If you’re as intent on internally torturing yourself as I am, you may well have seen an article in the Daily Mirror last Tuesday by Duncan Wright, addressing what he described as the ‘West Ham striker crisis.’
Now, this piece went up went up on Tuesday afternoon so naturally, I assumed Mr Wright had written it before the signing of Mladen Petric was announced. But no: “West Ham have Maiga and now Petric.” Evidently, having three fit senior strikers (two of them internationals) and one England international striker working on his comeback qualifies as a ‘crisis.’
I’d hate to think what the esteemed author made of the summer of 2008, where the Hammers paid a transfer fee for only one player (£5m for Valon Behrami from Lazio) and ended up playing the bumbling David Di Michele and the dog-tired Diego Tristan up front for most of the season!
Let’s be clear about this. It would have been infinitely preferable that Sam Allardyce had put the remainder of our transfer budget towards another striker, instead of splashing out on a hugely overrated winger who couldn’t get in the worst Liverpool team I’ve ever seen but he didn’t, and now appears to have abandoned the 2011/2012 plan to turn the club into ‘West Ham Wanderers’ in favour of an updated 2013 plan to turn us into ‘Liverpool Ham United’.
We haven’t strengthened the frontline like most of us hoped we would but this does not mean the situation is a crisis, far from it. Mr Wright acknowledges in his article that ‘Big Sam’s teams are always organised, disciplined and hard to beat’. Quite so. It is teams like this which Allardyce has built which have ensured that he has never once been relegated in a managerial career spanning 22 years.
Yeah alright, I know West Brom got relegated to League One for the only time in their history in 1991 with Big Sam on the coaching staff, but that was only as assistant player-manager, so we’re not going to count that one. The point is that with Sam Allardyce as your manager, you know what you will get. You will not get a lot of goals but you will get a solid defence.
You will also pick up a lot of yellow cards and you will get a phenomenally boring assistant manager. There is a reason why Allardyce has never been relegated (in a senior managerial capacity) in his entire managerial career. He sets his sides up exactly the same way, building from the back, through midfield and anything up front is a bonus.
His teams will never get relegated but they won’t tear up many trees either, Bolton in 2004/2005 was the result of many long hard slogs over several season; Allardyce was a Revieesque figure at Bolton and achieved a very particular kind of success there based on a very particular relationship he had with his players. It remains to be seen whether he can repeat that kind of relationship with the players here. They certainly seem to like him.. Mr Vaz Te aside. Talking of the snapback connoisseur himself, we have a potentially decent Premier League striker if two things happen.
Firstly Allardyce builds some bridges with Vaz Te and publicly ruffles his hair and refers to him as ‘a good lad’ and secondly Allardyce follows this up by, when we lack a centre forward in the absence of Carroll, playing the one fit senior centre forward we have available (RVT) as opposed to sending out the pacy but lightweight Maiga. If those two things happen and Vaz Te starts to enjoy his football again, we could have a #Baller on our hands
In Maiga as well, we have a decent striker. Fans quick to criticise him for his performances so far this season are quick to forget his impressive performances as an impact substitute last season. Goals against Southampton and Chelsea shortly after coming on as sub showed that the Mali international is capable of scoring goals at this level. It sounds a simple thing but never underestimate the added quality boost playing players in their correct positions can give your team as a manager. In the absence of Carroll, Vaz Te should be playing centre forward and Maiga should be playing off his shoulder. Done.
And what of Petric? Five goals in 23 appearances in a previous spell at Fulham doesn’t leave him exactly steaming hot, but the bloke is an international and Croatia aren’t bad these days. We could have done a lot worse in terms of a free signing and he deserves his chance. The fact is that West Ham United have been through striker crises before and this is not one of them.
Yes, our best striker is out injured but we have three fit senior forwards raring to go and eager to prove a point, as well as some great young players. Add that to the fact that our defence is the strongest it’s been since 85/86 and those claiming we’re in the midst of a crisis really should buy a dictionary.