How is Pellegrini’s 3 year plan panning out so far?
Author: ExWHUEmployee. Published: 13 July 2019 at 7:49pm
Written by Will Humphries
When taking over the reigns as West Ham manager in May 2018, Pellegrini made it clear that he had a 3 year plan for West Ham which included how he wanted us to play, the mentality of the club (players and staff alike) and the clubs recruitment strategy. By focusing on these 3 aspects, Pellegrini is hoping to transform the club and help to push us into that illustrious ‘’top 6’’ bracket.
But in order to see how far we have come, first we must look at where we were before Pellegrini was at the helm.
The 2017/2018 season was a disappointing campaign which saw us go through two managers, Slavan Bilic And David Moyes, and even though we avoided relegation by 9 points, at the 35 game mark we were still in contention of relegation, a position that a team like West Ham should not find themselves in. With 10 wins, 16 losses, a minus 20 goal difference and a very defensive style of football, it was clear that something had to change if we were to return to playing and living the West Ham way once again.
Despite their flaws, the board made the conscious decision to not stick with the ‘’safe option’’ of David Moyes and push the boat out to appoint an attacking big name manager in Pellegrini. From this point onwards, we were in the first year of the 3 year plan and the main objective for the first year is to implement his style of play and ensure the club begins to adjust to his ethos as soon and effectively as possible.
The first sign of the ‘’big club mentality’’ that Pellegrini wants to introduce was shown in our ambitious signing of Felipe Anderson which smashed our previous record transfer signing. High profile signings such as these are what is required for us to start to build a team which has the capabilities of challenging for European football. Further signings that summer such as Andriy Yarmolenko, Issa Diop and Jack wilshere was a good start for Pellegrini to implement his style of football as they all possessed the attributes that he looks for in their respective positions and have undeniable quality.
Now that the squad was becoming closer to his mould of a team, the change became evident from last season. We won 5 more games and lost the same amount but the biggest difference there is the ability we had to turn draws into wins and come from behind to win games which is something we’ve rarely seen in the last few years and is a benefit of Pellegrini’s big team mentality. But the results aren’t the only thing which has improved. Last year we saw an improved number of goals scored (from 48 to 52), a big decrease in goals conceded (68 down to 55), we had 13 more big chances created and possession rose to 49% from 46.4%. Although these numbers haven’t increased drastically from the Moyes/Bilic era, it’s a positive sign to see us finish 5 positions higher in the table and surprisingly concede 13 fewer goals in a much more attack minded team with a much riskier defensive tactic. This is also a completely new style of play for many of the players such as Noble, Cresswell, Antonio and Ogbonna who have all made 20+ appearances this season who have spent their west ham careers playing for defensive minded coaches and in systems which wasn’t reliant on possession so changing to a more attacking, possession based style of football is a culture shock to them and the way they’ve been told to play in claret and blue prior to this.
All things considered, for a transitional season for Pellegrini in his first year back in the premier league and certain off the field matters by a certain someone having an impact off the pitch affecting our results mid season, I think we can look positively on last season and be excited for the second stage of the 3 year plan. But what can we expect in this second year?
This year we can expect to see an attacking style of football which is more effective than the season before. With the signing of Fornals in midfield and the change of formation to a 4123/4141 with Rice holding the midfield with two attacking midfielders ahead of him as mentioned by Ex, we can see West Ham progress into a more creative side across the pitch and mistakes at the back being reduced due to the practice and experience of our back line to this new system. A main concern last season was that we were too reliant on Anderson to create something for us as we often had a lack of a number 10 in the squad and it meant that the strikers had to do a lot of work in order to create chances as well as score them. This seems to have been identified as now we can expect to see Fornals, Lanzini and/or Wilshere playing as advanced playmakers on the edge of the box as well as Anderson and Yarmolenko/Antonio providing a threat on the other wing. Now that we have creativity across the midfield, the role of our striker will have changed for this season and they will no longer have to come a lot deeper to receive the ball and create chances. It will now be their role to lead the line and make smart runs inside and into the box in order to create options for our midfielders to pass the ball to and will no longer have to do a great deal outside of the box when in possession. With the talk of signing a new main striker and the disappointment of missing out on Maxi Gomez, perhaps we already have the striker who can fill this role effectively. Throughout his career, that is exactly what Hernandez has been known for, the fox in the box who knows how to get into the right positions and put the ball in the back of the net when he gets there. He has shown this at West Ham before but his main problem has always been that he was asked to do a lot of work outside of the box or to do a lot on the ball when often isolated which has never been his strong suit. Now that we have the system and the midfield to perform these roles for him, he can now focus on doing what he does best and scoring the chances that this midfield will create for him.
There is still a month left of the transfer window and the second season hasn’t kicked off yet, but there is plenty of reasons to be excited about the season coming up and seeing how this three year plan unfolds and if we continue to progress the way we have thus far, we can expect Pellegrini to achieve the ultimate goal of this plan and see the mighty hammers playing over land and sea. Only time will tell but we can all be confident and enjoy the journey.