It seems likely that, for good or ill, Big Sam will be leaving us at the end of the season. I have always been ambivalent about the fellow myself and while I think he has ultimately done more good for us than not feel that it is time to move forward. The reality is that Big Sam is not a manager whose philosophy or values will move us much forward.
In the last few weeks I have seen people breakdown into more or less three camps. The first are the people who want Big Sam to leave and want to see a dramatic change in the philosophy at the club. These people would favor a change in manager to someone like Michael Laudrup or Marcello Bielsa. The next group wants a change mostly because they don’t like Sam or are just general malcontents. They seem to favor Moyes and other similar managers as a replacement. The final group is the smallest and seems to be made up primarily of Big Sam’s supporters. They tend to either blame the injuries (reasonable) or just don’t think the squad is good enough (fair, but less reasonable) and tend to think that Sam has done the best with what he’s got.
I tend to fall a little between the first and second groups. I disregard the third group because I do not believe they are right about the overall quality of the squad but even if they were the quality of the squad is in part up to the choices Sam makes. I have written extensively in the past on the choices Sam makes and how it impacts players choosing to come, or not, to West Ham. I won’t revisit that here other than to say for a club on the verge of going into a big new stadium, a club that has seemed on the rise, it has been surprisingly hard to get talented players through the door, and those that have come through were often not Sam’s top choice.
The reason I say that I fall between the first two groups is this; I do not necessarily want a manager who is inflexible in his tactics and philosophy. I think there are times where long balls are necessary and I think there are times when closing up the shop is the right choice. By and large I want a manager who will get maximum effort from their players, urge them to go get that second goal when they are up 1-0, and will support and nurture young talent. Big Sam often seems to fail at all three of these.
We have left 8 points on the table since the first of the year by giving up leads late. We lost to Crystal Palace at home in a display that was quite sad, and we went back to old tactics as the season wore on despite the diamond formation and the resurgence of Downing. Zarate, who was quite good in the few times he was on the field, was deemed not good enough, and the relationship with Ravel deteriorated in an on going drama that probably sees all sides at fault. What can’t be doubted is the continuous misuse and mistreatment of talented players is costing the team and that comes down to the fault of Sam Allardyce.
Those are the problems as I see them and the needs I see in a next manager.