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Filed: Tuesday, 13th November 2012
By: Tom Kilbey

Having taken a break from writing regularly, the last few weeks have given me a chance to reflect on where our team are.

We are well into our ‘tough run’, the second of Allardyce’s well-documented ‘phases’ of the season. After a fantastic start, I was very vocal in playing down our chances of success for the season. After a draw and a victory against Manchester City and Newcastle respectively, surely even the most optimistic fan would have to concede we have exceeded expectations.

Needless to say, as I look at the league table, and see us sit above many of our more illustrious opponents, I am stunned with our start. On the back of our best start in Premier League history, we can begin to draw some conclusions, and our team are beginning to answer some of the questions that we as fans, and me in particular, had before the season kicked off. Here are a few observations that I have made this season which explain our successes so far this year.

1) Our defence is answering its critics.

The best way to silence doubters is to perform on the pitch. I’m happy to admit I was one of those doubters, and I am on the verge of willingly holding my hands up. Firstly, I’ve never seen a West Ham player show as much progression in a short period as Winston Reid. As I suggested last season, a year in the Championship would work miracles in giving our defenders a chance to gain confidence, learn the English game and develop a partnership with each other. This has certainly been the case with Reid.

Besides the fun but somewhat irrelevant cult status he has acquired after his winner against Millwall, the facts are that Winston is now a very good defender. His positioning and reading of the game is fantastic, he is quick over short distances, and is comfortable on the ball. He has progressed from a squad player who did not inspire confidence when required to fill in, to being one of the first names on the team sheet.

Similarly, our other centre defenders have definitely stepped up to the plate. Both Tomkins and Collins have demonstrated they are perfectly competent at this level, and although my preference remains to be our academy product, I am growing more comfortable watching Collins step in. With our full backs, despite being categorically unspectacular, McCartney and O’Brien are quietly getting better and better, and with Demel waiting in the wings, we are equally equipped at right back.

2) Our worries about our style of play was (largely) unfounded.

Any regular visitors to Upton Park last season will agree that, at times, our style of play was quite frankly horrible. On regular occasions, we would persistently lump the ball up towards Carlton Cole, who invariably struggled to win headers, and often left us lacking any sort of creativity or cutting edge. Allardyce’s refusal to change to any sort of plan B led to much disapproval from the fans.

This has simply not been the case this season. The one mark on this record would be the performance against Wigan which was woeful. However, our downfalls in that game were highlighted, and no excuses were made for our one-dimensional tactics which dismally failed. Apart from this, the story this season has been very different. We have used a more measured approach, playing the ball into feet, and short passing is now used to complement the ‘long ball’ tactics that we are perceived to play. This allows us to gain a degree of control of games that is essential in Premier League games.

3) Mark Noble.

The stats do not lie. By far and away the most prolific tackler in the whole league, Mark Noble is the cog that makes our team work. He breaks up the play so well, and demonstrates a competence on the ball in midfield that we thought we had lost when we sold Parker to Spurs. Simply, Noble’s contribution this season are a significant factor in our successes. Besides his tackling, the influence he provides through his passing is also admirable.
Without meaning to sound cynical, Noble’s passing is never going to be applauded to the extent it should, simply because he is placing for a team who play ‘hoofball’ every week. But he is so effective at dropping deep, picking the ball up, and playing passes which start off attacks. His display against Manchester City also demonstrates his ability to pick a long pass. When Noble plays well, we play well, and if he can continue his fine form, we will continue to pick up points.

4) Our fans have got right behind the team.

This one is not a surprise. At times last season, Upton Park was not a particularly pleasant place to watch a game of football, let alone play there. The fans created a negative atmosphere at times, which filtered through to the players. Regardless of one’s opinion of whether booing is right or wrong, the performances on the pitch encouraged the fans to voice their discontent, which affected the players on the pitch. But clearly, good performances on the pitch and good atmospheres in the stands go hand in hand, and our positive play this year has encouraged the fans to get behind the club, which is fantastic news.

5) Our new signings have hit the ground running.

Last, and by no means least, our new signings have been excellent. As I’ve already highlighted James Collins has showed that he is a match, at least physically, for any forward in the league. Mo Diame is proving to be one of the best summer signings in the entire league. He is a player in the mould of Yaya Toure, which can only be a good thing. His strength and power allows him to be extremely direct with his forward runs, and he is a physical force when we do not have the ball. He is improving game on game, and his performance against Newcastle was among his best in his short time at the club.

