Firstly I would like to credit Jason Hannen for part of my inspiration for this post after reading his comments regarding our very own Sam Baldock here. If you agree or disagree and want to talk to him with it then you can find him on Twitter as @JayHannen
Sam Baldock is really causing quite a stir before the season has even begun. He is a very strong fans favourite, this is probably for his non-stop running and eye for goal, he seems to have that never give up attitude that every fan would love, but then there comes the issue…
Last season he wasn’t given many chances, quite a lot to the frustration of the West Ham faithful, especially heard at the game away to Burnley when we were 2-0 down before half time. As the players, coaches and manager headed back to the tunnel you could hear a lot of the away fans chanting “We want Baldock”. In this game, they got their wishes and, it paid off, as we came back to draw 2-2. Even though he didn’t score, he looked like much more of a threat that game than most of our other strikers.
It is clear to most fans that Sam Baldock isn’t Sam Allardyce’s favourite, which is one that brings a lot of debate and to some even confusion. So here I am going to do my best to analyse what is causing this.
Baldock is a short, pacey, centre forward. He has an eye for goal, which is great but, he doesn’t have the strength or power like other players we have like Cole or Vaz Te. In a world where it appears the 4-4-2 system is dying very quickly, especially at the top level, it causes problems for Baldock, who seems to be a player who likes to feed off the other striker who can hold the ball up and thread a pass through for him to run onto.
He is your ideal little man in the big man and little man 4-4-2 but, with the formation not being used very often and, especially under Allardyce, we don’t see it much at all. That’s going to already be a slight struggle for Baldock. West Ham clearly use a 4-5-1/4-3-3 system under Allardyce, with the big centre forward holding the ball up to invite the wingers into play.
Vaz Te, for one, appeared to strive under this formation, playing out wide and running onto balls so he could cut inside and have a strike at goal, or run to the by line and try a cross. I don’t think Baldock has the ability to play in that wide position, he doesn’t seem like a wide man, even though his pace could work were he to run inside to shoot.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave, much to the frustration of a lot of fans, but it seems he is not Allardyce’s favourite and also if he wants to further his career, he will want to be much more than a bit part player. Nicky Maynard has already admitted he was willing to change his game style to suit the Allardyce way, maybe Baldock isn’t so willing, which is why his chances have been slim.
I personally hope he stays, I like the guy as a player and he appears like he wears the shirt with pride and wants to do well in the claret and blue. Also, he has been our best finisher in pre-season. I know a lot of people will say that pre-season means nothing apart from getting your fitness up, but I’m sure it would also fill a player with confidence if they are doing well.
Furthermore, having Baldock could mean we can mix up our formation, rather than sticking to the one system, while he could also be developed into a winger who can cut into play and strike a goal. He could become a very deadly opponent for others, but he would also need to work on tracking back, as this season will probably be one of the toughest for our sides and our defensive play will need to be at the strongest it has ever been.
Maybe the best move for Baldock would be to go on loan, build up his experience and fitness, then he can try to prove to Allardyce what he is missing and maybe, just maybe, Allardyce would admit he was wrong about him and give him a chance.
It’s tough to say…I personally think he needs to prove he can play in a different system to which he prefers and then take his chances as soon as they arrive.
What are your thoughts on him? Do you think he deserves a chance, or is he not good enough in your opinion? Leave a comment, or tweet me @conflictinbanno as I’m very interested to see the views of the fans.