Former West Ham midfielder Alou Diarra has had some interesting things to say about his time at West Ham.
The ex-France international, who also served as captain, joined us from Marseille in summer 2012, having just clinched promotion back to the Premier League under Sam Allardyce and was hyped as a big signing.
However, the experience was far from a happy one for Diarra. Remembered by West Ham supporters as a flop, the highly-rated midfielder made just six league appearances for the club in total. Having originally signed a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee, Diarra’s contract was mutually terminated in summer 2014, at the end of his second season and following a six-month loan at Rennes.
Soon after his departure, Diarra was quick to criticise his time at the club and claimed that his agent has lied to him to convince him to join West Ham. (Big Sam involved in a transfer with a dubious agent story –now I’ve seen everything.)
Now, in a recent interview in France, Diarra lets rip on Allardyce, English training methods, football agents and the real story behind his unsuccessful spell with the Hammers.
“West Ham – it was a bad choice on my part. I tried to do well, but it was a deal between clubs, a deal between agents”, Diarra remembers. “The losing party was me. I was sold a dream on West Ham.”
On Allardyce, Diarra says “Lately we’ve seen what kind of a person he was, but it still doesn’t stop him from managing at clubs today. He’s someone who has his own personality, his own preferences, his own style. And he holds these, as well his opinions, very steadfastly for a trainer at a high level.”
Diarra continues with his depiction of Allardyce as too narrow-minded: “Despite the experience he has, it will limit him in because when we’ve already made up our minds about something, we do not want to learn and pretend to know everything... I had the chance to get to know huge managers – Ottmar Hitzfeld, Rafael Benitez, Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps... I really knew great coaches. And when you get stuck with Sam Allardyce, it’s a bit of a disappointment.”
In particular, Big Sam’s style of play caused immediate disillusionment for West Ham’s new star signing. “I do not want to criticise his style because each coach has his philosophy of play. But ultimately it works, or it doesn’t. For me, something works when you win trophies, when you win things. When we don’t win, it’s because the style is not working”.
Diarra also criticised the training at West Ham at the time, as well as some of the methods of English coaching generally. “Training depends on the coaches. At Charlton [where he spend 18 months after leaving West Ham], I had foreign coaches, so we worked as we work in France.
“I also had English coaches, but I’m a bit dubious about their working methods because I feel like they’re really dedicated to the starting line-up and don’t really care about the substitutes. In case of injury, the replacement suddenly has to flick the switch and get focused, and as a competitor I do not like that.”
At Upton Park, Diarra found the coaching lazy and limited. “The coach was there from Thursday to Saturday and from Monday to Wednesday he was not there, his deputies were. [...]There was no progression – a very limited style of play, with very little practice, very few exchanges. And a team that was repeated every weekend.”
On his overall time at West Ham, Diarra concludes: “I did not appreciate my experience because there was no longer this spirit of competition or competitiveness within the group. We knew in advance who was going to play, and that displeased me”.