Doomed Allardyce Can't Keep Passing The Buck

Sam Allardyce will blame West Ham's injuries for their latest humiliation, but Nick Miller says the 5-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest was as much the manager's fault as the players'...

Last Updated: 06/01/14 at 09:34 Post Comment

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The good news for Sam Allardyce is that Max Allegri is on slightly iffy ground at AC Milan at the moment, so if/when he is sacked by West Ham, at last he'll be free to take one of those jobs to which he's more suited.

Of course, people saw this coming. West Ham's injury problems, combined with Allardyce's admission that he would prioritise both the league and the Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City this week, and therefore stuff his team full of kids for the FA Cup game against Nottingham Forest, meant we were left in the unusual position of the Championship side being favourites over the Premier League team.

It was embarrassing for West Ham at the City Ground. Forest genuinely could have been 5-0 up at half-time, and well into double figures by the end. Billy Davies has recently used all of his post-match interviews to emphasise how much Forest need to buy a striker, no matter what the result or the question asked of him, and he could have done so again on Sunday such were the chances that Forest wasted, particularly in the first half.

Obviously, this West Ham side was under-strength, with five of the starting team 21 or younger, and four of them making their full debuts for the club. This was partly out of necessity, because of both their fitness and suspension problems as well as their upcoming fixtures, so one could argue Allardyce didn't have much choice but to field a weakened team.

However, the weak nature of the team has been over-played a little, by Allardyce himself in particular. It still contained four players (Alou Diarra, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing and Modibo Maiga) with 110 international caps between them, as well as one of the brightest young talents in England in Ravel Morrison. It should have been enough to at least put up a fight, something completely absent but for a ten-minute spell at the start of the second half.

Perhaps more pertinently, the performance against Forest was so utterly spineless that not all of the blame can be placed on the players. They simply did not look bothered, an unmotivated selection of young men with no clear idea of what they're supposed to be doing. And if something as basic as making sure the team is at least inspired enough to put in a non-shambolic performance against a team from a lower division (for now) isn't the fault of the manager, then what is? No number of injuries can excuse a showing that pathetic.

It's long been established that Allardyce is a manager who takes the credit when things go well, as he did for the strikerless formation that beat Spurs (but wouldn't win a game after that), but doesn't accept the blame when things do not, as is the case at the moment. West Ham's injury problems are of course bad, but that doesn't alter the fact that their squad is deficient even when at full strength. Another winger (Stewart Downing) was recruited in the summer when the centre of their defence and attack was in greater need of strengthening and, surprise surprise, it is these two positions that have been most severely impacted by injuries.

So, Davids Sullivan and Gold, along with Karren Brady, must decide whether they can really entrust the remainder of the season with Allardyce. They were burned by keeping faith with Avram Grant a few years ago, when a side heading towards relegation were indeed relegated, but they have also invested a huge amount of faith and money in Allardyce.

This is a squad largely built in Allardyce's image, full of physical types complemented by about 20 wingers to provide crosses. It's been noted on this site before that should things get really bad, the one-dimensional nature of the West Ham squad would be a complicating factor in any decision over the manager's future, and so it is proving.

There are other things to consider of course, not least Allardyce's contract. He signed a new two-year deal in May which made him the fourth-highest paid boss in the Premier League, and the 13th in the world. Allardyce apparently makes a hair under £3m a year, meaning the club's owners are looking at the ugly end of about £4.5million just to get rid of their failing manager.

And then there's the list of possible alternatives, because sacking a manager isn't merely about getting rid of him, but his replacement. While one cannot place too much faith in the knee-jerk desires of a few upset fans, Paolo Di Canio's name was chanted after the defeat to Forest, which is pretty terrifying. Harry Redknapp might come back, but his last attempt at righting a sinking ship didn't go brilliantly, and it wouldn't be cheap to extract him from QPR, either. Malky Mackay would probably be the obvious choice, but he only has half a season of Premier League experience.

Still, West Ham might be at the stage where it doesn't matter who comes in, as long as it's someone other than Allardyce.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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