How have the Hammers turned it around?

Posted by Alistair Tweedale, WhoScored.com

Sam Allardyce PA PhotosSam Allardyce has turned things around at West Ham United.

What a difference a week or two can make in football. Just a fortnight ago, Manchester City were on an unrelenting march toward the table's summit having won eight games in a row, Arsenal also seemed invincible, and West Ham looked doomed. Now, City have gone two games without winning or even scoring, Arsenal's steadfast defence has been embarrassed at Anfield, and the Hammers are suddenly in the top half of the table.

Four matches ago, West Ham were off the bottom of the table only on goal difference. They had won only one of their previous nine games, conceding 28 goals in the process, crashing out of both cup competitions and Sam Allardyce was coming under increasing pressure to turn things around. He reveled, therefore, in the limelight when in his side's very next game, they shut out a free-scoring and title-challenging Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho labeled the visitors' performance "19th-century football," such was their focus on stopping the opposition from scoring rather than trying to win the game themselves.

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Allardyce might not have won the news conference battle when stating that he "out-tacticed" his opposite number, but he certainly did win the war on the pitch, becoming the first manager to prevent the Blues from scoring on home soil this season. They might have conceded a monstrous 39 shots in the game -- the most in a Premier League game since Manchester City's desperate title-winning display against QPR in May 2012 -- but Allardyce was vindicated by the point his side took away.

Three games later and the Hammers are still yet to concede, running out 2-0 winners over Swansea, Aston Villa and Norwich, and the frankly ridiculous furor surrounding Andy Carroll's dismissal in the first of those matches is now long-since forgotten. Carroll had been key, setting up both of Kevin Nolan's goals against Swansea, so his red card had at first seemed catastrophic for the struggling Hammers.

They have, however, taken 10 points from a possible 12 and are up to 10th in the table, building their success on the defensive display that shut out Chelsea. Four clean sheets in a row means the club have prevented their opponents from scoring more times (13) than any other team in the Premier League. Extremes have not made for an easy season's viewing for the fans, but the defence has proved the basis for survival rather than their blunt attack.

West Ham kept six of their clean sheets in Winston Reid's 10 matches before he sustained an ankle injury at the beginning of November, then kept only three in 12 games before he returned to full training at the end of January. It is hard to believe that his mere presence on the training ground could have inspired the recent run of form, but it seems that the added competition along with his input has rallied the troops. With the New Zealander fit to train, Allardyce's side have thus shut out their opponents 10 times in 14 Premier League matches this term.

Of late, James Collins and James Tomkins have formed a reliable partnership at the heart of the Hammers' defence, while George McCartney has proven more adept defensively than Razvan Rat, and Adrian has made the No. 1 jersey his own. Defensive midfield, though, has seen the biggest changes. Mark Noble has found a new partner in there, with Matthew Taylor, whose best position is debatable, finding his feet in the middle, featuring there in each of West Ham's four consecutive clean sheets, a run that no team has bettered in the course of the season.

Obviously not too practiced in the position, Taylor is not the most positionally aware central midfielder, having failed to make a single interception in those games despite West Ham predictably not seeing too much of the ball. He is, however, fit and committed, working himself into the ground for the cause, making 12 tackles and blocking 12 shots, including six against Chelsea. Six players have featured alongside Noble this season, and perhaps Taylor is in fact the best man for the job, though Mohamed Diame certainly staked his claim with a key goal and assist after coming off the bench to seal the win over Norwich.

Injuries have been an excuse all season for Allardyce, and now that those problems have subsided, things are starting to come together for the Hammers. The thing is, however, their recent resurgence has come -- for the large part -- without the two players they have supposedly been so craving back in action. The West Ham squad seems to have always been good enough to survive in the Premier League, and their latest results suggest that confidence and greater competition for places were lacking. Allardyce currently has a functional team that is getting the right results and should be safe for at least another season.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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