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West Ham United

The Allardyce evolution

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Quick! Name the first two things you think of when I mention Sam Allardyce!

I’d hazard a guess that you said long ball football and Bluetooth headsets. Which would’ve been entirely fair, except Big Sam has been building something a little different to his usual formula at West Ham this season.

West Ham find themselves very much in the thick of it, they’re in touch with the European qualifying places, scoring goals and winning games.

The end of last season was a period of noisy discontent at the Boleyn Ground – and also briefly outside joint-chairman David Sullivan’s home as well, as an anti-Allardyce banner was draped artfully across the flower bed by his front gate.

But Sullivan and co-owner David Gold kept the faith in Allardyce, Teddy Sheringham arrived as attacking coach in May and they backed the manager and promised attractive, attacking football. Now, the pieces seem to be falling into place.

In Diafra Sakho they have a goalscorer. One who, having missed the start of January with a back injury, was withdrawn from Senegal’s African Cup of Nations squad and will stay with West Ham during this crucial phase of the season.

They also have a resurgent Andy Carroll, who since returning from injury in November has been playing like a man who is well aware of the point he has to prove. After two broken and bitty years at West Ham, the first on loan, the second as the subject of yet another big transfer fee, Carroll has finally found his fitness and found his rhythm. West Ham’s ten goals from set pieces are surely not coincidental considering the chaos that someone like Carroll can bring to a crowded penalty area – not a single one of those ten goals came direct from a free kick or from a penalty, they are all balls into the box. (West Ham players can take penalties mind you, including their gloveless goalkeeper, just ask Everton.)

Allardyce has been deploying two strikers for much of the season, and has not succumbed to the temptation of Carroll’s return by dusting off the ‘route one’ tactics charts. And why should he? West Ham have created more chances than Manchester United or high-flying Southampton this season. Stewart Downing is thriving in a central midfield role, with a clutch of assists to match Alexis Sanchez and Downing’s five league goals match Carroll’s much-lauded contribution.

So, the engine is whirring.

With Alan Pardew’s migration south from Newcastle to Palace, Allardyce became the second longest serving manager of a Premier League club. Joining on 1 June 2011, Big Sam is just three and a half years into the job, but he sits second on the list behind statistical outlier Arsene Wenger. There’s little by way of close competition, Brendan Rodgers is third, taking the Liverpool job exactly a year to the day after Allardyce joined West Ham.

West Ham have been a team in transition. A team finding its feet back in the Premier League after a breathless year in the Championship. Kevin Nolan was the heartbeat of that promotion-winning team, joining from Newcastle in the off-season and playing a similar advanced midfield role to Downing. Nolan still plays an important role, is still club captain and has had a run in the team since December, after making his way back following a shoulder injury. But the team around him is much changed, not the functional team that strong-armed its way to the 2012 Championship play-off final, but the product of a two season evolution into a competitive Premier League outfit.

There’s a lesson here. If Sullivan and Gold hadn’t kept their nerve in the summer, if they’d gone the way of so many other owners and pulled the cord early, we’d be watching a different story unfold. If the reward is success and stability, three and a half years really isn’t that long a time to wait.

Arlen is a Reading fan. Which means he knows a lot about losing in play-off finals, 0-0 draws, and disappointing FA Cup away ties.

West Ham United

Five free agents looking to follow Patrice Evra and earn a contract in the Premier League

After Patrice Evra completed his return to the Premier League with West Ham last week, Martyn Cooke looks at five former top-flight players who are currently free agents.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Reuters

West Ham United confirmed the signing of former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra early last week as manager David Moyes was left desperately looking for a left-back following Arthur Masuaku’s six-game ban.

The Frenchman had been a free agent since his acrimonious departure from Marseille, where his contract was terminated after he kicked a supporter following a pitch-side confrontation prior to a Europa League match in November, but he is unlikely to be anything more than back-up to Aaron Cresswell.

However, Evra was not the only former Premier League star who was looking for a new club.

Here The Boot Room looks at five former top-flight players who are currently free agents.

