As a lifelong West Ham fan, last night’s 1-0 win at Brighton was a shock to the system. Over the years I’ve gotten used to teams coming to the Boleyn and being solid at the back, looking for long balls out of defence to an isolated front man, pressing high up the park and generally not being interested in playing any football on the ground.
I’ve been used to these teams battling hard and nicking a narrow win against a generally naïve and tactically poor West Ham team who have tried to play the right way. What we are not used to is West Ham being the solid, battling unit that won at Brighton last night.
“It’s not the West Ham way” cry the purists. And they’re right, it’s not. But after the last couple of years of watching West Ham be the soft touch of the Premier League and being easily beaten by all and sundry, it’s a refreshing change to see us come away from games having played poorly but still winning. It is the hallmark of all successful teams.
When Sam Allardyce came in as manager, he made it clear in his very first press conference that this is how he would play away from home. He said that the most important thing is to make us hard to beat. Can anyone argue that he hasn’t done that? 4 wins, 2 draws and a solitary defeat from 7 away games played suggest that he is delivering his promise. Can you imagine last night’s game under Zola or Grant’s management? We would have suffered a convincing defeat, without question.
We all know that the performance was a long way from our best. We should have kept the ball better when going forward and the inability to string more than three passes together is a massive concern. But we should remember that West Ham were missing at least 6 first team regulars, which forced the likes of Jack Collison to play out of position. The weather conditions made it hard for either side to play their best football, with the ball skidding off the surface all too often.
We should also remember what the end goal of this season is. West Ham want to be back in the Premier League, and at the moment we are right on course. Where Allardyce will know he has to improve is at the Boleyn Ground, where apart from the Blackpool game we have largely failed to exert our attacking abilities onto the opposition. Last night’s tactics work away from home because naturally the home team are under more pressure to take the initiative, but they won’t at the Boleyn. We will need to pass the ball better and be prepared to change the formation to be more attacking.
If Allardyce can get this part right then I think we have every chance of being promoted come the end of the season.