The loan transfer of Andy Carroll to West Ham may be the spark that propels Sam Allardyce back into the hierarchy of the top managers of English football and the secret to the safety of the Hammers Premier League.
As far as tactics are concerned, Allardyce and Carroll are a match made in heaven, with Big Sam always trying to play the ‘long ball’ to a heavyweight centre forward who patrols the final third. Maybe Carroll is less of a ‘poacher’ style ball header in the net, and more of a final third battering ram. He likes a running leap at the halves of the stationary center and can support as many goals as he scores.
The demolition of Fulham by West Ham on the weekend was as successful as we would hope to see this season as a first half display; West Ham played football as well as using the direct route where needed.
Allradyce loves playing a direct pass to a target man. During his time at Bolton, the target man, Carroll at West Ham or Davies, then heads the ball into a 50-50 region to attack the ‘second ball’ for the key midfielders. This ultimately leads, even at the cost of dominating possession, to chances and goals. The game of Allardyce is closely connected to the ‘Playing Percentages’ article of the past weeks, where the ball is cleared long and the defending team is battling hard for the’ second ball.’
In the English game, there’s a great deal of snobbery where fans and experts discredit this direct style of play. If it doesn’t work … e.g. Allardyce’s Newcastle management stint is also a dour and soulless game; it can be thrilling on its own merits if it works.
It is widely agreed that the international game and the future of England must begin to lean towards a game focused on possession, but there is still a place for ‘the long ball’ at the level of the English club.’ The press and the public also prefer to pick and pick who plays the long ball game according to stereotypes; Everton, Man City, Inter Milan and Athletic Bilbao all reserve a place for G The word ‘long ball game’ should not be banded around as a cliché to pin on some managers and not others as it is a facet of the games of most managers.
We prefer to search for the ideal way to play football on the continent and the flavor of the day is the game of possession: Tiki-Taka, as demonstrated by Barcelona and endorsed by Brendan Rodgers. Many will transfer football class as a game for the purists, but this perspective can lend itself to open sentimentalism. Over the last decade, West Ham haven’t played good passing football, so what exactly is Allardyce stealing a more direct game from the fans?
If West Ham ended this season on par with Liverpool and ‘Route One’ proved that it was still more at home in England than an out-and-out possession game, it would be an irony. Perhaps it would be on the back of managers like Allardyce that a self-confident, special and distinctive style will pioneer the English game? It could be argued that the game of Allardyce has two distinct dimensions, the long pass and possession, while the approach of Brendan Rodgers has only one.
“After Jol made a reference on Saturday to West Ham’s long ball tactics, Allardyce replied by saying: “We outplayed Fulham in between our ‘long ball three goals,’ that’s plain, totally and absolutely. If Martin can’t protect his team properly, then he really shouldn’t condemn the way we scored our goals . … Fair Big Sam statement.