Alex Song

The Cameroonian midfielder was once one of the most sought after defensive midfielders in Europe after rising to prominence at Arsenal and agreeing a big-money move to Barcelona in 2012.

However, his spell in Catalonia was ill-fated and he has become something of an unwanted quantity over the subsequent six years and he has been without a club since being released by Rubin Kazan at the start of the year.

Song is still only 30 and could still have something to offer for clubs in the bottom half of the table.

Sulley Muntari

It seems a lifetime since Sulley Muntari was plying his trade for Portsmouth at Fratton Park and the central midfielder has certainly had a prosperous career in Italy.

He won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho whilst at Inter Milan in 2010 and has also appeared for AC Milan and Udinese prior to a sharp decline in prominence.

The 32-year-old undoubtedly possesses a wealth of experience and has been without a club since suffering relegation and subsequently being released by Pescara in the summer.

Samir Nasri

Another one of Arsene Wenger’s former protégé’s, Nasri was once one of the most prominent creative midfielders in the Premier League during spells with Arsenal and Manchester City.

However, the Frenchman was surplus to requirements following the arrival of Pep Guardiola and was shipped out on loan to Sevilla in 2016 before joining Turkish side Antalyaspor when his contract expired.

Nasri made just eight appearances for the club, which became embroiled in financial turmoil, before being released six months into his deal.

Only 30, the Frenchman certainly has something to offer in the Premier League if clubs are willing to meet his wage demands.

Anderson

The Brazilian midfielder won four Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cup’s during a seven-and-a-half-year spell under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

Manchester United spent £26 million in the summer of 2007 to secure Anderson’s surfaces but he never truly fulfilled his potential in England prior to returning to his homeland with Internacional in 2015.

However, Anderson has suffered two consecutive relegations with two different clubs in Brazil and was released at the turn of the year.

He does not turn 30 until August, although Premier League clubs that are in a relegation battle may want to steer clear if his recent record is anything to go by.

Sebastien Bassong

Bassong spent the over a decade in the Premier League with Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City but has been without a club since the summer.

The central defender is certainly no longer the force that he once was when Harry Redknapp spent £8 million to bring him to White Hart Lane in the summer of 2009 but could still have something to offer for a Championship, or possibly a bottom-half Premier League, side.

However, any potential suitors will also need to invest in a bus pass for the Cameroonian – he was banned from driving after he was caught speeding at 110mph in October.

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Preston North End

Jordan Hugill: From the Dickens Inn pub to West Ham United

West Ham’s latest recruit Jordan Hugill has come a long way since his days spent in the Glenn Hoddle Academy and he is now ready to establish himself as a top flight striker, writes Ryan Smart.

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Jordan Hugill

Just over five years ago, new West Ham signing Jordan Hugill worked shifts in the Dickens Inn pub, situated in his home city of Middlesbrough.

Hugill had just joined non league Marske United on loan, still recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered whilst playing for Whitby Town.

The striker was originally supposed to go on trial with then-Premier League side Sunderland in 2009, but suffered an ankle injury and eventually went on to join the Glenn Hoddle Academy.

Hoddle spoke of his pride, on the evening of Deadline Day, at seeing the 25-year-old progress from that academy all the way to West Ham United, who he has signed for nearly £10 million from Preston North End.

Hammers boss David Moyes formerly managed North End, and still has close ties with the club.

He has attended various games at Deepdale this season, so will know the qualities that Hugill will bring to the table at the London Stadium.

Hugill leaves the Lilywhites with 30 goals in over 100 appearances for the club, 23 of those coming in the past two seasons, having joined in the summer of 2014 from Port Vale.

His recent move represents a huge profit for Preston, eclipsing their previous club record sale, that of David Nugent to Portsmouth for £6 million in 2007.

However, he will be a significant loss, especially considering he is their top goal scorer in all competitions this season with 10, eight of those coming in the league.

He spent two loan spells away from North End in his first season, his second at Hartlepool being an infamous one.

His four goals, including the winner against Exeter City that kept Pools in the Football League that season, wrote his name in Hartlepool folklore, despite having only been at the club for just over a month.

He made huge strides in the following two seasons, forcing his way into Preston’s starting line-up and, crucially, staying there.

