West Ham and Sam Allardyce have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship despite the fact that he has seemingly accomplished what’s been asked of him.
After being appointed West Ham manager in 2011, he guided the club into the Premier League albeit via the playoffs before retaining top flight status for the Hammers finishing 10th in the 2012/13 season and 13th the following year. Allardyce managed to steer his side to the semifinals of the League Cup last season as well.
On paper those appear to be respectable achievements but as the cliché goes, football isn’t played on paper.
Last season West Ham flirted dangerously with relegation before pulling clear, winning four league matches in a row in February. From March onwards, though, their form was dire losing eight of their last eleven league games. Though crucially in that period they also managed to register three wins. The less said about their capitulation to Manchester City in the League Cup semifinal, the better.
The root problem for the restlessness is the functional nature of West Ham’s football under Allardyce. According to Opta, West Ham hit a higher percentage of long passes (17%) than any other side last season.
In order to keep the critics at bay, winning is a must. Losing playing that particular style of football is not going gain any supporters.
Allardyce’s tetchiness with the fans was demonstrated when he questioned the idea of the ‘West Ham way’. In a 2-0 win against Peterborough when the Hammers were chasing promotion, fans were heard chanting “we’re West Ham, we play on the floor.” Allardyce’s response was brusque.
“There has never been a ‘West Ham way’ shown to me, not by anyone who has worked at the club. I’ve spoken to a lot of people at the club and no one can tell me what it is, so it is a bit of a delusion.”
More recently he had to contend with fans jeering his side despite beating Hull City 2-1. Allardyce couldn’t quite fathom why his team was being booed despite winning all three points and herein lies the problem — the expectation gap between him and the fans is clearly different.
The brief for this season is to finish in a respectable position whilst delivering entertaining football. In terms of player recruitment, West Ham have brought in the likes of Mauro Zárate, Enner Valencia, Aaron Cresswell, Diego Poyet, Cheykhou Kouyaté with Carl Jenkinson arriving from Arsenal on a season long loan.