International breaks are rarely welcomed among supporters of Premier League clubs as it means a break for a fortnight from top-flight club action. However, West Ham fans would be grateful for the little time out.
With an expensively-assembled squad, West Ham was expected to at least lush into the top half. While Liverpool and Chelsea outdid them in the market, the Hammers returned with shrewd bargains. Nine newbies accompanied Manuel Pellegrini to the Olympic Stadium, including record buy Felipe Anderson.
However, the ex-Manchester City boss may have misplaced his lucky charm during the shopping spree. West Ham is rock-bottom with zero points. No other team in England’s top four divisions is enduring such barren patch.
Defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, two supposedly stronger sides were quite reasonable. The shocking home slumps against Bournemouth and Wolves unacceptable.
Adama Traore pounced on Carlos Sanchez’s error to snatch an injury-time winner for the visitors. In truth, one-nil was a fair result. Apart from a seven or eight-minute spell in the second half, the Irons were simply awful.
The early signs were crystal clear, though. Cheikhou Kouyate was freed to Crystal Palace, only to be replaced by clanger king, Sanchez. Lucas Perez, Andriy Yarmolenko and Sanchez all arrived a little bit late. Still, a manager of Pellegrini’s repute was supposed to harmonise the squad on time. Well, he hasn’t.
The Hammers have been ponderous, insipid, devoid of ideas, lacking sharpness and bite. Seven newcomers started against Wolves alongside Robert Snodgrass who spent last season out on loan. The outcome was a disjointed and incoherent side devoid of cohesion. Wolves’ Matt Doherty was unimpressed.
“They’ve not gelled as a team yet. They’ve obviously got a lot of good individuals, but it’s down to the coaches to try and get them going. It’s hard to do it when you bring in a lot of players, especially in the Premier League.”
Pellegrini is not affluent with options. Yet he must consider recalling the likes of Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang to find some continuity from the previous campaigns.
Without those two, Jack Wilshere alone has looked off the pace in the middle. Switching to 4-3-3 with the former Arsenal prodigy alongside a double pivot could be the way forward.
The most glaring weakness, however, is the slipshod defence, which has shipped 10 goals. Huge outlays were thrown on Fabian Balbuena, Ryan Fredericks and Issa Diop. Although the trio has shown genuine promise, they have lacked a sense of cohesion. Aaron Cresswell hasn’t aided their settlement.
Pellegrini’s high line defence could be the disconnect. To halt this trend, the Chilean should attempt to ditch this system for a more guarded approach. Extremely speedy sides such as Liverpool effectively exploited that loophole with relative ease. Wolves looked deadly on the break last week too. More could follow.
Not just the 64-year-old’s orthodox approach needs a twist, his rigorous training regime too. The players have massively wilted towards the end of every game. They are covering fewer grounds than expected. Only Manchester United (65.1 miles) and Cardiff City (62.5 miles) numbers are worst than the Hammers (65.6 miles) per match.
Goals win games. The Irons haven’t been scoring enough. They’ve struck just twice in four games; one a penalty against the Cherries. Pellegrini would have to sharpen his attack. Just 15 of their total 42 shots have been on target, with an average shot accuracy of 36%.
West Ham faithful is losing patience. Pellegrini must turn things quickly before they turn against him.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby
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