The defeat had been that complete Sam Allardyce could not but be completely honest.
After the 3-0 loss to Chelsea, the West Ham manager revealed his team have started to suffer “a bit of fear” on the pitch and the situation is certainly beginning to look concerning off it.
“I never expected to be sat here having lost four games [at home] already,” Allardyce said. “Over last season, I only lost four... so I’ve got a massive dilemma about how to turn that back around again. That was our fortress last year, that’s why we finished 10th and losing four at home is why we’re tinkering with the bottom four now.”
Having become notorious as one of the Premier League’s most awkward away trips last season, West Ham now have the joint worst home record in the division. That has left them outside the relegation zone on goal difference and the root cause for that is clear, too: Allardyce’s side also have the joint worst scoring record of anyone outside the bottom three.
“Ultimately, I know one thing that will change our dynamics a massive amount,” Allardyce said, “but I can’t have him and that’s Andy Carroll.”
The long-term absence of the forward has severely disrupted West Ham’s season but it does raise questions over how one injury can cause so many other problems.
Most of all, there was the use of the remaining transfer budget on the so far ineffective Stewart Downing to supply Carroll, rather than another striker to back him up. Allardyce was again at pains to point out how the club “went all out” to try to sign one of “ four top strikers” in August, but the anguished limitations of their play were also evident on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho revealed he spent the extra time of the international break to watch every West Ham game. “I saw everything,” the Portuguese said, but his elaboration did not indicate that was all that much. Even though the home manager went for the drastic action of making two substitutions before half-time, it did not really change anything.
West Ham were actually relatively comfortable in their contained, counter-attacking game until Guy Demel’s 21st-minute error for Frank Lampard’s opening penalty rendered it redundant. They could not do anything else. Worse, Allardyce indicated the team’s inability to attack is now starting to erode their previous assurance in defence, and foster the hesitation that created mistakes like Demel’s.
“I thought the players tried as hard as they can but I think they’re playing with a bit of fear at the moment,” Allardyce said. “ I saw a little confidence ebb away today which I haven’t seen this season.
“That always is dangerous when you see that body language I saw today, so it’s my job to pick them up and remind them about previous performances we’ve had home and away and make sure we get to that level and stop those fears creeping.”
On Saturday, it was Chelsea who were confident and in control, with Oscar and Lampard – again – completing the scoring. The latter insists Mourinho’s side can further improve and “catch fire”. West Ham must too, and soon.