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 By Peter Thorne
Aug 16, 2014

Familiar first day for Hammers

Sam Allardyce's attacking woes haven't disappeared over the summer.

It's tempting on the opening day of another Premier League season to look back and consider all the changes that happened since Leeds United finished as final champions of the old First Division in 1992 and the Premiership was born thereafter.

This season sees the first use of the disappearing spray used to mark free kicks -- seen in this summer's World Cup -- and as the referee reached for the can in every match throughout the country, ironic cheers echoed down from the stands.

West Ham UnitedWest Ham United
Tottenham HotspurTottenham Hotspur
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Some things are perennial, though, and have existed in football since the days before referees wore top hats, and one of those is that if a team doesn't take their chances, then they don't win matches.

Sam Allardyce will be musing over this truth after an opening day defeat at Upton Park that saw Spurs score in the 93rd minute to take all three points.

Even reliable penalty takers sometimes miss, and the shot wide from the spot by Mark Noble after 28 minutes, following a handball decision by Kyle Naughton that saw the defender sent off, was a blip by a normally reliable penalty taker.

The problem, however, is West Ham are so poor in front of goal that they can't really afford to spurn these chances, and despite the plethora of forwards signed by Allardyce during the summer, it looks as if the past season's failings are still the same ... or are they?

- Report: Sam Allardyce says job is secure
- Delaney: 3 points on West Ham vs. Tottenham

After all, there might be significant differences in the way squads are handled since '92, and there is no doubt the game is based more around the 18 squad players than just the starting eleven.

Even so, it's usual for a manager to start with a formation he expects to break down the opposition initially, and on that assumption the appearance of Carlton Cole up front with Ricardo Vaz Te and Kevin Nolan tucked in just behind was a dispiriting sight on opening day.

True, Enner Valencia wasn't match fit, and new signing Diafra Sakho's paperwork hadn't been processed in time for the game, but the non-appearance (even from the bench) of Mauro Zarate was puzzling, considering the Argentine was one of the preseason's only bright spots.

Really, this game looked to be heading for a goalless stalemate, and Harry Kane's through ball deep into injury time that allowed Eric Dier to break free and slip the ball under Adrian was more than either side deserved, but it was inevitable that the home fans would be seething with indignation as Tottenham's supporters celebrated wildly at the final whistle.

Until the sending off of James Collins within 10 minutes for two bookable offences just over the hour, the Hammers had numerical superiority for 30 minutes, and Naughton's dismissal had occurred when the home side were well on top anyway. West Ham never brought extra pressure to bear, though, and you could sense Spurs always thought they could nick it late on.

The fact remains that despite their superior shot percentage, the Hammers just don't convince in front of goal, and the inclusion of Vaz Te, Cole and Nolan means that Mo Diame has to be content with coming off the bench when he really needs to start.

There has to be more to Sam's insistence that he wants to attack than just adding striker's names to the books, and it will be interesting to see how new forward coach Teddy Sheringham is able to utilise his experience to get the best from this squad.

A disappointing start, of course, but the real test is where West Ham goes from here. Just someone to poke home one of myriad half-chances will make so much difference to how everyone views this team for the rest of the season.

Peter Thorne

Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), has been an Internet warrior for West Ham United since 1998, writing his first column for the Hammers' fanzine site the Ironworks long before the word "blog" appeared in the dictionary. The Blagg column appeared weekly as the Ironworks morphed into WestHamOnline.net. Blagg's first book, "Nightmare on Green Street," was published in 2003.

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