West Ham have suffered a slump at the start of 2015 but why have Sam Allardyce’s men struggled for form since the turn of the year?
Throughout the opening months of the 2014/15 campaign, West Ham were a side that could simply do no wrong. Along with Ronald Koeman’s high-flying Southampton, the Hammers were seemingly rewriting Premier League history and completely shaking up traditional schools of thought that saw the bigger, more expensively assembled teams deserving of the top-spots.
As Sam Allardyce’s plucky outfit have only managed to record a single win, against a pretty lack-lustre Hull City side, in their last ten league outings however, the optimism and hope that previously surrounded Upton Park has once again been replaced with the all too familiar feeling of frustration and futility.
A shock 4-0 defeat at the hands of West Brom saw the Hammers unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup in what was supposed to be a realistic venture for West Ham this season, and with several of their key men failing to do the business so far in 2015, Sam Allardyce’s side have once again slumped back down to being a mid-table Premier League club with nothing much left to fight for.
In light of such developments, just what has been the underlying cause behind West Ham’s post-Christmas slide?
Well for one thing, there simply isn’t a mere individual cause underpinning the Hammers’ most recent decline. Several different combining factors have created problems for the east enders since the turn of the year, and as the club are seemingly struggling to re-establish their form of old, such issues have proved to be somewhat troublesome for Big Sam to say the very least.
The drop in form of several of his most important assets has nevertheless been a significant contributor. Since retiring from international football with Cameroon, Alex Song simply hasn’t been the player all Hammers fans know he can be. The former Arsenal man has looked distinctly nonchalant on the ball – often giving it away in dangerous situations, and not providing that driving force in the heart of West Ham’s midfield that was all so present at the beginning of the campaign. Whilst his form will certainly improve soon, Song just hasn’t been having a big enough effect of late.
The same can also be said of another of Big Sam’s top performers this season, Stewart Downing. The recently recalled England international has lacked the intensity that his earlier performances provided, and whilst he has still managed to effectively contribute here and there in 2015, his overall offering has simply not matched his earlier standards. As the Hammers certainly have deployed the use of the good old long-ball in recent months however, perhaps the likes of Alex Song and Stewart Downing are simply not being best utilised by their manager.
That in turn leads to another important issue. As Sam Allardyce has seemingly not been backed by the West Ham chairman over issues surrounding his contract coming to an end at completion of the season, perhaps a real sense of insecurity has begun to settle in within Big Sam’s squad. If the players know that their current manager will not be in place during next year’s campaign, this season will inevitably develop an air of pointlessness about it. With the fans also growing frustrated by the thought of Big Sam, something really does seem to be missing within the overall atmosphere around Upton Park at the moment.
That said, injuries and suspensions really haven’t helped the club’s situation and may have simply been the definitive cause behind West Ham’s post-Christmas slide. The defensive pairing of James Collins and Winston Reid were frustratingly ruled out for much of the winter period, Diafra Sakho has been suffering from a recurring back injury all season – and as for big Andy Carroll up top for the Hammers – thoughts of the lofty no. 9 ever completing a full season in the claret & blue are starting to seem dreamlike at best. As well as this misfortune, Morgan Amalfitano senselessly got himself sent off against West Brom recently and Cheikhou Kouyate was also missing for some vitally important matches due to Africans Nations duty with his home country of Senegal.
Coupled with the fact that the Hammers slyly had a very quiet January transfer window when a few more faces really could have helped things back in the east end, and an overall picture of West Ham’s recent decline starts to present itself more clearly. As 2014/15 has nevertheless been a far shot greater for the Upton Park faithful to watch in comparison to last year however, there are certainly some strong signs of renewed optimism still in and around West Ham for the remainder of this year’s campaign.
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