The 4/6/0 formation that Big Sam has brought in for the last 3 Premier League games has had some positive effect at least. Whilst it is not ideal, as surely we would prefer at least one main striker up front, it has seen the Hammers play a passing game using this set up. Sure, we still knock the ball into the opponents box from free kicks at every opportunity rather than start to build again, but to be honest I prefer to see that. Put it this way, when our opponents take a free kick 40 yards out and they pass it two yards to each other I am quite happy. The worst thing they could do for my blood pressure is put the ball straight into our box from the free kick! Don’t get me wrong, I like to see the passing game but I think there is a time and a place for both tactics.
The other factor to our new “Barca” style is the re-emergence of James Tomkins. His ability to play football from the back has negated the hoof ball that James Collins often relies on. The jury is still out as to who is the better defender, Tomkins or Collins, but certainly Tomkins style is suited to building from the back. So, four points from the last nine available and who would have thought that just a few weeks ago? Before the Spurs and Swansea away and City at home fixtures perhaps some fans might have thought four points highly unlikely? Certainly winning 3-0 at Spurs will be hard to beat as our best result for the entire season.
The formation using the fit players we have at present, looks the goods when playing away. However, it does invite the opposition to come at you so I doubt Sam will use it at home again except perhaps when playing the big boys. The new system has certainly brought out the best of Mark Noble, who’s form has been excellent since the adoption of the six man midfield. It has also allowed Ravel a free role and his speed and guile with the ball brings something different for the opposition to worry about. The 4-6-0 seems to have shored up our defence even further when playing away. The big negative of the whole system however, is because we have so many bodies behind the ball, we give up a large share of possession. Because of this our attempts on goal seem to be restricted to set plays or on the break, although we still created more chances than Swansea on the weekend.
When Andy Carroll returns from injury it will allow Sam the choice of playing several varied styles and systems. The squad we have at present has good depth and good spirit. Some of the crosses that have been put into the box in recent games have just had “Andy Carroll” written all over them and one wonders how many points we would have now if we had a decent striker to nod home. It will be interesting to see how West Ham line up this weekend against Villa and the question itself means we are in a good place. If we don’t know I am sure our opposition don’t know either? Another positive is that perhaps we will look back later in the season and see Andy’s injury as the pivotal step towards us shaking off our one dimensional tag?