also something quite mysterious behind his two ‘deliberate’ red cards against Liverpool and Fulham. What’s gotten in to him? Either way, he let us down at Craven Cottage and we may have taken something from the game had he stood up and acted like a captain, encouraging his team mates to respond to Fulham’s equaliser.
I put it down to frustration, but it’s worrying to see a player react in such a way. Maybe he just needs a cuddle from Carroll?
For years we have been forced to endure lengthy periods throughout a season where a number of our best performers are injured.
The only injury this season that can not potentially be traced back to Chadwell Heath is Stewart Downing’s gashed achilles. Other than that, who’s to say that the injuries to the likes of Winston Reid, Andy Carroll and James Collins were not as direct result of poor training facilities?
Allardyce dismissed this suggestion after the Fulham game, where we all watched in despair as Mark Noble hobbled off in the first-half. He spoke of his post-match discussion with former Hammers boss Alan Curbishley about the training ground. Curbishley claimed Chadwell Heath was the catalyst to many of the injuries his players suffered when in charge at Upton Park.
So for a similar thing to be happening again can’t just be a coincidence, can it?
And if all else fails, and you can’t make your mind up on who is to blame for our current troubles, just blame Carlos Tevez.
After all, had it not been for his illegal arrival at Upton Park in 2006, David Gold and David Sullivan may have had a little bit more to spend on some new players (and perhaps enough spare cash lying around to afford Big Sam’s multi-million pound pay-off?).
What do you think? Who exactly is to blame for the current problems at our great club? Leave your thoughts and comments below.