Monday, 22 October 2012

Sitting in Seventh - Dare We Dream?

Now given the club anthem, dreaming is, of course, a dangerous thing. Leeds fans posting on here like to taunt about bubbles from the backside, and any presumptuous talk, I must confess, usually sets my tummy rumbling. We are West Ham United, after all, and West Ham United have never given the fans an easy ride.

But then again, we are no longer West Ham United, are we? Since Allardyce took charge, the mentality of the club has changed. Bugger pretty football, Allardyce's first priority is to avoid defeat and his second is to win. And thus far, the team are keeping pretty well to his script.

It's true that we haven't beaten "much" so far this season, but it's true too that this is a pretty average Premiership. Chelsea and Man City stand out, but other than that, there's nobody to be truly terrified of. In fact, the performance and result against Arsenal must be rated disappointing because Arsenal are no longer a major force, as the result at Norwich proved. I suspect that a fully fit and firing Carroll would have won that game for us before Walcott made it on to the pitch.

We are sitting on 14 points already, and we were desperately unlucky against Sunderland. Had we netted one of the six chances that went begging in that game, we would now be in the top four, and a fifth of the way through the season, that would be truly amazing.

And we have done all this whilst battling with injuries to key players. Demel was missing on Saturday and he has been our best player so far this season. O'Brien is out, and whilst no Ashley Cole or Glenn Johnson, he is probably our best full back outside of Demel. To win with Tomkins at right back is quite an achievement! Carroll has been out too, and has not yet achieved full sharpness. Diarra hasn't kicked a ball yet. Collison has been injured too. Cole is apparently only ever going to be 90% fit. And Maiga is learning about the British game and will get better the more game time he gets,

The Independent carries an article today contrasting the recruitment policy of Allardyce and Adkins and the summer recruitment strategy was nothing short of stunning. Even without Carroll's wages, we spent over £16m in the summer, and Allardyce invested it very wisely indeed. Diame paired with Noble allows Nolan to play higher than he did last season in the Championship, Jarvis offers pace and flair on the flanks, Carroll may not be everybody's cup of tea but he is one of the best English strikers currently playing the game and has a brilliantly understanding with Nolan, Collins has made mistakes but has oodles of experience and has the heart of a lion, Jussi is at least as good as Green, Maiga may yet prove to be an astute signing, Benayoun will win us games with his flair and if Diarra gets fits. he may not yet be a pup.

And best of all, Allardyce is getting the best out of Noble, who I still maintain will make the England squad before the season ends.

Is there a storm cloud on the horizon? Of course. The fixtures will get harder and we have yet to see how the team responds when results go against them, but the full back positions apart, we look well equipped to cope with all but the best five or six teams in this division - home or away.

So should targets now be revised? I found myself wanting QPR and Everton to draw, suddenly wanting to keep a club above us in range rather than worrying absolutely about a relegation probable closing the gap on us. That is quite a sea change for me!

Is a top ten finish beyond us? No, although we need to sign two full backs in the January window to achieve it. Can we make it into the top six? Unlikely but never say never. Top four? Of course not, but it is fun to be within touching distance a fifth of the way through the season.

And relegation? It is still possible. Remember Blackpool. Remember Birmingham. There's always one team that starts well and then stumbles. This is no time to get cocky, but my money would be on Swansea collapsing rather than ourselves.

Time will tell. Dare we dream? Let's wait until after the Wigan game shall we?


Anonymous said...

Anony-mouse says,

Good article HF. You seem like a different man these days :)

I'm not digging you or anybody out here but you know that I always defended Allardyce on this site. However, I myself have been surprised at just how far he's taken us so quickly. After Wembley I would happily have taken 17th but now? I'm not counting chickens, and won't relax until we get to 38-40 points but this team does not look like one likely to be threatened by relegation. I'd say more like 8th-13th if I had to guess.

The big step forward came in the last week of the window. Real and effective class came through the door in the shape of Yossi, Carroll and Jarvis. That added to terrific signings we'd already made in Diame, Diarra and Maiga. None of us expected that volume and quality of transfers late in the window. It made the Summer dealings of the likes of Reading and Southampton look insufficient and naive.

