If someone asked you which striker from the Premier League’s past you would want to lead the line not many would say Kevin Davies, but for 9 years Davies regularly featured for Bolton Wanderers despite not being a prolific goal scorer. The main reason for this was he perfectly fitted the role needed for a Sam Allardyce team – a role that is currently empty, due to the injury to Andy Carroll.
Andy Carroll, who joined West Ham for a club record £15m in the summer, was injured during the final game of last season and was only back in training at the beginning of the month before a new foot injury has ruled him out for the foreseeable future.
This will be a worry for Allardyce and fans, after they featured in yet another game on Sunday when they failed to score, upping the total to 3 consecutive Premier League matches since a goal. Another worry, will be the fact that West Ham have only managed 6 shots on target so far this season – the lowest in the Premier League; showing no sign that improvement is on the horizon.
Kevin Nolan had a good partnership with Kevin Davies at Bolton and Nolan has combined well with Andy Carroll to create a similar partnership, which has seen the midfielder score double figures in both of his seasons at West Ham, finishing the club’s top scorer last season with 10 goals. With no direct replacement for Carroll in the squad though, Nolan’s impact, or lack of it, in the final third has suffered this season despite opening his account on the opening weekend.
The striker position was also problem for West Ham last season when Carroll was forced out with injury. The Hammers had a 38% win percentage when Carroll played – the joint highest amount out of anyone in the Hammers’ squad with over 10 appearances – whilst only having a win percentage of 17% without Carroll in the side.
The current replacement in the side is Modibo Maiga, but the striker has failed to establish himself at the club since his arrival last summer and repeated poor performances this season mean he is most likely to lose his place in the side to recent Bosman signing Mladen Petric.
Petric, who scored 5 goals in 24 appearances for Fulham last season, is a technically good player, however he is another striker that doesn’t the fit the number 9 role that needs to be addressed at West Ham if their fortunes in front of goal are to improve.
A physical presence is needed for a striker playing in Allardyce’s system, but both Maiga and Petric struggled to win battles in the air and on the ground last season. The forwards had ground 50-50 win percentage of 29% and 39% respectively, whilst a slightly better aerial 50-50 win percentage of just over 40% – which is a noticeable difference to Andy Carroll, who won 65% of his aerial 50-50’s and 42% of ground 50-50’s. With the recruitment of Stewart Downing in the summer, winning the ball in the air will be even more so important as Allardyce looked to the winger to help Carroll improve his goal and assist tally of 7 and 5, despite this not working out at Liverpool for several reasons.
Carlton Cole has been rumoured to be returning to Upton Park, after he was released at the end of last season, and whilst he fits the number 9 role more effectively than Maiga and Petric, West Ham fans will be disappointed that they are returning to a player who only managed 2 goals and assists, as well as having the lowest win ratio at the club last season.
Yet with Allardyce unlikely to change his style of play that on a defensive front has been brilliant – West Ham have only conceded 1 goal in the league this season – the return of Cole seems like the only viable option that would help West Ham’s struggling attacking play.