Andy Carroll has enjoyed a mixed start. Critics would argue that he is yet to net his first goal, but his all round contribution is excellent. He provides an outlet when we are under pressure, by winning free kicks and holding the ball up. It may be frustrating for him, but in a somewhat paradoxical sense considering he is a striker, a goal isn’t of utmost importance. If he continues to provide goals for other players in the team, he will prove an extremely useful asset for the team.

All in all, we are at an important stage of the season. I still insist that we should not get carried away. It would not be unconceivable to see us go on a winless streak with the increasing difficulty of our next few fixtures. The fact that this seems unlikely is testament to Allardyce and his players. Considering we have just been promoted from the Championship, our squad possesses a level of experience and class that has not been seen since the Newcastle squad of 2010. We do not have the same fragilities that the likes of Reading and Southampton possess, and teams that have been promoted in previous years and ultimately failed to consolidate their position in the top flight.

After our best start to a season for a quarter of a century, we are almost half way to the forty point mark, and we are well equipped to pick up the other half and secure safety. Once we have done this, and only then, we can look at securing a comfortable mid table finish, or even dare to look into the top half. We will be able to bring through some of our exciting youngsters, and look ahead to another season of progression next year. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a West Ham fan, and with a difficult run of games, we can enjoy them without too much pressure, in the knowledge that we are already well on the way to a respectable finish this season.

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.

Your Comments

by Vince Turner
02:17PM 16th Nov 2012
''I couldn't agree more with all of the points, especially with regards to the booing. I was also very sceptical about us bringing in Big Sam and his perceived style of play, especially when Carroll came to us. But it's pleasing to see that Sam has made us hard to beat without compromising some tradiditional Hammers flair.

There is one other player though that I believe is worthy of a mention, Kevin Nolan. Whilst last season he was everything a captain should be (which Matthew Upson wasn't), his performances on the pitch were a bit disappointing. This season however, he has really stepped to the mark and seems to be relishing playing in the top flight, and leading by example. Long may it continue.''

by Besty
11:53PM 14th Nov 2012
''Great article, I agree totally, we should all get behind the lads and the manager. Also I must say that the camaraderie with the players is one of the strongest I have seen in a West Ham team for a long time. I think the main reason for this is our captain Kevin Nolan who leads by example.

Here's hoping for a win against Stoke on Monday evening and 21 points before December.......Fantastic...Come on you Irons.''

by Philtheiron
08:42PM 13th Nov 2012
''Yet another excellent piece! I think you have narrated the thoughts of most if not all West Ham fans over the last year or so. From despair of relegation, the largely unpopular appointment of big Sam, the poor football of our promotion year to the explosion of academy football since our return to the promised land.

The only other points I would like to make are, that we should have appointed Big Sam at Xmas instead of courting the financial disaster in waiting that was O'Neill and fatally sticking with the worst manager in our history, Grant. For what is certain we would never have been relegated if Big Sam had been appointed.

The other is the strength, power, grit, determination and no small amount of skill Big Sam has brought about to a club like ourselves is quite remarkable. Attributes West Ham fans have been crying out for for years. Even our more skilful and free-flowing teams of the past have cried out for the discipline and organisation that Big Sam has finally introduced to the club. Long may it continue!''

by Taffy Hammer
02:36PM 13th Nov 2012
''I agree with you Tom, the defence has surpassed all expectations although Jaas's kicking still gives me palpations but as a shot stopper he's proved his worth.

Andy Carroll reminds me so much of Sir Geoffrey; he drags defenders sets up others like Geoffrey did with Peters and I think he's actually enjoying himself here. My one argument with you would be Matt Jarvis. I personally think we've done our money. He doesn't get into a game enough, he's reluctant to take on his man and he's not popping up in goal scoring positions. Looking at him against Newcastle his face seemed to show he didn't want to know or be here AKA Joey Beauchamp if he's not happy get rid, we can't afford to carry him. He reminds me so much of Matthew Rush he has all the promise all the talent but he doesn't seem bothered, I think Sam should cut his losses and let him go, Matt Taylor can do as good if not a better job than Mr Jarvis.

January will see us raid the lower leagues for a gem of a player again and thinking that way there's a centre back at Cardiff (Hudson who would be worth looking at). Finally Tom I'm still not sure on Maiga and I don't think Sam knows how to use him he looks the business but how long is going to want to stay playing a bit part at the club I reserve the right to amend my views on him untill I see much more of him.''

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