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Is Sam's way the right way?

Filed: Monday, 10th June 2013
By: Matthew O'Greel

It's hard to deny that Sam Allardyce has produced fantastic results since succeeding Avram Grant as the 14th full-time manager of West Ham United.

Having taken over the club following its potentially disastrous relegation from the Premier League, Allardyce provided promotion within just 12 months - then proceeded to secure a top-half finish in the club's first season back in the Premier League.

Taking all of those things into account, it's fair to say that Allardyce has added around £100million to the club's coffers in just two years' time - so it was no wonder that Messrs Gold & Sullivan couldn't wait to offer him a new deal, which he has since signed.

However his unique approach to the game - heavily influenced by the 'Moneyball' system as developed by Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics baseball team - has been far from universally welcomed by Hammers fans.

Whilst Allardyce now has the backing of the vast majority of supporters, there remain many who grudgingly accept his modus operandi due to the (relative) success it has brought. However statistical analysis suggests that Allardyce may not quite yet be getting the most out of the players at his disposal.

West Ham United's haul of 46 points from 38 games last season included 12 wins, of which only three were away from home. Much of this was blamed upon the team's apparent willingness to sit back and soak up pressure, instead of playing a little more adventurously.

Statistics certainly back this up. Only six clubs saw less of the ball away from home last season than West Ham, who scored 44.3 per cent possession (League champions Manchester United topped the table with 56.5 per cent).

However Allardyce's team were equally poor when in possession of the football, scoring a pass success rate of just 73.9 per cent on their travels - higher than only Stoke and Reading - but not so bad in the air where the Hammers won an average of 20.3 aerial challenges per game (a figure bettered only by Tony Pulis' Stoke City).

Despite winning 50 per cent of their home league fixtures, West Ham proved almost as poor statistically at the Boleyn. United's possession rate of 43.2 per cent was lower than their score away from home (44.3 per cent) and lower than every other club bar relegated Reading.

Once again West Ham proved profligate in possession, with just 74.5 per cent of passes finding their target (Norwich, Reading and Stoke were the only teams with worse records at their respective home grounds). But once again, West Ham's success in aerial duels (21.9 headers won per home game) was only bettered by the Potters.

Having performed so poorly in possession and with the ball at their feet (United's 25 goals from open play in 2012/13 was the PL's sixth lowest tally) it is evident that West Ham relied heavily upon other methods by which to hit the target last season.

Set pieces proved hugely important, with United's 12 goal tally being the eighth highest total in the division during 2012/13 - the remainder of goals coming from counter attacks (two), penalties (four) and own goals (another two).

So from the figures above we can gradually see a picture forming, in which West Ham clearly forsook possession in order to get the ball into the danger area - the opposition's penalty box - at the earlist possible opportunity.

This is borne out by statistics that show West Ham leading a table for shots from inside the central third of the penalty area. 51 per cent of all West Ham's efforts on goal last season came from within this tiny, yet vitally important area of the field.

A further 17 per cent of West Ham's shots came from the other areas of the penalty box (the left and right side) with just 32 per cent from outside the 18-yard area - the lowest in the division by some considerable margin (interestingly perhaps, Man Utd were second lowest with just 34 per cent).

But it is within the penalty box - the very area that Allardyce appears to have asked his players to target - that West Ham produced the poorest results, with just 31 per cent of shots hitting the target. Once again this is the league's lowest figure (the average was 38 per cent).

With this in mind, it's quite clear to see why Carlton Cole was allowed to leave on a free transfer - and why Modibo Maiga's future remains uncertain. Although specific figures were unavailable at the time of writing, Allardyce clearly believes - with some justification - that he needs more clinical forwards at his disposal ie. Andy Carroll + AN Other.

Here's a list of stats used for the above article...

2012/13 Premier League Possession Table (Home)

18. Norwich City 43.9%
19. West Ham Utd 43.2%
20. Reading 40.8%

2012/13 Premier League Pass Success Rate Table (Home)

16. Queens Park Rangers 76.6%
17. West Ham Utd 74.5%
18. Norwich City 73.8%

2012/13 Premier League Aerial Duel Success Rate Table (Home)

1. Stoke City 31.1
2. West Ham Utd 21.9
3. Everton 19.7

2012/13 Premier League Possession Table (Away)

13. West Bromwich Albion 44.6%
14. West Ham Utd 44.3%
15. Aston Villa 44.0%

2012/13 Premier League Pass Success Rate Table (Away)

17. Norwich City 74.1%
18. West Ham Utd 73.9%
15. Stoke City 71.8%

2012/13 Premier League Aerial Duel Success Rate Table (Away)

1. Stoke City 26.7
2. West Ham Utd 20.3
3. Aston Villa 19.1

Total Shots Inside Centre of Penalty Area

1. West Ham Utd 51%
2. Stoke City 46%
3. Reading/Manchester United 46%

Total Shots Inside Centre of Penalty Area on Target

15. Swansea/Everton/Aston Villa 36%
18. Liverpool/Queens Park Rangers 34%
20. West Ham Utd 31%

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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