The Hammers have exceeded all expectations this season, sitting just one point below Manchester United in the top four of the Premier League.
Memorable victories over Manchester City and Liverpool have proven that the East London side can truly match up with even the best sides in the top flight, and manager Sam Allardyce was one of few men to clinch three victories from three in the recent hectic schedule - despite playing with a squad decimated by injury.
Having recovered to boast a full squad as of now, the 60-year-old coach will be looking to continue his impressive season by keeping the Irons in the Champions League qualification places over the intense run of fixtures associated with the Christmas period. Ties with Sunderland and Leicester are very winnable prior to Christmas, before they round off 2014 with fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal which could truly cement themselves as top four contenders.
Having signed a number of players over the summer, Allardyce has created a highly attacking team who play fluid football, but without losing the toughness associated with a side managed by the former Newcastle boss. Having utilised a strong squad, the coach has the benefit of being able to field the most in-form XI without losing quality, but he admitted to the Standard that this system can cause friction amongst the squad, especially if a player is left out having done little wrong the previous game.
Allardyce said: “The bottom line this season, from the captain through to everyone else, is that their places are less guaranteed than at any time since they’ve been at the club. They may not like that but it is certainly a comfortable feeling for the manager - even if I don’t find leaving people out of the team easy at all.”
The prime example of the struggles of the new squad depth has been James Collins, who has impressed whenever playing this season, but has been left out in favour of James Tomkins and Winston Reid. Collins has started just seven games in relation to Tomkins’ tally of 11 and Reid’s 14, but he has been reliable whenever called upon, and Allardyce has called the Welsh centre-back the ‘unluckiest’ member of the playing squad.
“One of the unluckiest players in the squad right now is central defender James Collins,” the coach added.
“He’s hardly put a foot wrong and no words of mine would do anything to minimise his disappointment and the feeling he has been unfairly treated.”