Soccer

Jack: Punchless Hammers badly missing Carroll

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Kristian Jack
9/19/2013 5:43:53 PM
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West Ham vs. Everton Preview

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has been around the game long enough to not get too high when things are going well and not get too low when they aren't.

However, after his side beat Cardiff 2-0 on the opening day of the season, even he couldn't help himself as he looked ahead to a new season with great anticipation. "This has been the best pre-season we've had, no disruptions, no injuries. If you look at our team today we had players like Jack Collison and Matty Taylor who couldn't even make the bench. They have to overcome that disappointment, work hard, we've got a strong squad now," he said with a smile.

Already that strong squad is being tested.

A month is a long time in football and 'Big Sam' has certainly been challenged since that warm day at Upton Park. On the field, West Ham have played three Premier League games since and scored no goals. Two scoreless draws, at Newcastle and Southampton, have certainly prevented it from being a poor run but concerns are growing at their lack of a goalscoring threat with the Hammers managing just two shots on goal in their last three games, which included a 1-0 loss at home to Stoke.

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)

Off the field, Allardyce has had to deal with an injury to key man Andy Carroll, a bizarre late transfer request handed in by Ricardo Vaz Te and a mad late rush to find another front man.

Despite reports suggesting England international Carroll would be out for up to four months, it appears that won't happen, but it also appears the 24-year-old isn't close to playing a game anytime soon after unsuccessful visits to Holland and Belgium recently to attempt to cure his foot problem.

In the meantime, Vaz Te has stayed, but unquestionably annoyed his manager, while Allardyce has recruited former Fulham striker Mladen Petric on a free transfer to bolster his options. The Croatian, however, is still not match fit, much like former Hammer Carlton Cole, who is currently training with the squad, leaving Mobido Maiga as the only choice for West Ham at the moment.

Much like his team, Maiga's form has dipped dramatically since the win at Cardiff.

"Really happy for Mobido, he came with a big reputation last year, it didn't work out, but he led the line really well today," said Allardyce after the Cardiff win.

Three starts later and the Malian has looked more like the version Hammer fans grew frustrated with last year, drifting out of games, being far too timid on the ball and not bringing his teammates into the game.

And that, more than anything, is where they miss Carroll. Plenty of negative things have been written about the former Newcastle and Liverpool striker, but, without doubt, Carroll is very good at linking an attack, holding the ball up well, and in a system with one man up front that is essential for a team like West Ham.

"We can definitely create more off him," reflected Allardyce this week. He continued: "No disrespect to the other strikers but Andy holds it up better and creates more problems for the opposition's defence."

Carroll is yet to play a minute this season but of the four matches West Ham have played, Carroll was involved in two of them last year and the difference in his ability to lay a ball to a teammate is much different to Maiga.

At Newcastle...

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)

At Southampton...

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)

For Maiga this is his chance. Scorer of 24 goals in France's Ligue 1 the two previous seasons before his move to London, he has a proven track record that he can make a difference at a decent level but so far he has been a major disappointment.

Thankfully for West Ham, with worries in attack, there have been no concerns at the back. Importantly, the same four players have started all four games in defence, and they have combined to concede just one goal this season, and that came from a set piece when Stoke's Jermaine Pennant curled a free kick around the wall to win the last league game at Upton Park.

Last week's point at Southampton, though, was gained thanks to a man of the match performance from goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen who showed, even at 38 years old, that he can still be counted on when his defence doesn't have the best of games.

Collectively the entire team will have to defend better this Saturday when an unbeaten Everton are their guests at Upton Park.

Last Sunday against Southampton, West Ham allowed the Saints defenders to have time on the ball, before pressing them in the middle of the park. Roberto Martinez's team have already shown signs that they like to play the ball out from the back, more than they did under David Moyes, and it will be interesting to see just how aggressive West Ham are at pressing in their final third.

The Toffees have also got three clean sheets out of their first four games and combined with their defensive solidity they have still managed to get their full backs, Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, forward a lot to contribute to their attack. Playing against a West Ham team that like to play with wingers, Saturday's game should be an open, stretched game with plenty of scoring opportunities.

One man likely on the end of the ones for Everton will be loan man Romelu Lukaku, who can finally make his debut after being ineligible against Chelsea last week.

Lukaku's appearance at Upton Park will be a fitting reminder to Allardyce that he is short in attack without Carroll as the manager made it known this week that he hoped the Belgian might have joined the Irons.

"We chased him all summer to be honest. When it came the final day of the deadline we missed out and Everton managed to secure his position for a loan deal. We were more or less told he was going back to West Brom but in the midst that changed for whatever reason I don't know. We didn't manage to clinch it."

The capture was a victory for Everton on deadline day. Allardyce will be hoping it doesn't lead to a victory on Saturday.

Join Alastair Connolly and myself on TSN following the conclusion of Norwich vs Aston Villa as we get you set for West Ham vs Everton, kicking off at 10am et.

Andy Carroll (Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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