Not just in points, but we are now way ahead of the very teams who caused us so much ire and stress last season. And still laughingly, they don't realise what has happened- witness Saints fans clinging on to the belief that we are a 'hoofball' team inferior to them, in the aftermath of a game where during it's key passages it was a case of men against boys.

Fair play to G+S- I didn't think they had it in them. Big thumbs up to Allardyce- if his intention on arriving at UP was to re-establish his reputation then he's certainly done that. This is going to be a decent little season. COYI!

Lord Canning said...

Far too early to dream. After Wigan out next 7 games include City, Newcastle,Tottenham , Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool. If we can get the end November with more than 20 points in the bag, then I might start to dream. Halfway to safety with another 23 games to go.
Keep calm.

Lord Canning said...

Far too early to dream. After Wigan out next 7 games include City, Newcastle,Tottenham , Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool. If we can get the end November with more than 20 points in the bag, then I might start to dream. Halfway to safety with another 23 games to go.
Keep calm.

Anonymous said...

one word mate


John said...

Thought there would have been more enthusiasm about Maiga's goal.Lets face it he got through three of their players at pace and hit an absolute beauty without losing stride, It was pure skill, and a magnificent goal. Can't see Carlton getting much match play now.

Sav said...

I agree about the two full backs. We totally need to get them in January. But, so far so good, and we are all blowing bubbles!

Anonymous said...

Kevin in Manchester writes

spot on anony-mouse. Alladyce is the ultimate pragmatist. He gets the best out the players he has. He plays to a plan sensibly crafted for whoever the opposition maybe- we'll probably lose as often as we win but that's down to the quality of the squad. We'll even lose to teams we should beat but every team has off days. People laugh when Alladyce says he thinks he could do a job for England; I believe he could because ironically there would be no hit and hope that the class will somehow click- they'd play to a plan and do better than under anyone else we have had at the national helm.

USA Dave said...

Agree with John. That was easily one of the goals of the season in the EPL thus far. Cole wont see much time, barring injury, until Maiga goes in January to play in the African Cup of Nations.

Also agree with the Good Lord Canning. Points will be few and far between in all probability between November 1 and New Year. It makes three points from Wigan feel necessary.

Still, we are getting points when we should be getting points.

Dean Spicer said...

I still think we need a centre back as well as two full backs. We're only defending better now because we're well drilled and well organised. Thanks to the gaffer and the coaching staff. And because the games haven't been that hard.

But we're lacking some real quality at centre back.

We've got loads of talent in midfield and now have 2 quality strikers (I agree John. Maiga's goal was magnificent and if Sergio Aguero had scored it, it would be headline news) that surly now has to make Carlton Cole our main striker for over 5 years a 3rd choice striker.

However I digress. I think sooner or later we'll see goals leaking in if we don't buy a top class centre back in Jan. Look how well Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon started last time we got promoted. We all know how well we defended the following season.

I love Tomkins (What with him being an academy grad) and have nostalgia for Collins when he was quality a few years back. But Collins got dropped from the Wales squad for a reason he's not the player he use to be. He's done ok against QPR, Norwich, Southampton etc. But lets be honest those clubs could all be in the championship. (They're pretty shit) and we're on a role. Good moral and team spirt work wonders. He made a shocking mistake agains Swansea and we were punished for it.

How solid will Collins look after we've lost a few games. For instance in March. After he'll undoubtedly be run ragged by Man United and then a few days later we have to play Chelsea I think he'll get taken apart. We're as you'd argue that the centre back pairing of Distin and Jagielka at Everton might be able to handle that and you'd go into the game thinking you could keep a clean sheet.

I like Winston Reid. I think he could play centre back for us for years. But I think he needs a top quality partner to learn off.

Having Collins and Tomkins as utility/squad players to help out when needed. (Like now with injuries is great) but not first choice if we're serious about top 10 any time soon.