Manuel Pellegrini: Still the Man to Turn It All Around?
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 11 November 2019 at 9:00pm
Written by: Graham Keeffe
It is the 22nd of September 2019, West Ham have just recorded an impressive 2-0 victory, albeit over an abject Manchester United side. Pellegrini’s men are enjoying their best start to a campaign in seven seasons and are up to fifth in the table. Optimism is pouring out of the London Stadium as fans discuss the brilliance of Cresswell’s free kick and the excellent early season form of Yarmolenko. While there are grumblings surrounding the service being provided to Haller, no one really minds as long as the three points are secured. European football? Yes please.
Fast forward nearly two months on and this idyllic scenario has been ripped apart by injury, under-performance and bad management. All of this has been compounded by a board insistent on distancing themselves as far from the blame as possible. Now hovering above the relegation zone in 16th, West Ham are winless in six league games and look to have a real fight on their hands to replicate last year’s top ten finish, let alone achieve European football. Pellegrini seemed so assured in his team selection, right from defence to attack. His cool, calm and collected manner in press conferences reassured Hammers fans that no matter who the opposition was, the team would fight for a result.
Now, after a torrid run of form, his manner comes across as ignorant, with the lack of urgency in his voice regarding the situation inciting anger across the fan base. Perhaps he does not feel the need to single out individuals for their recent performances as the team is collectively to blame, perhaps he believes in his tactics and that the squad will eventually respond to his methods. Perhaps he has been made too comfortable by a naïve and arrogant board who seem oblivious to what is really going on around them. As well as making him one of the best paid managers in the league, Sullivan and co have made it rather difficult to sack the Chilean gaffer. Due to contract stipulations, Pellegrini’s early dismissal could result in the club having to fork out a hefty compensation fee. At the time of writing, there have been no statements from the boardroom to imply we are anywhere close to this situation.
With the international break now upon us, Pellegrini has stated he intends to use this time to “recover…and reverse this situation.” With Fabianski projected to be out until the end of December, this two week break should really be spent focusing on restoring trust and confidence at the back, two factors that have suffered greatly since the Polish international’s injury. For such a vital position, there appeared to be a real lack of foresight for such a circumstance occurring during the summer recruitment process. Financial cost appears to have overshadowed player quality. Confidence also needs to be reinstated into our key attacking players, particularly Felipe Anderson and Pablo Fornals. The latter has yet to justify his summer transfer fee but arguably still has time to do so. There is then the handling of the Haller situation. Pellegrini has been stubborn in succumbing to calls from fans to deploy two up top. In light of recent results, it’s probably about time he gave in. As for the inclusion of youth players, the gaffer would do well to re-evaluate his current policy. Young players can offer a hunger and desire that may sometimes be lacking in a side. Just look to our London rivals Chelsea or even Leicester City.
After the international break, the Hammers return to league life with dear friends Tottenham Hotspur visiting the London Stadium. Off the back of the performances against Newcastle and Burnley, if real change isn’t implemented going into this fixture, it will inevitably lead to people voting with their feet. The management and players need to band together, leave egos at the door and play for the badge. Passengers are neither wanted nor tolerated at West Ham. One can only hope that Pellegrini is the man to turn this around, because he certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.