It is often said by the West Ham faithful that Kevin Nolan must be Sam Allardyce’s love child because the skipper rarely gets substituted in games and never gets pointed out after a poor performance by the gaffer.
During the Chelsea game, however, the unthinkable happened, Kevin Nolan was replaced midway through the second half for Matthew Jarvis. A cheer erupted around Upton Park when the number four appeared on the fourth officials board. It was yet another abject display from the West Ham captain reminiscent of that of a certain captain of years gone by Matthew Upson. The game passed him by, everything he touched went to a blue shirt; it was just an all-round bad day at the office for Nolan.
Now I’m willing to admit the sheer excitement I had when that yellow ticker went across that Sky Sports News bar two seasons ago which read: “Kevin Nolan signs for West Ham on a five year deal”. There was no doubting at the time what a quality signing he was, a goal scoring midfielder for the Championship of his quality was not to be sniffed at.
But now two seasons on and it seems that he has run out of ideas and confidence and it is so clear that he misses his pal Andy Carroll. Playing 4-6-0 with Kevin Nolan the furthest forward just doesn’t work. With Vaz Te up there it worked at times because he could hold the ball up or at least run at the defence.
Nolan’s form is very concerning. As captain you are expected to lead from the front and in recent games that just hasn’t happened. Yes he had a good first half against Norwich but he then turned into a passenger in the second half.
A lot of fans could forgive him last season because even if he had a bad day at the office he would still pick up a goal late on to make the faithful forget all about his previous errors in the game. But with just one goal this season, some fans are calling for him the take a place on the bench with Mark Noble taking over the armband. Is time running out for Nolan?
This season has seen him miss chances that over the last two seasons he would finish in his sleep, the miss against Villa in particular springs to mind. Yes it was at an angle but I have never seen a professional footballer in the Premier League spoon a ball that much. A confident Nolan would have finished that chance with ease and grace last season.
With six in midfield as a team you have to press high up the pitch and get in the faces of the opposition and I can’t help but feel without Nolan in the team the midfield would do a better job of it. I also believe it would get the best out of Ravel Morrison as it would allow him to push further up the pitch. Morrison is wasted in the deeper role, he is the player who can change things and make things happen. Instead he is often found on the half way line having to make all the running himself only to look in front of him and see absolutely no one on the same wavelength as him
I would love to see Diame in that holding role next to Noble, with Jarvis and Downing on the wing with Morrison in “the hole” as the false striker. For me that is the best way to play Allardyce’s new system whilst Carroll is out, and that does mean unfortunately “captain fantastic” does miss out. Besides a break may well do Nolan good. He has looked jaded in games and at times just can’t keep up with the pace of the game. I remember two seasons ago in the Championship, following Nolan’s sending off against Millwall, he served his three match ban and came back a new player.
So maybe a rest is in order for Nolan to recharge his batteries and help him to get back fit and firing on all cylinders. Like it or not an in form Nolan is an asset to any Premier League team, let alone a Premier League team languishing near the foot of the table. It would be a high risk strategy from Sam Allardyce to drop his captain especially for two of the biggest games of the season, Fulham at home and Crystal Palace away, but it is one that he may have to make.
I firmly believe we will see the best out of Nolan once his mate Andy Carroll is back in the starting eleven as it gives the Hammers a target up front to aim at. Now I have said all this watch him prove me completely wrong and grab a hat trick when it matters against Fulham. It is time to step up Kevin, your team needs you.