Sam Allardyce wants his West Ham United team to reach their target of 50 points with victory at Aston Villa on Saturday.
He faced the media in his regular press conference on Friday, answering questions on those targets, injuries and Tim Sherwood's impact at Villa Park.
Sam, you’re now just one win away from the 50 point mark. How important is that and what will it mean about the progress you’ve made this season?
SA: “It was the target at the start of the season and at the time a little speculative because we had so many new players coming into the squad. I thought then it was a pretty big ask and all of the new players would have to contribute a massive amount of quality to help us achieve that goal. We’re now three points away from the goal, which shows that all the players have improved since they got back into the Premier League, and particularly the new players have made a massive difference.
“Our only problem at this moment in time has been injuries and coping with those. That has caused the lack of goalscoring ability in terms of players in the team who have not been able to convert the chances we’ve created. What we have to do at Aston Villa is continue in the progress of making sure we keep a clean sheet in the game. That’s the most important thing to build something at Aston Villa to try and win.
“Last week’s record of attempts at goal in the second half of any Premier League side showed how much we dominated the game, but it also showed our weakness at the moment in that we couldn’t convert any of those chances into goals. 22 attempts at goal was one hell of an achievement, but at the end of it the disappointing thing is we still only won 1-0 on a penalty.”
You mention injuries there – just how much have you missed Andy Carroll?
SA: “I think we’ve missed him and Diafra Sakho in recent weeks. We’ve managed to cope brilliantly without James Tomkins or Winston Reid and that’s what you call the backbone of the team, but the team and particularly Reece Burke has done a fantastic job with James Collins, but at the front end our two leading scorers are missing and that’s why we’re showing the shortage of goals. Converting the opportunities has been much more difficult than when we had those players available.”
How is Andy’s recovery going?
SA: “I think he’ll be back for the start of next season. Only a setback within the rehabilitation would cause any problems in that. He will spend most of the summer in rehabilitation. Elsewhere, James Tomkins is very close to joining back in the squad again after his shoulder injury. Winston Reid’s hamstring injury we hoped would have been fit for this weekend, but unfortunately it isn’t quite there, but next weekend should be okay. We want to get those players back before the end of the season to hopefully end as strongly as possible.
“Certainly the players who are playing at the moment are playing well and will have to continue against an in-form Villa and particularly Benteke, which shows the uplift you get when you get a prolific goalscorer. Burnley when they won their matches had Danny Ings scoring, now he’s not and they’re struggling, and ourselves in that matter too, although of course we won our last game.”