Filed: Monday, 13th August 2012
By: Tom Kilbey
Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our latest recruit Tom Kilbey. Tom opens his KUMB account by looking at Sam Allardyce's current squad and examining its strengths and weaknesses ahead of this weekend's season-opener against Aston Villa...
With little over a week to the start of the season, now is the time to start thinking ahead to the opener against Aston Villa. With the board still frantically trying to secure the services of new players, our team is starting to shape up. Let's take a look through our squad, and at a potential new system for next year.
When going through the team, it doesn't take long before there's a debate. Henderson or Jaaskaleinen? Youth or experience? Through pre-season, Big Sam has alternated between the two goalkeepers, giving both a chance to impress. I'd like to see Henderson given a chance since Jussi is definitely not the keeper he used to be. Only time will tell.
Unfortunately, there isn't much of a debate here. I say 'unfortunately' because I feel that this is perhaps our weakest area. Allardyce's style is going to be based on a solid defence, and I don't think we have this, especially at left back.
Demel will start on the right side of defence and although he looked far from comfortable at times last season, he is highly rated and after a few games in pre-season he should hopefully step up.
I'd also like Jordan Spence to be given a final chance this season. Despite not making an impact at Bristol City last season, what I've seen of him tells me that he is a capable defender and he is reaching the age at which we need to decide to either give him a run in the side, or let him go.
On the left side of defence our only real option is George McCartney and I don't think he is of sufficient quality despite having a solid, if not spectacular spell for us last season.
In the youth ranks we have Danny Potts. I am fully aware he has the potential to be an excellent player but we are perhaps guilty of over-hyping our youngsters. After one excellent game last season he had a couple of very shaky performances; should we believe he can step into the role of a Premier League player after just three first team appearances?
This is one position where there isn't too much of a debate. Some people are seeing the signing of James Collins as a step back but I have always rated him, so consider him as a good signing.
Besides him, we have the ever improving James Tomkins who should build on his performances last season - plus we also have Winston Reid. I had my doubts about him for the first year and a bit, but I think life in the Championship allowed him to come on leaps and bounds and isn't a bad back up to have.
We could perhaps do with one more centre back, but our new signing Alou Diarra can play there if needed so we are in fairly good shape here.
We seemingly have two defensive midfielders in our team, both of whom are among the most talented players in the squad. For this reason, I cant help but thinking we will play with two holding midfielders.
Diarra and Diame in front of the back four would fit an Allardyce-style defensive tactic and could be effective with the right balance. Of course, we still have Mark Noble who could play a similar role, although I do fear for him in a system like this as he could easily find himself shunned from the first team.
Central Attacking Midfielder
If we did play with two defensive-minded midfielders, we would need to play with three in front of them whose primary job would be to create and score goals. In the middle, we would inevitably play Kevin Nolan, although we also have the option of Jack Collison who only really impressed last season when playing in a more advanced role.
More than anything else, I hope that we play with genuine wingers next season. Since we lost Matthew Etherington, we have been hugely lacking in width, making us look bereft of ideas.
In the centre we have absolutely no creativity, making it even more critical that we get the ball wide. I despise seeing players like Collison play out wide like he did so often last season. Quite frankly, if we try to fit all our midfielders into our side, we will not have a chance last season.
Although we would all like to see players like Jack in our side, we have to realise that we must play players in the correct position so inevitably, some will have to miss out. I hope we play with Ricardo Vaz Te and Modibo Maiga, which would give us a genuine forward threat.
It is promising to see that we are pursuing new wingers.With a bid lodged for Matt Jarvis and reported interest in the exciting Senegalese prospect Pape Moussa Konaté, hopefully by Saturday we will be in a position where we can play out-and-out wingers rather than central midfielders playing out of position.
I don't think there's much of a debate up top. Maiga may want to play in a central role but surely he can be best utilised on the wing, leaving Carlton Cole with the unenviable responsibility of being our only striker.
I think Maynard will fall short of Premier League quality and with Baldock being sold, this only leaves us with the single striker. According to reports, we will only sell Baldock once we get a replacement, which make sense.
One name being mentioned is that of Louis Saha, which has been greeted with an avalanche of criticism from many West Ham fans. I would happily have him on a short term, free transfer. If he can get eight goals for us, and share the workload of Carlton Cole, and provide competiton for his place, I dont really see the problem.
People are complaining it's only a short term solution, but surely that's exactly the point? If he can get us a few critical goals over the next two years and help us establish ourselves as a Premier League side, I'll be very happy. This is, of course, providing we sign young talent as well, and if we can seal the signing of Konaté - and perhaps one other forward player - I'd be fairly happy with our attacking options.
My system therefore, would look something like this (which could obviously switched round in terms of personnel):
Demel; Tomkins; Collins; New Left Back
Vaz Te; Nolan; Maiga
Besides this, our only other real option would be to play Diarra at centre half alongside Tomkins and play a more conventional 4-5-1 with Noble, Diame and Nolan across the middle. Either system could work, although I'd prefer to play our most experienced player, with the most pedigree in his best position which would favour the system I've outlined.
It's interesting to think that Noble will struggle to get in the team this year with such strength in the middle of the park; I guess this is a sign of a vast improvement in our midfield. It's just a shame that we have primarily had success in the transfer window in the position that was already the strongest.
Hopefully, in the next week or two, we will have similar success in the positions that still look weak.
*Tom Kilbey may also be found on Twitter at twitter.com/tom29whu.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
by Ady Northfield
06:41PM 20th Aug 2012
''I really can't see how so many fans rate Cole or Nolan. Cole couldn't trap a bag of cement, he can't get his feet off the floor if going for a header, playing one up top you need someone to hold the ball up bring others into play, If we play to Cole it usually comes off his knee and sets the opposition up.
Nolan stroles around like he's on holiday, hardly breaks into a sweat. we need players with drive and commitment not passengers.
10:26AM 15th Aug 2012
''Tom: A cracking report and I agree with pretty much everything you say. I do think Linda can do a job for us this season and we also have Matty Taylor who can play in LB if needed. The thought of Taylor and Jarvis on our left flank is an interesting one as both can deliver a killer ball into the box.
An interesting 15 days awaits us until the circus of the summer transfer window comes to a end.''
by tony hanna
02:45AM 14th Aug 2012
''An interesting preview, Tom. I doubt Sam's tactics will change much although the signings of Diame and Diarra give us a more solid look and give us more options which will be paramount in the PL.
I am a bit surprised you have not mentioned Matty Taylor, who I feel will have a role to play this season. However, I am not surprised you have failed to mention O'Neil who looks out of his depth in the PL.
The fact we have only Carlton Cole up front, with a possible role as sub for Maynard, leaves us woefully short up front and surely this will be the area that Sam will fix up before the window closes. Perhaps we are still hanging on for Carroll?''
09:50PM 13th Aug 2012
''Henderson; O'Brien, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney; Diarra, Diamé, Maïga, Nolan, Vaz Tê; Cole. With signings that I've heard may be likely to go through.
O'Brien to be replaced by Pablo Álvarez.
Maïga to go on the bench and be replaced by Jarvis. As a dream signing I would love to see Dempsey. And finally Cole for hopefully Remy.
That would be the dream line-up with then signings but even so should be a strong enough line up to stay in the league..!''
09:47PM 13th Aug 2012
''Miaga is not a wide player, he is a centre forward. Lets not do the age of tradition at West Ham of playing forwards out wide, it had never worked, and never will work.''
09:39PM 13th Aug 2012
''What about Mark Noble, Hammer of the Year Last year? Now he can't get in any fans' preferred XI!''
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