Sam Allardyce may have used up most of his recent Evening Standard column lavishing unnecessary platitudes on his old mucker Sir Alex Ferguson, but it was his final comments on his own team that proved the most insightful.
“We’re losing focus and messing up”, he began, before bemoaning the fact that his side had lost their last three home games. He insisted that he had decided to drill the mantra “if you can’t win, don’t lose” into his squad.
He finished the column by suggesting that Manchester City, who defeated his West Ham team 3-1 at Upton Park in their last outing, might want to revert to only one upfront, rather than two, in order to win the title.
In only a few hundred words, Allardyce had outlined his conservative footballing philosophy. And it’s why, in Sunday’s encounter at Swansea, Hammers fans shouldn’t head to the Liberty Stadium holding too much hope of another swashbuckling performance that saw them run out 3-0 winners at White Hart Lane earlier this month.
Not that this should be taken as a negative. Allardyce’s mantra is perfectly legitimate, and is one of the reasons why sides under his leadership are rarely going to be involved in losing relegation battles. And with West Ham hovering only a point above the bottom three, Big Sam can’t be blamed for wanting to revert to keeping it tight.
The away clean sheet can be backed at 19/5, but it won’t be easy to do so in Wales. Opponents Swansea are this season’s joint-fifth highest Premier League scorers, while they’ve banged in 15 goals in their seven European games so far this season.
But Allardyce will know that their European exploits give West Ham a real chance on Sunday. Swansea have won only twice in the league following a Europa League game, losing on three occasions following a European trip.
Swansea’s victory over Sunderland last week was only their first league win at home since March, and Michael Laudrup will know that West Ham will not arrive feeling as generous as the Premier League’s bottom side. The Swans are 3/4 to make it their second home win on the trot, while the away win is priced at 18/5.
Despite the win at White Hart Lane, the absence of Andy Carroll means that West Ham’s real struggles remain in attack, another reason for Allardyce’s insistence on “not losing” if goals are at a premium.
And with Swansea having kept three clean sheets this season, the 0-0 draw can be backed at 10/1, with the draw tempting at 13/5. On a similar theme, the draw and under 2.5 goals to be scored is another solid pick at 16/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.