Enough for Big Sam
As part of our new Premier League Snap-shots feature, Graeme Bailey looks back at Norwich's draw with West Ham United.
Last Updated: 15/09/12 4:26pm
West Ham could have, at least for a couple of hours, gone top with victory at Carrow Road - but Big Sam Allardyce is old enough, and experienced enough to know that you can never turn your nose up at a Premier League away point.
Whilst the Hammers will take the draw, Norwich will be left hugely frustrated at the fact they are still without a win this season and manager Chris Hughton will no doubt have his worries.
Chris Hughton made one change from the side which played so well at Tottenham and earned a point, with Andrew Surman coming in for Anthony Pilkington - who failed to shake off a hamstring injury. Surman operated on the flank but not as wide as you find Pilkington. Simeon Jackson continued in attack alongside skipper Grant Holt which meant Steve Morison and Harry Kane began on the bench. At the back, full-backs Russell Martin, who passed a fitness test, and Javier Garrido looked to provide additional width.
Likewise West Ham made just one change from their last outing - an impressive win over Fulham - with Carlton Cole given the chance in attack, replacing Andy Carroll, with Modibo Maiga have to make do with a place on the bench. Somewhat surprisingly, West Ham kept new signings Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun on the bench along with the likes of James Tomkins and Alou Diarra.
Norwich were not dissimilar to how they played under Paul Lambert last season. Hughton has them playing good football with Garrido and Martin both happy to play out from the back if needed. Former Leeds pair Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson sit in the middle and form a compact unit, which allows both Robert Snodgrass and Surman to wander in from the flanks and try to unlock defences. This system then looks for strikers to drive into the channels which Jackson did when he could, but Holt was not able to link in with the play as well as he would have hoped. Youngster Harry Kane came on along with Morison, and they in many ways caused more problems with both more willing to make runs for each other. Indeed the Spurs youngster should have scored the winner late on.
West Ham are a very solid unit, and in Jussi Jaaskelainen they have a very good keeper when called upon. Especially away from home, a Sam Allardyce side is not going to play flowing football - but instead counter attack at pace when the opportunity arises and today was no different. Carlton Cole worked hard in the lone front-man role, but all too often there was little in terms of service for him with West Ham more than happy to have at least ten men goal-side.
Both sides made early changes and it was West Ham boss Allardyce who threw the dice first with Maiga and Jarvis both being introduced with Cole and Matt Taylor making way - but West Ham did not change their system although the introduction of Jarvis did add some pace to going forward and the England winger did well - but again could not create a clear chance in the final third. Late on Benayoun made a cameo appearance but it was no more than that.
Norwich's substitutions had more of an impact on the game, firstly Jackson came off just after the hour with Morison coming on and not long after Kane came on for Holt - and they did look better, working more as a pair with both players working off each other. And indeed Kane caused a lot of problems. He missed his own late chance before then creating one for Snodgrass, who saw his shot deflected wide.
Chris Foy had an excellent game and even earned praise from Sam Allardyce after the game for his decision late in the first half. James Collins fouled Andrew Surman on the edge of the box and it looked close, but it did seem a penalty was the most likely outcome, but Foy correctly ruled the challenge was just outside the area.
Norwich may not have collected any yellow cards this season, but it is the other zero column entitled wins which will be a huge concern to Chris Hughton. But there are positives for them, in that they defended well and all-around look solid. However, the lack of goals will be a worry. Snodgrass and Surman look to provide the biggest threat, and he will need to either get Holt scoring again or find more from the likes of Kane and Morison if they want to have anything other than a relegation scrap this term.
West Ham will provide some stern tests for sides this season - they missed Andy Carroll today, who could very well be the difference between a top-half finish or a relegation battle. But it seems highly unlikely that Big Sam will allow his side to be dragged into trouble. They looked to have a lot of options on their bench and could switch systems if needed. Plenty of positives for the Hammers.