Pressure has been growing on West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce over the previous couple of months.
1 win in their last 13 Premier League matches prior to their trip to Cardiff City on Saturday had seen West Ham drop into the relegation zone.
A 5-0 thrashing by Nottingham Forest and a 6-0 thrashing by Manchester City in the League Cup had many fans thinking Big Sam would be booted out of Upton Park before travelling to the Welsh capital.
In truth, looking at the team that was named to face Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup and his demeanor in his pre-match interview, he was happy to be eliminated from the competition and not add additional games to the fixture list.
Allardyce even replaced his only experienced defender (Alou Diarra) 10 minutes into the second half to finish the match with defenders between the ages of 17 and 21 with little first team experience. Perhaps the 5-0 scoreline wasn’t what he envisaged.
The League Cup has never been high on my agenda but if/when my team make the semi-finals I finally have some interest (it’s happened once in my lifetime for Derby County). But facing Manchester City, I’m sure Sam wouldn’t have minded forfeiting the match.
Premier League Survival: #1 Priority
Essentially, survival in the Premier League is worth a lot more money than a run in either or both cups. And when you’re 19th in the Premier League as they were heading into their two cup matches, with a number of injuries throughout the squad, the league became 100% priority.
Injuries really have been a big part of West Ham’s struggles of late. Not a great excuse to make, but Andy Carroll made his first appearances of the season this weekend (even recorded an assist as a late substitute). The attack is built around him. His backups – Carlton Cole is doing better than I expected. Modibo Maïga has been useless in front of goal. Ricardo Vaz Te has also been injured.
Defensively, after James Tomkins went off injured after 11 minutes against West Bromwich Albion at the end of December, West Ham didn’t have a single experienced centre-back on the pitch. Instead, full-backs were moved into the middle. 3 goals were conceded such were the problems with fitness in defence.
Johnny Heitinga has already rejected a move this month but I expect a couple of players to be brought in during the transfer window. The squad has proven to be too thin and they could certainly do with some upgrades.
West Ham are the bookmakers’ fifth favourites to be relegated this season. Crystal Palace are odds on favourites at 1.62, followed by Cardiff City (2.04), Fulham (2.12) and Sunderland at 2.62. West Ham are 3.35, shorter than Norwich City who are 3.85. Everyone else is 6/1 or higher.
So the bookmakers aren’t expecting West Ham to go down. I believe survival this season will be enough to save Sam Allardyce his job. I think firstly his reputation gained with Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers has helped keep his job to this point.
Allardyce has a good record for taking teams to mid-table. Perhaps they overachieved last season in 10th place. And sure, managers don’t often get long in this business, but unless the West Ham owners are willing to give a new manager £50 million to spend in January to build his team, they’d be foolish to give Sam the boot before the end of the season.
Keeping His Job
Sam Allardyce is a crazy 1/5 to be the next manager to leave his role in the Premier League. I really believe he will drag this team away from the relegation zone once he gets his first team players back from injury. Andy Carroll got some game time Saturday, James Collins, Joey O’Brien and Guy Demel are all due back this month. Winston Reid has been the biggest loss though.
The short odds are probably explained by a couple of tough fixtures – home to Newcastle next weekend is followed by a trip to Chelsea. Two defeats would likely see the Hammers fall back into the relegation zone before they start February with a run of fixtures they could be expected to take points from in each game – at home to Swansea City, at Aston Villa, home to Norwich and Southampton.
Who else could go?
Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert is second favourite at 9/1. I’m not sure what the board are expecting of Aston Villa this season – avoiding relegation would have been my priority based on last season and the lack of investment over the summer. Fans must be disappointed in a lack of productivity from Christian Benteke this season but they’re picking up points without his goals which is a positive to take in. I think it would be tough to sack Lambert unless they get sucked into a relegation scrap.
Alan Pardew is 12/1. Newcastle are doing fine this season and he’s got quite a few years left on his contract. Has been very negative in his interviews heading into today’s home fixture with Manchester City. Defeatist you may say. Well, I can’t blame him. But they’ve been competitive in most games this season, even beating Chelsea and are in the top half.
Norwich City’s Chris Hughton is also 12/1 and I think he has to be a strong candidate to lose his job next. The Canaries have gone backwards compared to their 11th place finish last season. The return of Gary Hooper has seen the front line produce more goals than when Ricky van Wolfswinkel was playing. They’re also 6 games without a win and 2 points above the drop zone with 17 games remaining.
René Meulensteen at 28/1 – could Fulham really sack two managers in the same season? Right now, I think Fulham are heading out of the Premier League. I wasn’t a fan of Martin Jol and whilst the attack looked to be more productive immediately after Meulensteen took charge, the defending has been horrible. Wins against Norwich City and 10-man West Ham have really helped the Cottagers, but they’ve been thrashed 6-0 by Hull City and 4-1 by Sunderland in two of their last three and will finish matchday 21 1 point above the drop zone.