Going back to a bygone era when the likes of Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking graced the Upton Park pitch isn’t possible. What is possible is for a new striker to enter the fray and eclipse the records of past greats and leave West Ham fans saying Andy who?
Enter Diafra Sakho, the Senegalese forward became the first West Ham player ever to score on his first five league appearances for the Club, and just the ninth Hammer to score in at least six consecutive matches after Vic Watson, Geoff Hurst, Jimmy Ruffell, John Dick, Johnny Byrne, Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, David Cross and Tony Cottee. Further to this, he has now scored in six successive matches after heading the winner in the victory against Man City and ensured that Sam Allardyce’s team move to within one point of City in fourth spot. West Ham have now scored in their eight Premier League games, which is their best run since 2009.
Last season West Ham were reliant on a partnership of Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan to get goals in a direct style that left many Hammers disenamoured with their exploits. Boss Sam Allardyce was a figure of detest and was jeered in the aftermath of some defeats as well as some dogged victories. Not happy with their team moving away from the ”West Ham” way of playing (whatever that means) the West Ham fans left the owners with little choice but to sack Sam Allardyce it seemed. Not so, the trio of David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady opted to keep Sam Allardyce on although an ultimatum of signing ”attack minded” players was set and that the team must play an expansive style of football also. In hindsight it would have been cataclysmic for anybody other than Allardyce to lead the team in what is transpiring to be a very gratifying season.
Pundits queued up to query the boards thinking amidst a backlash on internet forums from disgruntled fans. ”You know what you are going to get with Sam Allardyce” they exclaimed. Adding that his teams are ”well organised, in your face teams that do enough to stay in the Premier League”. What such people fail to state is that Sam Allardyce does buy flair players and gives them a licence to roam in his team. Take Jay Jay Okocha at Bolton. He was a player that not only scored outrageously audacious goals, he show boated like Ronaldinho during matches. Nicholas Anelka arrived at the Reebok from Fenerbache, scoring twenty one goals in 53 Premier League matches and earning the club 7 million in his later move to Chelsea.
Again at Blackburn he scoured France and snared Steven Nzonzi’s signature. Now a stallwart in Stoke’s midfield, the player is tenchically good with a physical frame to break up play. Further evidence of Allardyce’s nous for spotting a talent comes in Germany, where Allardyce spotted Junior Hoillet’s talents during a rare first team outing for the player.”He showed good flashes of ability and hopefully will develop as the season goes on. He’ll play some part in a few games, probably off the bench, but he’ll be getting used to the Premier League and hopefully apply those skills slowly but surely” is what the boss said at the time.
At Newcastle, Allardyce brought in a spanish unknown left back called Jose Enrique. Now at Liverpool and known for marauding along the left hand side in support of the attack, it is safe to say that the player was another shrewd signing for the Lancastrian. He was quickly voted the clubs player of the season too. Not bad for a signing from Villarreal that was largely an unknown quantity in the eyes of Geordies and Premier League enthusiasts.
Combining upfront, Enner Valencia and Diafro Sakho are the best strike force in the top flight as far as I’m concerned. In many ways that is down to the extinxtion of 4-4-2 over competition from other strikers. That said the pair are as lively as it gets in the Premier League and have seen the East End side ascending to the dizzy heights of fourth.
Speaking of the success his new acquisitions have enjoyed, Allardyce said ,”Our two centre-forwards that we’ve bought this year paid massive dividends with the quality of the headers off brilliant crosses,”He went on to say ”the lads have confidence that if they give them the right supply they’re going to score. “He [Sakho] is a bargain”. ”This lad is being very, very exciting and he excites the rest of the players”. ”All the players who were here last season had some depressing times and they’ve all been lifted by the new players and their performances have increased”,
Today’s game lends itself to the number ten role and West Ham’s mesmerizing attacking midfielder occupies this position superbly. His strike on the volley against Crystal Palace was inch perfect in finding the bottom right hand corner and had the West Ham faithful and management purring. More recently, Allardyce beamed, “He is a different kind of player. ”He likes to find spaces”. ”None of our other players are like that”.“He has some strengths that other players at our club don’t have, and he showed that. He has the quality to break down tight defences.”
Often the but of jokes by England fans and Liverpool fans alike, it could have affected Stuart Downing’s confidence and resulted in a deterioration of collosal proportions. Standing tall and answering his critics isn’t Downing’s style and he has gone about his business in the low key style that goes hand in hand with his all round demeanour. Holding the record for the most accurate crosses at 11 out of 31 combined with the highest assists alongside Cesc Fabregas’ 25, it is easy to see that Downing should be in the England team. His manager couldn’t of harmed his caused when he said that ”I don’t think there is anybody playing in midfield that is better than Stewart Downing”.
Singing West Ham’s praises would be impossible without mentioning Mark Noble and his midfield partner put a case forward for an inclusion in the England line up. Downing described how,“I’m very surprised he hasn’t had a call. I always admired ‘Nobes’ when I played against him, thought he’s a really good footballer, but he’s impressed more working with him every day with his application, and being a good captain when he leads the team”. ”He’s probably been the most consistent performer since I’ve been here. That’s what they call him: ‘Mr Consistency’’. Noble is needed more than ever now to cover the ground that Kouyate was doing so athletically before getting injured. He epitomises West Ham and his tackling, goals and spanish esque short passing style have earned him plaudits a plenty. It’s just a shame he is overlooked on the intentional scene.
The below image portrays the ability for Sakho to revert to the inner right position as the whole team retreat without the ball.
West Ham are passing with zip, with purpose and as confidence grows, with swagger. They still play long passes though, just not the hoofed hopeful balls for Andy Carroll to contest. Allardyce’s men are hitting more long passes, increasing from 54.3 per match to 62.5 per match this term. Statistics can show what you want to see often although in this case it shows that Cresswell and Jenkinson are playing acute, weighted balls into the channels for the front two to pick up and start attacking phases.
Andy Carroll beamed at the prospect of playing with Aaron Cresswell, saying, “I can’t wait to play with Aaron Cresswell “because his delivery is out of this world!”. Along with the former Ipswich man, Alex Song’s return to the Premier League has been another reason for West Ham’s overall success and Saturday’s. Combining with Enner Valencia to set up Amalfitano was his master-stroke even though his all round unsettling of Man City’s midfield was what won this game.
Speaking after the 2-1 win over City, Allardyce describes the midfielders’ contribution, That’s a Yaya Toure-type signing for us. He’s a top quality player of the highest calibre and he’ll provide the sort of service our front line need.”He links everything together very well so we’ve got a top quality international player that’s played for Arsenal, for Barcelona and in the Champions League.”He’s obviously being slightly overshadowed by Enner Valencia and Sakho at the moment but he’ll have a big impact for us.”Allardyce added: “He’s a massive influence on the training ground and in the changing room – with his dress sense particularly.”Everyone has a lot respect for what he’s done before. He hasn’t hit top form yet but he’s certainly a major influence for us.”
With games against Stoke, West Ham and Newcastle to come, don’t bet against the hammers surge continuing and at this rate they will do so with some style.