I’ll be honest; I never thought it would happen. Sam unveiled his spectacular Plan B, and it has worked. 4 points from the last 3 games is a fantastic return considering the opposition we’ve faced. Even the most optimistic of fans would have probably predicted just the one point.
The old tactical genius that is Big Sam pulled a masterstroke against Spurs. It worked well against Swansea, but the notion of using it at home – even against the Superstars of Man City – didn’t sit easy with some. In essence, fine – let’s flood the midfield and play percentages away from home. If we’re hard to beat, and keep up the defensive record then as Sam himself said, it only needs one goal on the break to nick all 3 points. And even if we don’t, draw the majority of our away games and improve our home form, and we’ll be heading towards the upper mid table positions we’d all expected us to be residing in.
However, what of the home form? Part of the genius behind the success at White Heart Lane was the element of surprise. But what else does Sam have up his sleeve? While it’s a formation that works away from home, do we not need to be a tad more adventurous at Upton Park?
We all know that Plan A was to build a team around Andy Carroll. Defensively we look strong. Once the experiment of playing Diame further forward finally draws to a conclusion, he and Noble will provide an excellent barrier for the back 4, allowing Nolan to play off of Carroll, with pace added in the form of our wingers. It’s a team we all have faith in, and expected to do well come the start of the season. However, Carroll is expected back no sooner than the Chelsea game. Between then and now are two games – Villa at home and Norwich away. On paper, two winnable games. But will playing 4-6-0 be the best solution?
I for one will be disappointed if we line up that way against Villa. When you look at their team, they pose a very obvious threat in the form of the outstanding Christian Benteke. How our centre backs deal with him will be key. For me, Tomkins would challenge with him aerially, while Reid would use his much talked about pace to nullify him on the deck. With Weimann and Agbonlahor in support, Villa do pose a threat, but for the first time in a long time, I have faith in West Ham’s defensive ability to nullify them.
It could be said though, that Villa are weak in midfield, and at the back. A midfield trio of Noble, Diame and Morrison have both the tenacity and the ability to overrun their claret and blue counterparts. So what do we do upfront? That’s the million dollar question and indeed the purpose of this article.
Vaz Te has sadly dislocated his shoulder. So he’s out. The obvious replacement is
for Jarvis to come in, hopefully smarting from being dropped in recent weeks, and aiming to prove he’s not a flash in the pan one cap wonder. With he and Downing looking in line to start a game together for only the second time this season, it really is about time for our wings to start delivering. But deliver for whom?
Should Allardyce stick to his recent guns, and play Nolan in midfield with Diame and Morrison alternating as the most forward player, then for me, this plays into Villa’s hands. Their Centre halves are young, fit and mobile – not statuesque and old school akin to Michael Dawson a few weeks ago. If they have no man to mark, they won’t look lost, as Lambert tends to deploy a zonal style of defence, rather than man for man. In my mind, there is only one real candidate, and that is for the returning Carlton Cole to lead the line. His presence in the last 20 minutes clearly unsettled Swansea, and having hopefully had some more game time under his belt against Burnley, I’d use him as a focal point. Whilst he may well not be the answer to our recent goal shy run, he will without a doubt lift the crowd, and give Vlaar or Baker something to think about.
Whilst the sharp readers will have not only picked up on the fact that for me, this means leaving out Nolan, but also that this is not the first time I’ve suggested we leave him out of the team on this site. However, I’m still concerned at what he offers us at present other than leadership. If he lines up alongside Cole, Villa will know what to expect. Balls into the box, with Nolan feeding off scraps. With Morrison playing off Cole, we have a more varied approach to our attack.
So, while it may not quite send as many shockwaves through football as his 4-6-0 approach did, the idea of Allardyce dropping Nolan would be a surprise. But in our quest to start winning more points, could this be a Plan C that gets us all 3?
What do you think? 4-6-0 against Villa, or time to re-introduce a striker and with it some ambition? Does Nolan deserve a place in the team, and if so, who would you leave out?