If you’ve ever read any of my opinion pieces for Moore Than A Club in the past you’ll know I’ve always been an admirer of Big Sam. The stability and defensive resoluteness his setup has brought the club has been too long absent from previous West Ham sides.
However, football is changing and so must he. Whilst the 4-6-0 deployed for the Spurs game was hugely successful, he must acknowledge that one size won’t fit all. And actually, although the result was very positive and he was applauded for it at the time, playing without a recognised striker is an even more negative approach to games than he is often labelled.
Although the decision to play the system was probably enforced due to injury problems and lack of fit attackers, that is part of the problem of building an entire team’s attack around one player. Should that player (Carroll) be unavailable, the setup and approach of the side shouldn’t change and Big Sam must accept responsibility for putting all his eggs in one basket.
Last weekend’s fixtures saw struggling teams such as Norwich and Aston Villa go bold and play two strikers, for which they were both awarded with home wins. Again, a lack of options would prevent such a move, but this again should be put down to Big Sam who has largely sold off all other strikers in recent years (Baldock, Maynard etc).
Even his pre-match notes bring to question the mindset of his setups. His constant reminders of ‘not conceding will mean you can’t lose’ are true and although it is hard to argue with his reason and logic, why not at least try and set up to get all three points rather than not concede? He has built a good side that can defend and in theory attack.
The next two months are pivotal for the club and will define the rest of the campaign. Southampton benefitted at a similar stage of the season last year when they were brave enough to ditch Atkins for Mauricio Pochettino. Southampton’s success in 2013 is there for everyone to see and the quality of their English stars have come to the fore – could West Ham be brave enough to opt for a similar move?
It would be risky and at a time when survival in the Premiership is a priority it could be argued stupid, but we’re hardly thriving under the current system and the football hasn’t been great either. Pochettino has introduced a new positive and attacking outlook which has undoubtedly benefited the entire setup. It could be argued his preference of defending is positive with pressing high up the field and preventing good teams from playing their game (Liverpool for example). Big Sam could learn a lot from Pochettino’s style – but his stubbornness to change will prevent West Ham from progressing their game. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and believe the board will stand by their man, but should they? We will see.