Is Kevin Nolan holding West Ham back?

Kevin Nolan

Is it time Kevin Nolan was given an rest from action in the West Ham first team?

Judging by the amount of chicken dance celebrations the Premier League saw last season, some would assume that Kevin Nolan's contribution is integral to West Ham's 2013-14 campaign.

But most Hammers fans seem to have grown frustrated with Big Sam's decision to consistently field the 31 year-old in his team's starting eleven. 

In stark contrast to some of the Premier League's veteran players, Kevin Nolan's form has frequently been brought into question this season and a string of poor performances by the Hammers will have certainly put this under the spotlight.

In particular, Tuesday night's defeat to Crystal Palace has provided the anti-Nolan brigade with extra ammunition, given his somewhat calamitous double contribution to Marouane Chamakh's first half winner. 

Not only was the West Ham captain guilty of needlessly giving away possession in the build up to the goal, but he also appeared to obstruct the view of Mark Noble as the midfielder attempted to clear the ball off of the line.

West Ham's lack of cutting edge this season has left them facing the very real prospect of a relegation battle and for most West Ham fans, the January transfer window cannot come any sooner.

With Andy Carroll having been sidelined since May, Kevin Nolan was very much seen as the source to provide the goals until the big Geordie returns. But with just a solitary strike to his name this season it is in no way surprising to see him being singled out for criticism.

Tuesday night's starting line-up showed that, not for the first time this season, Sam Allardyce is willing to play good players out of position in order to accommodate Nolan in the side.

This move could well be defended if the much maligned midfielder's tally had risen since August 17th. But as it doesn't look like changing any time soon, most Hammers fans are asking the question; if he doesn't score then what does he contribute?

Just as in Saturday's win against Fulham, Kevin Nolan's substitution was greeted by an overwhelming murmur of ironic cheers. Having played merely a passenger's part in many of West Ham's fixtures this season, it is interesting to look at the players who are being sacrificied for his weekly inclusion in the team.

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On Tuesday we saw Mohammed Diame being forced out into an unfamiliar left wing position so that Nolan could occupy a slightly deeper central midfield role. This left a lot of supporters scratching their heads given the two or three more versatile players that were omitted from the starting line-up. 

Most Hammers fans will be more than aware that Sam Allardyce and Kevin Nolan are almost kindred spirits. Their bond, some may feel, could render them dually accountable for the club's recent woes. But is it fair to focus all of the blame on both the club's manager and captain?

Is the criticism of Nolan justified or wrongly targeted?

image: © Ben Sutherland

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