THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Allardyce's team struggling in Premier League

icon westham18 December ~ With five Premier League managers sacked before Xmas and West Ham chairmen David Sullivan publicly voicing his displeasure at results, Sam Allardyce might do well to start planning his gardening leave now. Tonight's League Cup quarter final against Tottenham and pre-2014 league games against Manchester United, Arsenal and West Brom, in particular, could mark his fate. Glowering away on the touchline like an angry, gum-chewing Easter Island statue, Big Sam has never been popular with the fans.

But the stakes are high in modern football and the more pragmatic among the faithful are prepared to put up with the turgid football if it keeps us in the top flight for the move to the Olympic Stadium. However recent form has been awful and the Hammers are one place off the relegation zone.
 
There are dark mutterings afoot on the usual web forums. Many are concerned that Allardyce's close relationship with Kevin Nolan (missing tonight through suspension) is obscuring the captain's poor form this season. Is he undroppable? The failure of Nolan to match last season's goal-scoring feats is a major reason for West Ham's poor form this season.

For Hammers fans, tonight's match is a welcome respite from the drudgery of a league season almost comically low on thrills. They're up against a managerless Spurs side thumped 5-0 at home by Liverpool on Sunday, anxious for revenge after West Ham's 3-0 win at White Hart Lane earlier this season, the indisputable highlight of 2013-14 for the Hammers.
 
But if that glittering afternoon in October is the highlight, then the undoubted lowlight has been the continued absence of Andy Carroll. Every step of the striker's recovery has been documented in minute fashion by the club's ever-chipper Facebook presence. Although, it has to be said: what good is done by this obsessive focus on one squad member? It is surely damaging team morale and puts Carroll himself under intense pressure.
 
Also it lets Allardyce off the hook. Surely if "Allardici" is, as he claims, the equal of top foreign coaches, he should have a plan B. Something more than launching the ball at a Carroll-shaped hole up front. Instead, we pray for goals from the luckless Modibo Maïga and rue the £15 million Allardyce shelled out for two goal-shy wingers – Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing.

In contrast, the defence – marshalled, until his recent injury, by the excellent Winston Reid – has been mostly solid. So far they've clocked up eight clean sheets in the league, the equal of high-flying Everton. If the worst comes to the worst West Ham will at least break the record for most number of clean sheets kept by a relegated top-flight side. That said, much like Spurs who are still without key centre-half Jan Vertonghen, West Ham will struggle to field a solid defence tonight if James Tomkins fails to recover from a groin strain in time. Despite these worries – and given the fact both sides struggle to score – what price a 0-0 draw and penalties? Michael Curle

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