The Trouble With West Ham
At around 9pm last night my wife glanced at her phone and said, “Oh! The West Ham manager has been sacked.” This came as a surprise to her as she knows nothing about football, beyond the fact that I support West Ham (and that they’re not very good). Unfortunately it was not a surprise to me, or I doubt any other West Ham fan. In spite of, apparently, having two games to save his job, the performance at home to Leicester was so insipid and predictably disappointing that I could see no option beyond the club parting ways with Pellegrini.
The feeling among West Ham fans, well those whose opinions I see every day on Twitter, is that this action was a long time coming. There were grumblings following the defeat at home to Arsenal at the beginning of December, where we surrendered another lead, in yet another display of defensive frailty. But the word on the street was that the board were willing to give Manuel a chance, considering both the opposition (I know they’re not what they used to be, but Arsenal are “Arsenal” at the end of the day) and the severance pay that they’d reportedly have to cough up in the event that his contract was terminated.
Personally I was a bit indifferent. Yes Pellegrini has made mistakes. His substitutions during crucial periods of games have been baffling at times; his insistence on playing Haller, our star striker signed in the summer, in an advanced role with no support around him was infuriating. But is, or was, the problem Pellegrini?
The problem wasn’t, Pellegrini. Our squad has gaping holes in it at present, in spite of spending a significant amount of money during the last two summers. The curse of the West Ham Striker is alive and well. Haller has shown promising glimpses, but there is no credible back-up or partner within the squad. Ajeti hasn’t done anything when given the chance, not even when starting against weaker opposition in the League Cup. Antonio, while often willing and effective, is not a forward/striker. And the only other options appear to be kids that are only fabled to tearing it up in the U23s. Additionally, our midfield is non-existent, especially when we don’t have the ball. This is one of the key reasons why our defence, which I actually think has a decent core, is often exposed. Rice is great, but Noble can often look out of his depth when up against younger, more energetic opposition (I was explaining this to my wife yesterday and actually told her that he was older than 32 as that’s the impression I’m given). Sanchez is not the same guy that I saw bossing games for Colombia in the 2014 World Cup, we need to give up on Sanchez.
And now we have Moyes. In my opinion, he’s had his time, both at West Ham and in the Premier League in general. But there’s this weird idea that we need to appoint a British manager. I personally don’t buy into that. I often hear fans compare us to Wolves, and previously the likes of Southampton, but these clubs didn’t recycle Moyes, Allardyce, Pulis etc in achieving their, relative, “success”. We should be thinking outside the box. West Ham should look to throw a lot of money (as a means of glossing over the board thing) at a young dynamic manager. Someone who will sure up the defence and at the same time improve out creativity (we never seem to be able to achieve both). I see tons of managers that fit this profile elsewhere in Europe. I’m not saying we have to “go foreign”, but if there are no credible British options, we shouldn’t be limiting ourselves.
Lastly we need to invest well in the squad. Plug the aforementioned gaps and not just throw money at players past their prime. The likes of Leicester, Wolves and even Sheffield United have picked up many a bargain through shrewd recruitment policies that have targeted weaker areas within their squads rather than semi-big names that have been talked up by the top agents in Europe.
Until we change our approach West Ham will forever be in the cycle we find ourselves in at the moment, and fortune will continue to hide.
Written by Travis Newton