'We have no cutting edge'

Sam Allardyce says a lack of quality in attack was the major reason West Ham United could not score in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa
Sam Allardyce admitted a poor first-half showing cost West Ham United anything from Saturday’s 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Aston Villa.

A lifeless showing from the Hammers in the opening 45 minutes was compounded when Jack Grealish danced to the byline unchallenged before crossing for Tom Cleverley to tap home just past the half-hour mark.

Despite throwing on Alex Song and Nene at the break and producing an improved performance after the interval, Sam Allardyce’s side had just one shot on target and failed to navigate a way past or repeatedly test Villa goalkeeper Shay Given.

When West Ham did get the ball into the Irishman’s net midway through the second period, Enner Valencia’s well-placed header was ruled out for offside against the Ecuador forward – a decision that led to lively debate among television and radio pundits and supporters on social media alike.

“I was baffled by the lack of quality shown by the whole team in the first half, considering how much we train and how many passing drills we do,” Big Sam told West Ham TV. “We were kicking the ball straight to them or kicking it out of play to the opposition, which was hugely frustrating.

“We had to make a change to the system and to the personnel and said to them ‘If you want to get something out of the game, you need to play better, especially in possession’. That got better in the second half, but our old problem arose again and that is that we can’t score in open play.

“That’s been a problem for weeks now and shows you how much we miss Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho and it hammers it home. We might play well here and there and play as well as Villa did in some parts of the game, but we have no cutting edge at the minute.

“The longer it has gone on and the more we look at it, the more apparent it is that we have got a big problem there. No matter who gets the chance, they can’t put it in the back of the net and because of that, life is very difficult for us to try to win a game at the moment.”
The longer it has gone on and the more we look at it, the more apparent it is that we have got a big problem there
After a toothless first-half performance, West Ham at least put some pressure on Tim Sherwood’s men after the break, but had just one shot on target – a James Collins header tipped over by Given – to show for their efforts.

“We didn’t think Enner’s goal was offside. We thought the header was onside and that it was a bad decision from the assistant referee. Enner could have had a penalty for a foul by Bacuna in the first half, but we are not finding the quality to hit the target enough or score goals.

“I thought Ginge had scored off the corner and it was a good save by Shay Given, but we are disappointed we haven’t scored a goal or created enough overall.”

One of the few positives the Hammers could take from their trip to Birmingham was the performance of Reece Burke on his third Barclays Premier League start.

The 18-year-old helped to shackle in-form Christian Benteke, while he was blameless when Jack Grealish got past Stewart Downing and crossed for Cleverley’s winner.

“He was great and him and Ginge handled Benteke very well. I thought the goal we gave away was a gift, though. We should have done a lot better with the run from Grealish and made sure he didn’t get that far, but he did.

“It was very disappointing overall. We are not under the pressure Aston Villa are under, but when they were getting a bit nervous late in the game, we should have produced a bit more quality and got back in the game but didn’t.”

With mid-table Everton at home and relegation-threatened Newcastle United away to close out the the season, Big Sam should be optimistic of picking up points, but he knows his team need to find ways to score if they are going to do so.

“If we can’t score a goal, how are we going to win? That’s a real problem for us at the moment. No matter what system or combination I try, nobody out there is capable of scoring a goal in open play.

“It’s going to have to change dramatically in the last two games if we are to get the points on the board and get up to that 50-point mark we are desperate to get to.”