So, Carroll’s injured. Again. Now, more than ever, the failure to sign an additional striker in the transfer window is becoming a full on disaster. So desperate have we been to add firepower, we turned back to Carlton Cole before signing instead Mladen Petric. A player deemed surplus to requirements at Fulham. No disrespect to the lad, but can we fans really be excited by the arrival of a cast off form a club who finished 3 places below us last year. Hardly a signal of intent!
But, we are where we are. Ifs buts and maybes will have to be consigned to history come Sunday, as we prepare to take on Southampton. What I find interesting though, is how we aim to take on Southampton, and indeed the rest of the Premier League between now and Andy Carroll’s return.
Despite his critics claiming he has steered us away from “The West Ham Way” it is difficult to argue Sam Allardyce’s way of lining us up haven’t worked. We are harder to beat, tight at the back and the system allows midfielders to get beyond the striker and into dangerous positions. Yet for each of his two seasons, this system has been played with Carlton Cole or Andy Carroll – both big, strong target men who whilst not out and out goalscorers, cannot be faulted for their contribution to the team. Without either of these to use as the go to guy, what can we expect? Maiga has clearly not fitted into this system, and Petric – having been without a club during pre season – is clearly not going to be match fit. And even when he is, much like Maiga, he has traditionally played his football as a second striker, rather than an out and out target man. This leaves us with the only other recognised senior forward at the club in Vaz Te – another known for playing off a big man, rather than competing for high balls, holding it up and bringing others into the game.
So where does this leave Sam’s tried and tested formula? Should Downing be fit to return, one possibility would be to bring Morrison into the centre of midfield and push Nolan forward into the number 9 role. Unlikely, but anyone witnessing Maiga’s performance of Stoke would have been happy for this to be tried out.
Perhaps then, the solution is not to fit players into a system that doesn’t suit them, but instead to look at what players we have available, and work out the best way to utilise the players we do have available. Now I’m not expecting Sam to go all out and play 2 strikers – especially in an away game. But the 451/433 formation can be used differently to the way he plays it. If Maiga, Petric and Vaz Te are unable to play the role that Carroll and Cole did…why ask them too? Why not instead drop Nolan in deeper alongside Diame and Noble to outnumber and frustrate Southampton’s passing style, utilising the pace that a forward 3 of Jarvis, Vaz Te and Morrison could offer you as a counter attacking option. Then, the option of bringing on Petric halfway through the second half will provide an option to either go two up top, or keep to the same formation, but change the tempo of our play and look to keep the
ball for longer.
I think I speak for most fans when I say that I don’t want to see a repeat of the Stoke debacle, whereby a flat refusal to change tactics saw Maiga hung out to dry and the team fail to function.
But is Sam too rigid to adapt to a Plan B? How do you think he’ll line the team up against Southampton, and what would you do differently if you were in charge?