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Why Sam Allardyce Must Manage His Striking Options Carefully Now Andy Carroll Has Returned

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West Ham United have enjoyed a start to the 2014-15 season that very few could have predicted last August.

After a summer of speculation regarding the future of manager Sam Allardyce, as well as disharmony amongst a fan-base unsupportive of the club’s physical and sometimes believed one-dimensional playing style, it certainly appears as though the mixture of summer signings and coaching additions have seen the Hammers’ fortunes turn right around.

With Andy Carroll having made his return to first-team action this month after numerous injury lay-offs stretching back to the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign the options at Allardyce’s disposal going forward are arguably the best and strongest in depth that the club has had for a number of years.

However, there is an issue which Allardyce will have to monitor and manage very carefully if West Ham’s performance level is to remain so high and that is the fitness of his forward line, especially given the history of injuries a couple of individuals have.

Carroll has a well publicised history with injuries, stretching back to his earliest days as a Liverpool player and these injuries have really caused Allardyce a number of headaches since his arrival at Upton Park.

If we look at last season in particular, Carroll was the club’s marquee signing at a sizable £15million yet missed large parts of the season through injury leaving West Ham’s options up front very limited and over reliant on the likes of Ricardo Vaz Te and Modibo Maiga, both not blessed with great levels of production in front of goal or consistency.

A lot of the Hammers’ failings last term can be put down to the manager not having a full deck of cards to play with, of course questions have to be asked about spending such a high amount of money on a player with a history of injuries, but that is another debate entirely.

This season there are options for West Ham with Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia both having totally transformed the team’s striking options. When Carroll was ruled out for a further four months during pre-season it was not so much of a worry with two strikers of a high quality coming in to deputise in his absence.

With Carroll now back, however it appears as though fate has taken another swipe at Big Sam with both Valencia and Sakho being injured at the same time with Sakho’s back injury so innocuous and born out of carelessness that it has caused West Ham to consider pursuing legal action against the Senegalese national setup.

Valencia’s knee injury does appear to be clearing up with the Ecuadorian star returning to training this morning, however Allardyce must be careful not to rush either player back too soon.

One of the great benefits of having such varied options as part of a forward line is that West Ham’s playing style can be varied. You have Sakho who is both physical and technically gifted but with a natural eye for a goal inside the penalty area, Valencia is the flair player, the center-forward who can perform equally well all across the line and create chances for himself and others and in Carroll there is the option to play a more direct style and make best use of his outstanding physical attributes.

Whether justified or not the supporters’ disenchantment with the club’s style last season was well documented. Of course a lot of this was due to a lack of options but this term there is no such excuse.

West Ham have the elements necessary to react to game situations and set up in a number of different styles and in fairness have done so thus far this campaign with supporters seeing the positive results. However, if these forwards are overused and the risk of injury is heightened, the possibility of West Ham losing these options is very realistic.

West Ham are in a position where due to the upcoming move to the Olympic Stadium, staying in the Premier League is an absolute financial necessity. This season the club has the attacking weapons to far exceed such an expectation and if the players can be kept healthy there is no reason why the Hammers cannot solidify a top-10 finish at the end of this season, however a lot does depend on that one point, whether West Ham can keep the players healthy.

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