THE BLOG

What's Gone Wrong for West Ham Since Christmas?

12/03/2015 17:29 GMT | Updated 12/05/2015 10:59 BST

Just a few months ago, Sam Allardyce and Co. were riding high in the top four of the Premier League. It is fair to say that the Hammers were never likely to finish in a Champions League spot, but with the move to the Olympic Stadium on the horizon, many dreamt of European football in some shape or form.

In the first half of the season, West Ham brushed aside Liverpool and Manchester City at home before being denied a point at Old Trafford, courtesy of yet another controversial offside decision. Everything has changed since then, however and the East London side have won only one Premier League game in 2015.

They certainly haven't lost the fight they showed in the first three months of the campaign, except for two of what can only be described as humiliating results against West Brom in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace. So, what's gone wrong?

Injuries are a problem for almost all Premier League sides and unfortunately it is simply the nature of the game. However, West Ham do have an amazing track record of losing at least five key players in the few weeks after Christmas. Just a few weeks ago, the Hammers had only one recognised centre back and a makeshift midfield, supporting just one forward likely to feature in the starting eleven due to the Diafra Sakho debacle.

Andy Carroll's return was met with excitement, but mostly relief, as his signing has seemed rather pointless at times thanks to his glass bones and paper skin. The big number 9 was fantastic in the 12 games he played this season before picking up another injury. Since signing permanently, Carroll has managed just 27 Premier League games at the club.

As mentioned, Carroll did not play badly, in fact, he provided an exciting alternative in order to prevent West Ham from becoming predictable. However, the whole team changed to fit him in and since his latest problem, they have never fully returned back to how they started the season, despite often fielding the same starting eleven.

Sam Allardyce has experimented with a number of other formations this season, including a 4-5-1 that has proved hugely ineffective, leading him to change it back to the fan-favourite, 4-1-2-1-2 in the second halves, to good effect. Stewart Downing, who at one stage had created more chances than anyone else in the league, has begun to drift back out wide, where he is essentially invisible and often gets in the way of Carl Jenkinson, who has been a decent outlet going forward.

Perhaps the talk of a possible move to Chelsea in January distracted Enner Valencia, or that's what Big Sam likes to think and his partnership with Sakho that looked so exciting at the beginning of the season, has all but disappeared. It is very likely that the problems West Ham faced with Sakho and the Senegal FA played some part, however.

Alex Song has looked a shadow of his former self in the past few games, uncharacteristically giving the ball away and news that his wage demands will prevent him from joining the Hammers on a permanent basis have caused fans to unfairly turn against the Barcelona midfielder. It is a strong possibility, in hindsight, that Song's move to West Ham was to put himself in the shop window for other Premier League clubs to snap him up in the summer and it appears to be working.

Ultimately, a number of factors have derailed West Ham's excellent season, but an 8th place finish is still definitely achievable. If there is more movement from the midfield three, which seems possible thanks to Kouyate's return, along with Stewart Downing return to his role at the tip of the diamond, then Sakho and Valencia may bag a few goals to boost their confidence.

West Ham are not broken, far from it in fact, they are simply struggling to hold on to results that they would have kept before Christmas. But with little tactical changes and some luck on the injury front, the boys in claret and blue could still have a very successful season.

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