West Ham boss left with selection headaches
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has a wealth of riches to choose from for Saturday’s Championship clash with Portsmouth at Upton Park.
The inevitable departure of Scott Parker to Spurs last week freed up a place in the West Ham midfield, but the huge influx of new players at Upton Park is likely to give manager Sam Allardyce plenty to ponder over the next couple of months.
West Ham thumped Nottingham Forest 4-1 at the City Ground without Parker and Allardyce is likely to opt for a similar team to the one that triumphed on that day when Portsmouth arrive on Saturday.
Jack Collison’s virus may mean he misses out, but there may be plenty of others who find their places under threat as West Ham look to build a squad that will make sure of automatic promotion.
The arrival of Sam Baldock from MK Dons allows Allardyce to prompt for a 4-4-2 system if he chooses, something that should be effective at Upton Park at least.
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But Baldock may well have to wait to make his starting debut with the boss likely to stick to his tried and trusted 4-5-1 (or 4-3-3 as he prefers to call it) system.
It is in central midfield, the position vacated by Parker that there are so many permutations to look at.
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Captain Kevin Nolan seems the only player who gains an automatic selection, though anybody who saw him against Leeds United and Aldershot may want to question that assumption.
But who will play alongside Nolan in the 4-5-1 formation?
So far, Mark Noble has played in the defensive position, but he has found it difficult to assert himself. Collison played against Forest, but still looks a little short of match fitness, as well as only just recovering from a virus in time to play for Wales against England at Wembley on Tuesday night.
So if Nolan is a shoe-in, which two other players will fit in alongside him?
Papa Bouba Diop could provide the muscle that would enable Nolan to roam forward more often, while Joey O’Brien may also come into the equation if Guy Demel is brought in at right back.
O’Brien has certainly impressed as a makeshift full back, while Demel can also play in the centre of defence or even at left back, but it seems logical that the Irishman will have to make way, though perhaps not immediately.
Henri Lansbury is the other new Iron in the fire. The talented teenager is starring for the England under-21s at the moment and helped Norwich City into the Premier League last term and his goals from midfield could be irresistable for Allardyce to resist.
On the right side there is also a little conundrum. If David Bentley had arrived at the start of the season then he would have walked staight into the side, but Frenchman Julien Faubert has shown what he has to offer in the last couple of games and that cannot be overlooked.
Bentley’s arrival may hasten a loan departure for Faubert, but until such time he probably deserves to keep his starting place.
Like Nolan, as well as keeper Rob Green, of course, Matt Taylor seems to be the other automatic choice, such has been his potency from set-pieces.
Baldock would be an obvious replacement for him in a 4-5-1, but that is unlikely to happen unless the former Bolton man is injured.
And that leaves us up front. Baldock would come in if West Ham opt for a 4-4-2, but otherwise, Allardyce has a straight choice between Carlton Cole, Freddie Piquionne and John Carew.
With two games a week a common occurrence the trio are likely to alternate to a certain extent, but Cole is the man with the shirt having scored three goals in three starts and there seems little or no reason to take it off him.
On paper West Ham look to have by far the strongest squad in the division, now they must convert that to more results on the field and a charge for the Championship title.
For interactive coverage of West Ham v Portsmouth from Upton Park this weekend log on to http://www.london24.com//sport/other/west-ham-chat.
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