Hammers secure encouraging win
West Ham travelled to Selhurst Park and came away with a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace, recording their first away win of the season in an emphatic style that promises much for the rest of the campaign if it can be maintained.
Of course, it was only the troubled Eagles who were the victims, but it was the manner of the result that encouraged the travelling faithful, as the Hammers looked dangerous throughout and never seemed in trouble.
You get the feeling that Marouane Chamakh is going to be one of those players who will always score against the Hammers just to prove that Sam Allardyce was too hasty to dispense with his services when on loan from Arsenal in 2013, but even when the Moroccan pulled a goal back just after half-time to make it 2-1, the Hammers barely looked ruffled and it was fully justified when Carlton Cole put the Irons two goals to the good again just after the hour.
Cole's goal totally deflated Palace and the visitors were comfortable winners by the end. Four or five goals wouldn't have flattered the Hammers; the promising Aaron Creswell going close and James Tomkins hitting the bar.
After the game, the talk was of Mauro Zarate's spectacular debut goal after 32 minutes that set the Hammers on their way. With the Argentinean playing in the role normally reserved for Kevin Nolan -- the captain out with a shoulder injury -- the side looked livelier and more of an attacking threat and there's nothing quite like going behind to a thunderous strike to worry an already tentative side like Palace.
Stewart Downing's goal three minutes later almost matched Zarate's, the winger cutting in and drilling in with his left foot from 30 yards.
It was the all-round play in midfield that caught the eye though; the absence of Nolan enabled Mark Noble to link up with Zarate in a way that isn't an option when Nolan is available and -- in a slightly mean-spirited fashion -- there were those who felt Big Sam had lucked out with his tactics on the day, as the manager never fails to pick his captain when he is available and it's unlikely Zarate would have started but for Nolan's injury.
Zarate is rumoured to be a player who was wanted by the Joint-Chairmen, rather than Allardyce, and if that's true then credit needs to be given to the owners -- purchases prompted by the board are usually a recipe for disaster -- as the Argentine looks to have an eye for goal and his form seems to have followed him from his successful season with Velez Sarsfield.
There's probably no need for supporters to get nervous about Sam reverting to type again either. Zarate's performance has surely forced his name onto the team sheet for the time being -- probably at the expense of Ricardo Vaz Te -- regardless of Sam's preferred midfield formation.
Even better, the manager was able to bring on new signings Diafro Sakho and Diego Poyet for a good run, while Ravel Morrison and Enner Valencia will probably get a game against Sheffield United in what should be a stormy tie in the Capital One cup in midweek.
No one is pretending that a win against a struggling Crystal Palace side is changing everything overnight, but neither can it be denied that West Ham are playing the type of football demanded by the board and fans.
Sam Allardyce may be forgiven for suppressing a rueful smile.
Peter Thorne, aka Billy Blagg (@BillyBlaggEsq), is the author of a regular column at WestHamOnline.net and the East London Guardian.