What is going wrong this season?
Author: ExWHUEmployee. Published: 8 September 2018 at 11:41am
By Max Friend (@max41955014)
£90 million worse off and with no real visible improvement from last season, many of us are at a loss as to why these pricey players signed in the window aren’t paying the dividends we expected from them when they arrived in Stratford during the summer. Without so much as a point from our opening four games, we are in the midst of our worst start to the season since the doomed 2010/2011 campaign which saw us finish rock bottom, a shocking seven points adrift of Wolves in seventeenth, and things are only looking bleaker from here. After a trip to Goodison Park to face Europe hopefuls Everton, we welcome Chelsea and Manchester United to the London Stadium. These three games, in the opinion of any rational thinker, will ensure our woeful run stretches to zero points from a possible twenty-one, an absolutely dismal beginning to what was widely hoped would be a successful season.
So where has it all gone wrong? Pellegrini was given close to free reign in our summer dealings, with a weighty transfer budget to bring in the players of his choice as well as profits generated from the shifting of dead weight in the squad being made available to him. Why is it then, that many of his signings have either failed to deliver or seem completely inept in the system the Chilean is trying to impose? Out of our nine signings, only a handful of them have been a clear improvement on what we already had, Lukasz Fabianski and Ryan Fredericks being the most astute pieces of business completed in the window. An unacceptable number of the signings, however, have raised many eyebrows around the Olympic Stadium, especially given the inordinate sums dished out for their services.
Felipe Anderson, our marquee signing from Napoli, springs to mind as one of the more blatant underachievers of the season. Some might say the Brazilian has proved underwhelming (others might believe he has been downright awful) but I think we can all agree that he has been nowhere near the long overdue replacement for Dimitri Payet we thought we were getting when he was announced. Showing only brief and inconsistent glimpses of his quality, the winger has had nowhere near enough of an influence on games so far, dawdling on the ball and showing an obvious lack of creativity and ideas, proven with only a single assist to his name in over three hundred and thirty minutes of Premier League football. Although some would argue he has not been woeful, his price tag must be taken into account when judging his performances and he simply has to improve should he want to be considered in Pellegrini’s first team plans for the rest of the season, with Yarmolenko, Snodgrass, Antonio, Hernandez, Masuaku and Perez all vying for attacking places.
Our second most expensive signing of the summer, Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko, is yet to cause any real reason for concern for Michail Antonio with regards to his first team place. He has been used as no more than a bit-part player so far, spending no longer than half an hour on the pitch before our last match against Wolves where he came on as a half-time substitute for Robert Snodgrass, and has not given Pellegrini any real food for thought as to whether he is ready to be in contention for a starting berth. Although he looks sharp with the ball at his feet, the former Dortmund man has failed to substantiate his claim for a first team spot with a lack of any notable impact on matches in terms of chances created and until improvements are shown in that aspect of his game, he is likely to be constrained to irregular minutes off the bench.
On the positive side of things, a couple of signings have proved very successful business, with a further few names still finding their feet and improving with every appearance.
In Fabianski, we’ve finally found a keeper that does not draw a collective breath from the crowd every time the ball goes anywhere near him, and the importance of a solid stopper can’t be overestimated with the Pole having already pulled off a number of fantastic stops that I’m certain neither Adrian or Joe Hart could have managed, as well as barely putting a foot wrong in doing the basics.
Ryan Fredericks, arriving from Craven Cottage on a free transfer, has been an absolute coup in my opinion. Although perhaps a little bit defensively naïve, his bombarding runs forward provide another much needed attacking option and as long as he is adequately covered when he embarks on one of his meandering dribbles, then he will become a valuable asset to the team.
Although not a new signing as such, Robert Snodgrass has returned from his loan spell with Aston Villa a much better player. I rated the Scotland international before he was shipped off on loan for the entirety of last season, and while acknowledging that things didn’t exactly go his way, I appreciated his constant effort in an otherwise lazy, unenthusiastic side. Since he has come back, Snodgrass has been one of our best players and although there is still a lot to come from him, I believe he could become a pivotal part of our attack over the course of the season. Having already displayed good vision and range of passing, it is now time for the former Hull man to step up and be counted as one of our main men.
After a truly abysmal start, the time for excuses is over. It is now up to Pellegrini to make the changes we need, whether these lie in his tactics or starting lineups, in order to kickstart our season and push for the top half finish we all expected, or else face the consequences any other manager would.