It is safe to say that West Ham have been awful this season. Although there may have been a few glimpses of brilliance to lure us into believing that perhaps everything will be okay in the end, there have not been nearly enough of those and now the Hammers are once again flirting with relegation.
With poor tactical choices and shoddy summer signings, Sam Allardyce has led his side down to where they currently sit, slumped in 17th place, just above the relegation zone with only Fulham, Crystal Palace and Sunderland below them. Although the Black Cats are five points adrift and appear doomed to play in the second tier next season, Fulham and Palace are level with the Hammers on 13 points and would be above us if not for goal difference.
All of the teams below West Ham have changed their manager in the past few months. Sunderland sacked Paolo Di Canio and brought in Gustavo Poyet; Ian Holloway walked out of Selhurst Park allowing Palace to bring in Tony Pulis; and Rene Meulensteen took charge of Fulham after the Cottagers got rid of Martin Jol a couple of weeks ago. This has refreshed West Ham’s rivals for the gruelling relegation battle that is about to ensue, whereas the Hammers appear to be, among other things, stagnant.
Furthermore, things could get much worse for West Ham before they have any chance of getting better. A quick glance at the teams we will be facing during the festive fixture frenzy shows that Allardyce really has his work cut out leading the West Ham into the New Year. With games including Manchester United away and Arsenal at home, as well as a distracting trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham in the League Cup quarter finals, the Irons look like they will need a miracle if they are to avoid dipping a toe in the drop zone during December.
It is common knowledge that teams in the bottom three of the Premier League at the midway point of the season often fail to avoid relegation when the last ball is kicked in May. So, now that West Ham are once again teetering on the edge of the Championship, Messrs Gold and Sullivan have two options:
1. Stick with Big Sam and give him the funds to bring in new recruits next month (including a decent striker)
2. Get rid of the manager before the January transfer window opens so that any replacement can sign the players whom they believe will keep West Ham up.
The Hammers kept the faith with Avram Grant when we were in a similar situation three years ago. Lessons must have been learnt from the mistakes made back then. Therefore, if West Ham are in the relegation zone by the end of the month, the owners should act swiftly in relieving Sam Allardyce of his duties and bring in a replacement capable of avoiding relegation from the Premier League.
When any team is not performing adequately to survive within its division, the manager of that side is almost always culpable. This West Ham team is of course no exception. The striker situation at West Ham is embarrassing. Playing 4-6-0 in home games is even more embarrassing. The team has dropped vital points in winnable games against the likes of Hull, Aston Villa, Norwich and Crystal Palace. In short, this season has been a shambles. Big Sam has to go. It is no secret that Allardyce has never been popular with the majority of West Ham fans.
His direct football has never sat well with the purists among the claret and blue army for whom the ‘West Ham Way’ is (or at least was) the only decent thing remaining in the modern game. But, for all his faults, the Hammers boss was the square peg for the square hole that West Ham needed to fill when they were relegated to the Championship in 2011.
Big Sam had one job to do – win promotion – and he did that straightaway. After doing such a good job up until the start of the 2013/2014 campaign, this was supposed to be a season of consolidation. Instead it looks like it could be another one of relegation. So the time has come for West Ham and Big Sam to move on, and in different directions. This was always going to come. No one ever genuinely believed Allardyce was the man to lead West Ham into the Olympic Stadium, did they? A beautiful new home deserves to host a brand of football that befits its wonderful surroundings. Big Sam cannot offer that. Now is the time to get back to the West Ham Way.
Teams like Swansea and Southampton have proven that it is possible to survive in the Premier League and play attractive football.
Not only have those sides survived, they have excelled. By having faith in the football ideals held by Brendan Rodgers (and latterly Michael Laudrup) and Mauro Pochettino, the Swans and the Saints have set the bar for other clubs to strive towards. Southampton’s decision to sack Nigel Adkins at the first sign of danger last season so they could bring in Pochettino was hugely unpopular with their fans, the media, and the wider footballing community.
But just look how well that decision has paid off. The Saints are sitting pretty in eighth place and managers, journalists, and pundits are queuing up to heap praise on them for their superb defending and equally as impressive attacking football. It is hard to see this without going green with envy. Southampton were, after all, promoted at the same time as West Ham. While the Saints go marching in, the Hammers, like our dreams, look set to fade and die.
A drastic change is needed at Upton Park to rediscover the Hammers’ hiding fortunes. Allardyce has assembled a half-decent squad that a manager with the right ideas could have playing good football. Big Sam has had his chance and needs to go, before it is too late.