Before the season started, many considered West Ham to be a stable mid table club who wouldn’t have to worry about being dragged into the relegation battle, but a misguided summer could prove very costly. They opted to spend £15m on Andy Carroll which is a lot of money for a club like West Ham, but the former Liverpool striker is yet to play for them this season. David Sullivan has already said that the club wouldn’t have bought Carroll had they known the extent of his injury, but buying a player with the injury record of Carroll was always going to be risky. It’s also worrying for West Ham fans that their side’s success appears to rely on Carroll as they seem to lack a plan ‘B’ in his absence.
They are currently in 19th place, languishing in the relegation zone after taking just 15 points from 20 matches. They are only 3 points from Cardiff in 17th so they haven’t been cut adrift just yet. The other four sides in the bottom five have all changed their managers this season, which would suggest the pressure is building on Sam Allardyce. He is known for his ability to keep sides in the top divisions, and with Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn, they all went down after he had left, but he appears to be struggling at West Ham. A manager who has been at a club for 2 and a half years shouldn’t be reliant on one player like he is with Carroll, so it appears he has made some errors at Upton Park. This is his squad of players so he can’t blame past managers – the blame for this season’s failings lie at his door.
The Hammers have only won one of their last thirteen league games, while they have only won three times this season. This is hugely disappointing for a club of West Ham’s stature, so it’s easy to see why Allardyce’s job is under threat. They have played many of the teams around them recently, but they haven’t got the crucial points on the board; having lost to Fulham and Crystal Palace in the past month. They also only managed draws against struggling Sunderland and West Brom at home, so to pick up only two points from these four matches is extremely poor.
West Ham’s success has been based on their strong defence, but injuries to key men has led to an unsettled back four which has leaked goals. Winston Reid, James Collins and James Tomkins have all had injury problems in the past few months which has contributed massively to their fall into the drop zone. Another huge problem for Allardyce has been the poor form of captain Kevin Nolan, who has managed to score only two goals this season. This has been a huge problem for West Ham as he would have been seen as the main goal threat without Carroll in the team. Nolan has also been sent off twice in the past month which has severely cost his side. It’s clear that the former Newcastle player is coming to the end of his Premier League career as he is no longer contributing like he used to. His chance conversion this season (7%) is a lot worse than last season (18%). In his last campaign for Newcastle in 2010/11, his chance conversion (24%) was even better. This highlights that he has been on the downward curve for the past few seasons.
Things could be entirely different in a month’s time if West Ham act wisely in January. Carroll is back in full training so he’ll boost the side when he eventually returns to the side. The Hammers are also likely to buy new players this month to boost their survival chances. They will look to bring in a striker to help Carroll fire West Ham to safety, while also providing a plan ‘B’ if the England International suffers another injury. Demba Ba has been linked with a possible return and he has proved he can score goals on a consistent basis in the top flight. Allardyce may also try and strengthen other areas to ensure the club are strong enough to survive this season. If results don’t pick up, the club’s owners might be tempted to change their manager as they will have learnt from West Ham’s last relegation where they stuck with Avram Grant when they should have brought in a new manager. West Ham are certainly in a relegation fight, but with the right additions and the return of Andy Carroll, they should be able to survive.