Something that is uncommon in football these days is a deal that suits all parties, with this deal a good example of that.

West Ham are getting themselves the new striker they desperately needed and Preston get a good financial deal for the striker.

It also gives other members of Alex Neil’s squad the chance to press their claims to become Hugill’s replacement as North End push for the Championship play-off spots.

The club’s 3-0 away win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, without Hugill in the side, shows that they have players capable of stepping up.

The player himself wanted a move in August, having had a transfer request rejected on deadline day, before finally getting his Premier League move this window.

In terms of his playing style, Hugill’s hold up play is amongst the best in the country, with the striker an effective presence up front.

Andy Carroll has had plenty of success playing the lone target man role for West Ham, when fit, and Hugill will be aspiring to reach that kind of level.

His natural finishing ability does need some improvement, but working with the likes of Carroll and Javier Hernandez means he will be learning from some of the best in the business.

Hugill is still unproven to West Ham fans – he was unknown to some when he was first linked – but his work ethic and commitment to improving should bring them onside as he looks to establish himself in the Premier League.

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Bournemouth

West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the London Stadium

Rob Meech

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Hernandez
Photo: Reuters

West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth extended their respective unbeaten runs with a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium. Both clubs have climbed away from the relegation zone in recent weeks and this was a keenly-fought encounter between two evenly-matched sides.

Following a goalless first half, the Cherries broke the deadlock through Ryan Fraser after a breakaway, only for Javier Hernandez to equalise for the hosts 64 seconds later. A share of the spoils was a fair reflection and means West Ham and Bournemouth, 11th and 12th respectively, have identical records from the past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points…

Future looks bright for both clubs

Just a month ago, the outlook was markedly different for both West Ham and Bournemouth. At Christmas, the Cherries were in the bottom three and the Hammers were not much better off. But the eventful 3-3 draw between these two teams on Boxing Day proved to be the start of an unbeaten run for each, which has given both real hope of avoiding relegation.

Such is the congested nature of the bottom half that it only takes a couple of victories to change the complexion on the table. Both clubs have won two and drawn three of their previous five fixtures, which has been enough to put clear daylight between themselves and the drop-zone.

This game, much like the corresponding fixture at the Vitality Stadium, suggests neither West Ham nor Bournemouth should be in serious trouble at the end of the campaign – if they can maintain their form. Equally though, David Moyes and Eddie Howe will be aware that complacency is not an option.

Impressive Fraser continues his resurgence

Bournemouth’s upturn in results since Christmas has coincided with a revitalised Fraser. The Scottish winger, affectionally known as ‘Wee Man’ by Cherries supporters, now has three goals and one assist in his past four appearances. His finishing has noticeably improved this season and he took his goal against West Ham with aplomb, firing the ball past Adrian after a defence-splitting pass from the returning Junior Stanislas.

Furthermore, Fraser’s improved stamina has enabled him to be effective for longer. Previously, the 23-year-old began to flag towards the latter stages and he was often replaced. But a better diet has paid dividends this campaign and he is rapidly becoming a key figure for Howe. Fraser has pace to burn and a directness that gives the team something different. Now though, he is having a real impact in games and his five Premier League goals are second only to Callum Wilson in the scoring charts.

Can West Ham afford to let Hernandez leave?

Speculation has surfaced in the past few days that Moyes may be willing to sell Hernandez, who only joined the club last summer. His arrival under Slaven Bilic was hailed as a real coup, but he has fallen down the pecking order since Moyes took the reins, with the former Manchester United supremo preferring Marko Arnautovic up top.

Hernandez though, has a creditable career goalscoring record and underlined his predatory instinct at the London Stadium. Only a minute after the Hammers had gone behind, the Mexican popped up in the right place to poke the ball past Asmir Begovic. It was Hernandez’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all of which have been scored from inside the penalty area.

With Andy Carroll expected to be sidelined for a month through injury, West Ham’s striking resources would be depleted further if Hernandez is allowed to leave. While he may not offer much outside the box, as he illustrated against Bournemouth that he is the ideal man to call on when a goal is needed.

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