Opinion: Big Sam offers what England require right now

England's appointment of Sam Allardyce from Sunderland could prove decisive for them in the future.

Opinion: Big Sam offers what England require right now
(Picture: The Telegraph)

"Because I expected this question, I have made an interpretation of the data for this game and then I have to say that it is not a good interpretation from Big Sam."

The words of former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, following his side' s scrappy 1-1 draw against the Hammers at Upton Park during the 2014-15 season.

The accusation came following the Hammers' adherance to a supposed long-ball style of football, which was direct and more goal-minded as it could be.

United, in no way whatsoever, could handle West Ham's aerial presence and physicality anywhere on the park and Daley Blind's late equaliser was nothing short of lucky and came after Luke Shaw's sending off.

Van Gaal's side ere dominated left, right and centre due to their small size and the presences of the likes of Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho up front, with the towering and bulky figure of Alex Song made the job all the more tougher for the Red Devils.

The 'Iron Tulip' criticized Big Sam of utilising the long-ball strategy that Sam Allardyce had himself accussed van Gaal of adhering to.

Big Sam's West Ham was aerially dominant and physically unbeatable. (Picture: Press Association)
Big Sam's West Ham was aerially dominant and physically unbeatable. (Picture: Press Association)

Sam's heroics at Sunderland, following the expiration of his contract at Upton Park were more than just commendable as the Black Cats avoided the drop once again, bearing resemblance to the past three seasons under the likes of Paolo di Canio and Gus Poyet.

His similar method of winning games paid off as Jermain Defoe racked up 13 goals since he took over the reins, which included a hat-trick against Swansea and a match-winning performance against Guus Hiddink's Chelsea.

The approach to avoid relegation was simple - win the game this way or that way. And Big Sam succeeded in achieving this objective in resounding fashion, condemning Sunderland's arch rivals Newcastle United and Norwich City to relegation.

A familiar approach to the game

During the recently-concluded Euro 2016, we witnssed how teams who prefer to sit deep against oppositions that like to keep possession, sprang surprises.

The examples of Iceland, Hungary, Wales and above all, Portugal showed how and why this style is the new trend-setter in the way football is seen tactically. Get numbers behind the ball, allow the opposition to play with a high line and surprise them on the break by being as direct as you can.

England's loss to Iceland was an example of that. The English lacked hunger, courage and determination to even come close to challenging the Iceland side, that oozed everything that Roy Hodgson's side lacked.

But with Sam Allardyce now coming in, an English side managed by him would never have had lost in that manner. They would've fought, battled with utmost spirit and hunger to win the game 1-0. And for Big Sam, a win is what matters.

Big Sam's sides won't awe-inspire in terms of playing pretty football but would win games in an almost dominative fashion, physically that is. With a bunch of hard-working and well-built players, Sam's teams never ever lack in what Hodgson's side lacked against Iceland.

What is assured of under him is that Sam's teams improve under him and when he leaves, he leaves a club, or a team, in a better shape than they were was before he came in.

He isn't someone who is a footballing intellectual, like say someone like Pep Guardiola or Brendan Rodgers, but England would undergo an immediate change when he takes over. Overnight almost.

Give him any manager to face, a Pep Guardiola side, a Jurgen Klopp gegenpressing based side or Mauricio Pochettino's high-pressing unit, Allardyce's sides would work excruciatingly hard to grind out a 1-0 result, trampling every bit of system and guile the opposition possesses.

It might not always work, but his team - eventually - becoming extremely talented at cancelling out their opponent's game plans to their own benefit.

A pragmatist

If England had appointed someone like Rodgers or Eddie Howe, it would have been more of an intellectual exercise than a pragmatic one.

They're managers who build teams and take time in bringing in their system into action. They form foundations and then work on them to improve their side. But this approach suits club football more often than it does to international football.

At clubs, you have the time, money and backing to set up things in the first place and do things gradually. Internationally, two out of the above three things are lacking.

You will have the backing of the association, but one doesn't have the time and money to impose oneself completely. Managing internationally requires a more pragmatic approach such that things work instantly.

Big Sam offers just that. England need to win and at international level, that's what matters. There's no room for an aesthetic approach, but as already mentioned, a pragmatic approach is required to win games.

You just have to pick at the opposition's weaknesses and ruthlessly take advantage of it. Again, Big Sam is inch-perfect for that. Moreover, trying to replicate and beat the likes of Germany and Spain in their own trade would be a battle fought in vain.

Not unidirectional

More so, Sam's system has undergone a slight change, as evident from his success at Sunderland. There was no deployment of a target man up front, which is something he usually did at West Ham with Diafra Sakho or Andy Carroll and at Bolton with Kevin Davies.

A dimunitive Defoe, who ran the channels exceptionally, did an impressive job to find the back of the net regularly. Pace out wide and from full-back positions was also used to very good effect, to compliment Defoe's inabilities in the air.

Patrick van Aanholt and Deadre Yedlin - from full back positions - bombed forward with purpose on every counter-attack, while Fabio Borini, Jermaine Lens, winter capture Wahbi Khazri and Yann M'Vila did the dirty jobs of dropping deep, but looked incisive on the break too.

Big Sam has never endured relegation. (Picture: Press Association)
Big Sam has never endured relegation. (Picture: Press Association)

And the absence of Andy Carroll from the England side won't be worrisome at all for Big Sam. Although, having the tag of 'never being relegated' and 'saving teams from relegation' is a good one to have, not having a job better than that isn't a desirable thing.

“Give me Manchester United or Chelsea and I would do the same, it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s not where I’m suited to, it’s just where I’ve been for most of the time.” The words of Allardyce himself.

The transformation of West Ham from a burly, unbeatable-at-heading team to a quick, fast and strong unit took place under Sam himself. And this transition wasn't torturous in any way. The Englishman is the man to be applauded for laying down the foundation for what West Ham are now achieving.

And it's not just the Manchester United side under Louis van Gaal from above, but Jose Mourinho's title-winning Chelsea side have also fallen prey to Big Sam's unsophisticated yet effective style.

In late January 2014, Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw against a stout, dogged West Ham side, which 'parked the bus' against the side that taught the world how to do that.

Chelsea had 39 attempts on goal, while the Hammers had only one. And the joyous Sam Allardyce told: “He can tell me all he wants. I don’t give a s***e, to be honest. I love to see Chelsea players moaning at the referee, trying to intimidate the officials, and Jose jumping up and down in his technical area. It’s great to see.”

So, there's a unique, uncanny yet dogged determination about Sam Allardyce that seems to make sure that he stands out from the rest, when it comes to getting results in crisis situations. And crisis is what England are going through right now.

They aren't any lesser than a small club in a big league, but with a fan-base that demands too much out of them. And Big Sam has been a savior for clubs like that in the Premier League already.

His extensive knowledge of the English game, research and expertise in psychology, sports science and statisitics is another contributing factor to his success. And he is the man who is managing the English team at exactly the time it was yearning for.