West Ham's Big Sam Laughs In The Face Of Defenders (Not Just Chico Flores...)
If there's one thing people say about Sam Allardyce, it's that he's too eager to snap up creative players at the expense of defensive solidity. No, wait, no one has ever said that about him - until now.
Earlier in the summer, West Ham's owners made it clear that Allardyce would keep his job provided he introduced a more expansive and entertaining element to the Irons. Knowing that's like asking Quentin Tarantino if his cameo is really necessary or telling Harry Redknapp that Niko Kranjcar isn't available, they presumably anticipated Big Sam punching a wall, chucking Kevin Nolan and Joey O'Brien in a shopping trolley and storming out.
However the former Bolton boss called their bluff, making for a transfer window that has been bemusing for West Ham fans and amusing for everyone else. Harking back to that time he named five strikers (and no goalkeeper) on his substitutes' bench, Allardyce has launched full-throttle into the most un-Allardyce approach possible.
At first it didn't look like that would be the case. Cheikhou Kouyaté, a 6'4" midfielder who 'can do a job' at centre-back, arrived for £7m from Anderlecht, joining fellow new arrival Mauro Zaraté, whose "moderately successful foreign striker with limited Premier League experience" schtick earmarked him as the new Salva/Fredi Bobić/Javi Moreno (delete as appropriate).
However the signings since have pointed to a more expansive approach. Attack-minded left-back Aaron Cresswell is an upgrade on somehow-still-not-retired George McCartney. And while both Carl Jenkinson and Diego Poyet are not expected to stray into the opponents' half all that often, it remains the case that 'banter' is listed above 'tackling' amongst their respective WhoScored strengths.
With the addition of midfielders Alex Song and Morgan Amalfitano, plus actual real-life strikers Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho (I know, right?), not to mention the release/sale/ritual slaughter of McCartney, Jordan Spence and Alou Diarra, the new season will either result in a return to 'The West Ham WayTM' or end up being an exercise in Itoldyousoery from the big man. I would also pass comment on the sale of Momo Diamé to Hull for £3.5m, but no one needs to get sued here.
Last season West Ham entered the season with three senior centre-backs, adding human punchline Roger Johnson in the first transfer to truly justify the use of the phrase 'emergency loan.' However like a man who responds to s***ting his pants by buying an electric pink snapback and matching Nerf gun, Allardyce has entered the new campaign in the same situation. On the plus side, James Tomkins is one year older, but on the downside James Collins is too.
So when you sit down to watch West Ham 2 (Sakho 9, Valencia 87), Manchester City 6 (Jovetic 2, 23, 24, Touré 45, Lampard 64, Sinclair 90), just remember: in an attic somewhere there's a photo of Sam Allardyce keeping things tight and signing Nicky Hunt to a five-year deal.