TEAMtalk reflects on West Ham's 3-0 Premier League victory over Fulham, which saw Andy Carroll impress on debut.
Sam Allardyce pulled off quite a coup in persuading Andy Carroll to join West Ham on a season-long loan, and the England international showed why the Hammers were so keen to bring him on board during an impressive debut outing against Fulham.
The Cottagers had no answer to Carroll as he inspired Sam Allardyce's side to a convincing 3-0 win and they will be hoping that their own mercurial frontman, Dimitar Berbatov, can make a similar impact over the coming weeks after making his bow at Upton Park on Saturday.
West Ham opted to go with a 4-3-3 system, with Allardyce aware of the need to get bodies in and around Carroll. The Hammers new boy was deployed as a central figure in the final third, with Ricardo Vaz Te and Matt Taylor providing pace and trickery from deep-lying posts. Only one change was made to a back four which looked far from watertight in a 3-0 defeat at Swansea in its last Premier League outing, with Joey O'Brien drafted in at left-back.
Fulham, having started the season brightly, went with two out-and-out strikers up top in a tried and tested 4-4-2 formation. Hugo Rodallega was restored to the starting XI, while summer signing Kieran Richardson was included wide on the left. With the creative talents of Moussa Dembele having been lured away to Tottenham, Martin Jol decided to go with ball-winners in the form of Mahamadou Diarra and Steve Sidwell in the heart of midfield, rather than ball-players.
Allardyce may have been criticised in some quarters for winning promotion playing a brand of football some West Ham supporters are unaccustomed to, but the Hammers remain pleasing on the eye when in the mood. Understandably, with Carroll brought in for a reason, West Ham's main focus on Saturday was on getting the ball wide and into the box. That approach worked perfectly. It also has to be noted how influential a figure Mohamed Diame has become in the new Hammers set-up, with the summer arrival from Wigan running the midfield with his power and ability to drive into the box.
Fulham, despite the loss of Dembele, did their best to knock the ball around, with patience the order of the day. They still have the players to play that way, but there were occasions when they overdid things and were caught in possession in dangerous areas of the field. West Ham were able to counter as a result, with the Cottagers side lacking the pace possessed by their opponents. Jol must come up with a more effective Plan B when things unravel so spectacularly in a short space of time.
Allardyce was forced into two changes in the space of 60 seconds midway through the second half, with one of those substitutions forced upon him. James Collins made way for James Tomkins in a like-for-like swap at the heart of the Hammers' back four, before Carroll limped off after tweaking a hamstring and was replaced by another physical presence in the form of Carlton Cole. Youngster Robert Hall was given a taste of Premier League life after Guy Demel picked up a knock, and he saw one late effort blocked. The Hammers had the game well wrapped up before introducing any of those from the bench.
Berbatov was the first to be introduced from the sidelines, with Jol turning to his new £4million frontman after watching his side offer virtually nothing during the opening 45 minutes. The talented Bulgarian offered glimpses of what the Cottagers faithful can expect to see from him once he has found his feet, with some neat touches providing Fulham with a greater threat at the business end of the field. Fulham's second change on the day saw Richardson make way for Alex Kacaniklic after putting in a decent display on his bow for the club.
Anthony Taylor enjoyed a quiet afternoon in the middle of the park. He had no need to go to his pocket at any stage, with the game void of rash challenges and shows of petulance. The only time the man in black found himself at the centre of attention was while waving away two penalty shouts from Carroll during the first half.
West Ham have now won their opening two fixtures on home soil this season, and Allardyce will be delighted to have seen his side shake off their troubles from 2011/12. The Hammers had an unfortunate knack of being held in front of their own supporters last term, but will be aware of the need to make Upton Park a fortress after stepping back up into the top flight. They would appear to have more than enough to steer clear of trouble and could find themselves challenging for a top-half finish.
Fulham need their fresh faces to settle quickly if they are to avoid becoming stuck in a rut. They will undoubtedly miss Dembele and Clint Dempsey, but Jol must ensure that those charged with the task of filling their boots are up to the job. The Cottagers will have started the campaign looking to at least match last season's ninth-place finish, but will need Berbatov and co to start firing on all cylinders if they are to trouble the top half again.