The FourFourTwo Preview: West Ham vs Fulham
Surely the last chance saloon for Martin Jol, and another chance for Sam Allardyce to persist with his free-scoring 4-6-0 formation.
After the Hammers shot down London rivals Tottenham 3-0 at White Hart Lane, everyone hailed the tactical nous of Sam Allardici. Three losses and two draws later and his negative tactics are being labelled as shambolic.
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 0-3 Chelsea (Prem)
- Norwich 3-1 West Ham (Prem)
- West Ham 0-0 Villa (Prem)
- Burnley 0-2 West Ham (LC)
- Swansea 0-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Fulham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-3 Man Utd (Prem)
- Leicester 4-3 Fulham (LC)
- So'ton 2-0 Fulham (Prem)
West Ham have shipped nine goals during this run, scoring just twice. Allardyce has such little confidence in short-term signing Carlton Cole, he’d rather keep the striker on the bench and play Kevin Nolan in the ‘false nine’ role.
It’s clearly not working and Allardyce needs to find a solution fast. The East Enders are 17th in the table, one place above the drop zone, with the home form of a relegation contender. Of the six games they’ve played at Upton Park in the Premier League this season, they’ve lost four, drawn one and won one. That single victory on home soil came on the opening day of the season against Cardiff.
After West Ham’s 3-0 defeat at Upton Park to Chelsea last Saturday, Allardyce said: “We've lost our home fortress. We are struggling in front of goal and now we are suffering with our defensive errors.”
That’s just what Fulham boss Jol wants to be hearing with the West Londoners lingering below the Hammers in the relegation zone.
In terms of points accumulated, their recent form is only marginally better than West Ham’s. They’ve claimed six from their last six games, but they’ve lost four on the bounce.
Jol would argue that his side have played three teams in the top six during this period, but his excuses are running thin. Their loss to Swansea was not how the first match since the appointment of Rene Meulensteen as head coach was meant to go.
But, there were positives to take out of the performance. The gifted, but sluggish Dimitar Berbatov was stripped of the captaincy. This has been passed on to midfield dynamo Scott Parker for a more chest-thumping style of leadership – just what they need in the trenches.
Derek Boateng was deployed in midfield to free Parker and it worked – the former Spurs player scored. Pajtim Kasami and Bryan Ruiz were instructed to tuck in and the full-backs were charged with providing width.
Jol needs time for Meulensteen’s influence to start taking effect, but he might not last long enough to see it.
The Hammers are without long-term absentees Razvan Rat, Mladen Petric, Winston Reid, Ricardo Vaz Te, Alou Diarra and Andy Carroll. For Fulham, Damien Duff, Hugo Rodallega and Brede Hangeland remain sidelined.
Key battle: Mark Noble vs Scott Parker
West Ham don’t play with a striker and Fulham’s front pairing of Berbatov and Darren Bent would rather be chugging on a crafty fag and playing X-Box. This game will be won in the midfield and when you’re in a scrap, you need a scrapper. If Noble and Parker weren’t footballers, they’d be at home in the boxing ring slugging it out for 12 rounds. Fulham may have lost to Swansea, but Parker was one of the Cottagers’ most influential players. He opened the scoring, made 7 ball recoveries and 3 interceptions. The former Chelsea midfielder isn’t happy unless he’s throwing himself in the way of flying balls, so he got his fix with 3 blocks.
Against the same opposition, Noble mopped up more loose balls than any other player (11) on the pitch and finished the game as West Ham’s top ball player. He was successful with 33 of his 37 passes, 10 of which came in the attacking third and produced two goalscoring opportunities.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Fulham 3-1 W Ham (Prem, Jan 13)
- W Ham 3-0 Fulham (Prem, Sep 12)
- Fulham 1-3 W Ham (Prem, Dec 10)
- W Ham 1-1 Fulham (Prem, Oct 10)
- Fulham 3-2 W Ham (Prem, May 10)
Allardyce is not interested in artistic impression. He’s interested in winning and if that means grinding out scrappy 1-0 victories then so be it. When his team are criticised for their steely brand of football, he points to the win column, but right now that reads two from 12 games.
The 4-6-0 system is not working, but Allardyce seems hell bent on proving the Tottenham result wasn’t a flash in the pan. If ever there’s a time to show a bit more adventure, it’s Saturday. Only Norwich and Sunderland have conceded more goals than Jol’s team.
On the flip side, the Dutchman will be thinking this is great opportunity for his team to record a clean sheet – only Crystal Palace and Sunderland have scored fewer than the Hammers.
After Fulham’s 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea Jol walked off the Craven Cottage pitch with the fans calling for his head (not literally – we hope). Meulensteen has been brought in to help his fellow countryman, but if Fulham suffer their fifth successive defeat he could find himself in the hotseat.
Facts and figures
- Fulham have conceded 99 goals away from home in Premier League London derbies.
More facts at FFT's West Ham vs Fulham Stats Zone page
Tips and trends
- West Ham have the joint worst home record this season and only Hull and Crystal Palace have scored fewer at home.
- The Hammers have lost only 1 of their last 10 home matches against bottom-six opposition with 7 of the previous 9 providing fewer than 3 goals.
- Fulham have failed to score in 4 of their last 5 away games and have lost 8 of their previous 11 league matches.
- This is their lowest points tally after 12 games, however their previous low was 11 and that season they finished 9th.
- Fulham have recorded just 1 away win in their previous 9 trips to bottom-six opponents.
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Jol looks like a dead man walking and this transmits to the players. Allardyce manages with fire in his belly and the Hammers, unbeaten in eight league home games against the Cottagers, will come back fighting. 2-1.