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So, West Ham have, indeed, signed Mladen Petric on a Bosman deal. He was released by Fulham this summer after making 24 appearances for the cottagers last season (starting in 10 matches) and scoring 5 goals. He is a decent player, perhaps not with the pace he once had, but his skill and technique hopefully remain undiminished. Indeed, from what I can determine, Petric is nippy and skilful striker, with the capacity to score spectacular goals. At 32 years of age, his very best years are probably behind him, but hopefully he will come in and do a reasonable job for us. We may be unhappy with the business transacted in the summer window and, in all honesty, we would probably have preferred to have signed a number of other strikers. But he is a Hammers player now and we should give him every chance and 100% support.
You know, fate some times throws the dice up in the air and we expect ‘snake eyes’ and it turns out to be a double six. If Petric has a last hurrah at West Ham that would be excellent, although admittedly it is said more in hope than expectation. But if he can help steer us through to January, keeping clear of relegation danger and within realistic striking distance of 10th place, then the deal will have been justified. I am not expecting 15-20 goals from him this season, but if he can pitch in with 8-10 then that will be a positive contribution. While anything more would be a nice bonus.
This signing does beg another question though. Petric is not a large target man, able to lead the line in Carroll’s absence and get on the end of crosses in to the box. He seems to me to be a more mobile striker, who uses his pace and technique to get in to goal scoring positions. There is nothing to suggest that Petric possesses a pronounced aerial ability or can capitalise effectively on high balls. So, how does this signing help Allardyce to replace the injured Carroll or adopt his preferred style of play? The answer is that it does not assist him at all in that respect. Petric is another striker, akin to Vaz Te and Maiga, who is prefer the ball played on the floor and to feet. So, unless the plan is to bring in Carlton Cole or another more traditional type of centre forward, Sam Allardyce will still have to adapt the team’s playing style to get the best out of the three strikers currently at his disposal. That means adopting an approach, such as that seen in the recent friendly win over Espanyol, with more emphasis upon passing and movement.
It will be fascinating to see how Sam Allardyce actually sets up his team at Southampton. Is he likely to put out a conservative 4-5-1 and play it tight, looking to convert from corners and set pieces? Or might he draw on the experiment conducted against Espanyol and adopt a more expansion approach? Most supporters would bet on the former rather than the latter scenario. Southampton are a much improved team and have some good individual players. However, this is a fixture that we should be looking to take at least a point from and perhaps all three. We need a good result to stem the tide of pessimism that has naturally arisen in the aftermath of the club’s botched transfer window, the sudden spate of first team injuries (to Cole, Downing and Diarra) and then latterly the shock of Carroll’s new ankle injury.
I think it is true to say that there are more questions then answers at the moment. For instance, it will be interesting to see if Rat comes in to the side at left-back. Arguably, we will need to draw upon his Champions League and international experience at this difficult juncture. Will they stick with Collins-Reid or might Tomkins come in to the frame, based upon his impressive performance against Espanyol? Will Morrison start in midfield or on the bench? Will Petric start in attack and what formation will he fit in to? Will some of the U-21 prospects like Elliott Lee challenge for a place on the bench?
Personally, I hope that the solidarity of our defence and strength in midfield will see us achieve a good result. It is difficult to make a prediction with so many questions outstanding. But I am going for a 1-1 draw and a useful away point. COYI!