West Ham manager Sam Allardyce wants his side to show greater defensive strength when they host struggling Hull City in the Premier League on Sunday.
Allardyce’s men kept 14 clean sheets in the league last season, but have managed just four so far in 2014-15.
Part of that discrepancy can be put down to a change in style at West Ham, as Allardyce implements a more attacking philosophy that has been well supplemented by the additions of the likes of Enner Valencia, Morgan Amalfitano and Diafra Sakho.
The corresponding fixture against Hull last season proved a watershed moment at Upton Park, as home fans jeered at the final whistle despite a 2-1 victory, with supporters seemingly unhappy at the manner of the performance.
Ten months on, West Ham are seventh in the table, but have not tasted victory in the league in their past four matches and Allardyce wants to see his side build from the back.
“The fact we haven’t won in the league for a few games is a cause for concern,” he said in a news conference on Friday.
“We’ve been free-scoring this year, but we’ve only got four clean sheets this year and because of that it has cost us 1-0 wins recently that you look for when the games are tight.
“They [Hull] will be difficult to break down and difficult to beat when they come here.”
In West Ham’s last four games in all competitions, Allardyce’s side have taken the lead before being pegged back to draw, with goalkeeper Adrian converting the winning penalty in the shootout with Everton at the end of Tuesday’s FA Cup third-round replay.
Visitors Hull, meanwhile, were not in action in midweek and manager Steve Bruce may have been grateful for the rest given his lengthy injury list.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had it so bad during my managerial career,” he said.
“I haven’t been able to pick what I believe is my strongest team all season due to the loss of Robert Snodgrass in our first game at QPR.
“That first match has summed up our season so far when it comes to injuries. However, the one thing you can’t do is use it as an excuse.
“It’s been difficult, but it’s no good feeling sorry for ourselves. It is what it is and we just have to crack on with things.”
With Hull in the bottom three with just two wins in their past 14 outings, there was some positive news for Bruce in that Gaston Ramirez (groin) and Sone Aluko (calf) were expected to train fully on Friday.
However, Nikica Jelavic (knee), Abel Hernandez (groin), Mohamed Diame (knee), Andrew Robertson (ankle), Liam Rosenior (hamstring) and Snodgrass (knee) all remain sidelined.
For the hosts, Sakho’s back problem rules him out, while Guy Demel (knock) and Winston Reid (ankle) have returned to light training and are in contention.
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