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Sam Allardyce is a manager West Ham should be proud of

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West Ham currently sit in fourth place, above many of the Premier League's heavyweight sides - including Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. Due to this, it is no surprise that last seasons angry fans, wielding banners inscribed with the message "Fat Sam Out", are nowhere to be seen.

Over the course of three short summer months, the revolution that Sam Allardyce has overseen at Upton Park has been nothing short of spectacular. In the past, the West Ham manager had been labelled as merely a "long ball specialist". His brand of football was even bitterly referred to as "football from the 19th century" by Jose Mourinho, in a moment of beautiful irony. However, these derogatory terms are no longer applicable to Big Sam's football philosophy.

Changes

In previous years, the West Ham faithful had watched Allardyce attempt to play football in a stereotypical English manner. Sam's ethos of relentless long balls up to Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll, alongside an unending barrage of mindless crosses left many West Ham fans feeling jaded.

So jaded in fact, that in spite of Allardyce's successful return of 'The Hammers' into the Premier League and the mid table stability that ensued, fans still wanted his head. 

Tactics

However, Robbie Savage does not believe that it was unsatisfied fans that forced Allardyce to change his long ball mentality - he believed it was all part of a long term plan:

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He said: "When [Allardyce's] Bolton got promoted to the top flight, they also had a regimented way of playing but then he brought in skilful players such as Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff, Fernando Hierro and Nicolas Anelka.

"Basically, Allardyce established Bolton as a Premier League team and then kicked on. In many ways, it is exactly the same as what is happening with West Ham in their third season back in the top flight."

Development

Savage makes an interesting point - in the past two seasons, Allardyce's intentions were clear. His theory was to sign Stewart Downing, Matt Jarvis and Andy Carroll, aiming to play a brand of football based upon percentages, as he did not believe that his squad had possessed the required technical abilities to outplay other teams.

Combining two old fashioned wingers, who aim to beat their opposing man on the outside and produce an early cross towards Andy Carroll's tall figure, clearly had its merits as West Ham finished 10th and 13th in their first two seasons back in the Premiership.

Whilst we have seen countless other sides, such as Cardiff, Norwich and Hull, be deemed 'Yo-Yo' clubs, as they fail to hold down a spot amongst England's elite; Big Sam has avoided falling victim to the same fate. His pragmatic, albeit boring approach, has given 'The Hammers' the platform required in order to press on and become a force in English football - and press on, he has.

Spree

Sam's summer spending spree on Alex Song, Enner Valencia, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mauro Zarate, Aaron Cresswell, Diafra Sakho and Carl Jenkinson have transformed the side. With that said, new arrivals are not the only difference at Upton Park this year - a change of formation to a 4-4-2 diamond has allowed an entirely new team dynamic. 

With the new formation, West Ham look to play a more intricate, exciting and positive style of football, as Alex Song is able to dictate the tempo of the game from the heart of the midfield, whilst also offering defensive security.

Furthermore, the diamond allows the teams two young fullbacks to burst forward into space out wide, offering a lot more pace than the previously stagnant side. This new-found pace, combined with Enner Valencia's constant efforts to get in behind the opposition back four causes the oppositions defence to drop a lot deeper against West Ham, than in seasons' past.

Space

This extra space in the hole between defence and midfield has allowed Stewart Downing to flourish at the tip of the diamond. The 30 year old is an absolute far-cry away from the player who left Anfield with his tail between his legs, a year and a half ago:

He has already doubled his assist tally in comparison to last season, with 4 assists to his name, as well as boasting an impressive average of 3 chances created per game. 

Allardyce's transformation of Steward Downing from laughing-stock to life-line speaks wonders for his intelligent, pragmatic approach towards football and his in-depth knowledge of the English game - and its something that deserves credit.

Whether or not he will be able to maintain this high level of football at Upton Park remains to be seen - but for now West Ham have a manager that they can be proud of - and the board of directors can rest assured that they made the correct decision to give Allardyce the necessary time to mold West Ham's squad into his image.

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Topics:
England Football
Sam Allardyce
West Ham United
Alex Song
Premier League
Andrew Carroll
Stewart Downing
Football
Carl Jenkinson

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