The defeat at Stoke City showed just how important James Collins can be at the heart of our defence. Sam Allardyce decided to drop the Wales international for the trip to the Britannia Stadium, but the decision proved costly as the Hammers fell to a disappointing 3-1 defeat.
Some were rightly questioning Big Sam’s decision to drop the central defender. After all, he helped to kickstart our recent good run which included a late goal against Norwich City. But more importantly, Collins is one of the Hammers’ more talented defenders in the air. His height and presence at the centre of defence was needed against a side as physical as Stoke.
Mark Hughes’ side boasts so many aerial threats including Peter Crouch, who is the tallest outfield player in the Premier League. Last season, the Welshman made a couple of mistakes, including his poor back pass to set up the winning goal for Pavel Pogrebnyak at Reading last season. In the months after Winston Reid sustained a long-term injury, it also looked as though Collins and Tomkins would not work as a partnership.
They were not gelling particularly well and conceding goals aplenty, which was obviously a real worry for Big Sam. Recently, however, Collins and Tomkins have formed a better understanding and it now seems as though Reid may not be as important at the heart of the Hammers defence as it was once thought.
It is still difficult to understand why Collins was dropped. Prior to the unfortunate Everton defeat, the Hammers had embarked on a four game winning run, with the east Londoners unbeaten in their last five. It was clear that the former Aston Villa centre half had not done anything wrong in those games because he was a big reason for West Ham keeping so many clean sheets in that much-needed run.
Also, the Hammers were unlucky to concede such a late goal at Everton. The injured Guy Demel had just been replaced by the returning Winston Reid and within seconds Romelu Lukaku had despatched Leighton Baines’ low pullback into the back of the net. But that goal was not anyone’s fault in particular; someone should have just picked him up because everyone knows how dangerous the Belgian international can be.
Lukaku’s goal was not as a result of poor defending from Collins or any of his defensive team mates. It was most probably a lapse of concentration because the defensive substitute had just taken place. It will come as no surprise if James Collins returns to the starting line-up against Manchester United this weekend after the poor loss at the Britannia Stadium, and Allardyce may now think twice before dropping one of his more dominating defenders again.