What’s going right?
Quite a lot. Despite slipping into the bottom half of the table for the first time this season, performances have generally been maintained at a high standard, only the defeats to Swansea and Wigan away from home have proved to be disappointing. The win against Chelsea was probably the highlight of the season so far. At least the second half was, not the first, where we were as threatening as Clint Hill’s stake for the Ballon d’Or.
The midfield trio of Nolan, Noble and Diame all lead by example as Chelsea simply became overran by the strength of West Ham’s forward play. Fans are generally content at Upton Park, a difficult Christmas is ahead, but supporters enter the period with belief that any result is possible. Even Andy Carroll is proving a minor success. Despite his lack of goals, his link up play fits nicely into Allardyce’s tactics and helps create chances for others.
It’s difficult to pick out too many flaws from the season so far, but the previously mentioned defeats against Swansea and Wigan were flattening. The defence lacked organisation in both fixtures, something Allardyce would undoubtedly have given them a bollocking for having worked so hard to regiment his backline in the Championship. James Tomkins’ role in midfield has also proved ineffective. Allardyce persists with it, but a clear reluctance for Tomkins to play there means we are playing with a passenger.
Got the right manager?
I’ve written previously about Allardyce’s tactics being pivotal to a successful return to the Premier League for West Ham. So far, I haven’t seen anything to change my mind. Team selections have been, on the whole, positive and the build-up play at times has been outstanding. The recent departure of Wally Downes has come as a surprise to most people connected with the club, but Allardyce has done enough for me to trust his judgement. His business in January will be interesting; he could move for signings that will consolidate for this season, or plot ambitious moves that would signal his intent for the club and his own future.
Mohamed Diame has proved an absolute revelation. The hype surrounding him right now is completely justified as his Yaya Toure-esque style of play has caught the eye of the top clubs. Diame is now pivotal to the team, embarrassingly highlighted by the 3-2 loss against Liverpool where after his departure; the centre of the pitch became overran by Liverpool’s counter attacks. The midfield has generally moved like clockwork this season, becoming finely tuned under the leadership of Kevin Nolan alongside Diame, as well as the gallant Mark Noble. An honourable mention as well must go to Jaaskelainen, who has kept many a top striker at bay, including keeping a memorable clean sheet against Manchester City.
Who would you like to sell in January?
A story surfaced recently that said Frederic Piquionne is finding it difficult being at the club and not playing. I had completely forgotten he even existed so it would make sense for him to move on. Apart from that, the squad is probably its most united it’s been in over ten years so it would seem foolish to force anyone out. Allardyce has given faith to a lot of youngsters this season which is encouraging, with the senior players all proving their worth at some point in the first half of the season.
Who do you want to sign?
While everyone likes Joey O’Brien, it’s more a feeling of pity I get now when I watch him play. Clearly not cut out for the top level, a top class full back is needed to recover the many errors O’Brien has made. Depending on injuries and how in favour they are at their respective clubs, enterprising full backs like Micah Richards or Ryan Bertrand coming in on loan could give a vigour to a backline that has been beleaguered in its play a lot of the time where Demel and O’Brien can only hope that running with the ball ends with them giving it to a team mate.
Best chant so far?
Most chants about Ricardo Vaz Te make me happy with this being my favourite: “He scores with his left, he scores with his right, Ricardo Vaz Te, makes Messi look shite!” The evergreen Ludo Miklosko chant has been present again this season, it’s my favourite chant of all time. Look it up.
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen this season?
Santi Cazorla had an outstanding game when Arsenal came to Upton Park. His ball retention, as well as his distribution, is second to none and he capped it off with a goal that was annoyingly brilliant. If he were not Spanish, he would be leading the midfield threat for any nation. For team performance, despite them losing 3-1. Chelsea’s first half was terrifying. Hazard and Mata were constantly dangerous with even Torres looking like he could give our defenders serious trouble.
Biggest **** of the season?
Jermain Defoe. Just because.