Watching West Ham over the last couple of seasons, and especially the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a pretty frustrating trend going on with the substitutions Big Sam is making week in, week out at West Ham, and this came to a peak at home to Villa last weekend, where some of the substitutions being made by Big Sam were really quite frightening.
I’m only intending this as a quick rant at Allardyce’s substitutions, I’m going to stress now, and not a rant at Allardyce as a manager himself. I’m not one of those who is thinking we should get rid of the manager at all, it’s just that his substitutions lack common sense more than anything to be honest.
Anyway, last week against Villa, the main thing that was evident to the crowd inside Upton Park on Saturday is the lack of a striker once again. I’ve said before we shouldn’t play a false nine at home, especially against teams we should really be beating at home, like Villa, and to be fair to Big Sam he did resist, playing more of a 4-3-3 than a 4-6-0, with the only real problem being our starting striker was Kevin Nolan. And Nolan, let’s be fair, isn’t a striker. He can play off the striker, mainly when Andy Carroll is starting up top, but playing up there himself, he spent most of the game offside and generally not causing any threat to Villa’s back line. So you’d think, with two recognized strikers on the bench in Modibo Maiga and Carlton Cole, no matter how good we may think they are, they’ve got to be better than Nolan up there surely? The way Nolan played on Saturday, they wouldn’t have had to have done much to do any better.
So that was one of the roots of the main problem with the substitutions, but there were two other aspects too. Firstly, our central midfield three was certainly lacking something when the substitutions were made. We started with Mark Noble, Ravel Morrison and Jack Collison, who has only recently returned from a short loan spell down in Bournemouth, leaving Mo Diame on the bench. By the time we were thinking about subs, Mark Noble was having a brilliant game but had no movement in front of him from Nolan, so he would stay on once Nolan was replaced. Well that’s what we hoped anyway. Either way, that left either Collison or Morrison to be replaced by Diame, surely, to install the lack of flair in the midfield. Morrison is a flair player, but he was extremely quiet on Saturday, so he would have been the one to replace in my view, plus I thought Collison was actually having a decent game.
So those were the substitutions that, in my opinion should have been made. Carlton Cole for Nolan, Diame for Morrison. But yet the wingers come into this too. We played Jarvis on the left on Saturday, with Downing on the right. Both players looked like they could make something at some point, asking questions of the defenders and getting numerous crosses into the box, especially in the case of Downing, who I thought was the best player on the park against Villa. Either way, they were doing a good job of getting the crosses in, we just didn’t have a proper striker to get on the end of them. So fiddling with that combination shouldn’t have even crossed Sam’s mind.
And so, on the hour mark, we made our first two subs, and that’s when I started to get just a little bit angry. Instead of the sensible looking subs I had drawn up in my head, it was Carlton Cole for Collison, and Joe Cole for Jarvis. Now, where did Sam get that one from? Honestly, how does that make any sense?
So, Nolan is having a shocker and we keep him on, Morrison has hardly touched the ball and were keeping Diame on the bench over replacing Morrison, but more than anything, why take Jarvis off? We needed a striker to get on the end of Jarvis and Downing’s service, and with a double substitution we’ve managed to get the striker on, but cut the service he’s going to get in half. It just lacks common sense.
oe Cole, like I expected, did hardly anything in the half hour he was on, and the service coming into Cole was reduced, so we finished without a goal again. And Sam only has himself to blame. In one double substitution, he gave even less flair to a midfield that needed increased flair by essentially replacing Nolan for Collison, and cut down the striker’s service, who he was only just bringing on at the time too. As double substitutions go, that one was literally a step backwards.
And to make matters worse, the flair we evidently needed, preferably in the shape of Diame, didn’t make an appearance until about 2 minutes from the end, so it had no time to make an impact at all really. We needed him to come on much earlier, and preferably for Morrison, or Nolan once he’d moved back into the midfield.
And this isn’t the only substitution issue I have with Sam. It didn’t happen on Saturday, but he has an unhealthy obsession with bringing on Matty Taylor as his impact sub. The word ‘impact’ being used extremely loosely. Usually when he is brought on, we have numerous better options on the bench, but he always goes for Taylor on the wing, where he doesn’t really do anything at all, or at all full back. And he’s not great there either if I’m honest. It just frustrates me how Allardyce can’t see that this is just a waste of a sub every time he makes it.
So that’s the end of my rant. Like I say, this isn’t a call for the sacking of Allardyce not at all. He’s done brilliantly to get us up into the Premier League at the first attempt, and then comfortably keep us there with a top half finish last year. And despite our slight problems at the minute, we have a pretty good squad. So to get rid of him for the sake of his estranged substitutions would be stupid. He just needs to make a bit more sense with his substitutions, and then we might be on to a winner. On another note, Norwich away will be tricky tomorrow, as it’s not an easy place to go, and we’ll have to score you’d feel, as without Reid our incredible defensive record away from home could start to crack. I believe we can get something however, as long as we can actually do something in the final third this week. Well, I hope we can do something anyway, otherwise it’s going to be a wasted couple of hours journey.