The rate of managerial turnover at West Ham is certainly commendable when you compare it to sides such as Chelsea or Leeds. Throughout our entire history, we have had only fifteen managers permanently occupy our claret and blue hot-seat – only four of which coming from overseas. The appointment of Manuel Pellegrini became official this week, although it could be argued that the announcement served to generate more questions – rather than answer them.
My passion for our Club has taken somewhat of a beating over the past two seasons, so I can perhaps be excused for not greeting the announcement of our new manager with immediate zeal. Until completing some not particularly rigorous research, I had serious reservations about Pellgegrini’s suitability for the role. Will he aspire to have us playing an attractive brand of football? Has his time in China turned him into a blunt managerial instrument? Is he too old for the job? Will the board actually back “their man” this time?
While I remain unable to answer a number of those questions, I hope that I am able to dispel any myths or misconceptions regarding Pellegrini’s style of play and management. Despite being one of the board’s most ardent critics, I honestly applaud the appointment of Pellegrini; there are a number of reasons why.
“It is important to instill a big team mentality.”
When trying to build confidence within young people you will often hear the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” banded around as though it is a packet of chewing gum; I believe the principle remains the same with regards to the stature of our Club. During a seminar where he talks about overseeing a 4-1 win over Manchester United, Manuel Pellegrini talks about the importance of instilling “a big team mentality” – and how this can be achieved through “not compromising [your own tactical values] just because you have a high-quality opponent.”
Throughout a career that has seen him manage in Spain, England, Argentina, Chile, China and Ecuador, the principles that have guided Pellegrini’s management have remained largely unchanged. Pellegrini’s sides have always favoured attacking football; they usually operate with a high press; and shape has always been changed in order to facilitate style.
4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1: it doesn’t really matter which shape Pellegrini elects to deploy, we are going to be playing attacking football, and that excites me greatly.
Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United – Sunday 22nd September, 2013
The BBC described Pellegrini’s opening Manchester Derby as “a day of delight for [then] new City boss Manuel Pellegrini as he watched the rampant Blues make a powerful statement about their Premier League ambitions” – but was that “delight” borne more out of David Moyes’ woes, or sky blue excellence?
City very much approached the game with Pellegrini’s managerial blue-print in mind. City’s full-backs were given the licence to attack due to Fernandinho’s discipline in midfield; Jesus Navas acted as an obvious out-ball on the right-flank (with his pace in mind); while Samir Nasri roamed from left-wing, providing the front two of Aguero and Negrado with ample support.
Albeit at an entirely different level, our first eleven would not require unrealistic upheaval to be able to recreate Pellegrini’s asymmetric 4-4-2. We potentially have a ready-made attack in Arnautovic and Hernandez, Lanzini is certainly able to operate drifting inside from the left and Antonio’s pace could yet
prove to be useful on the right flank. The past two seasons have laid our deficiencies bare: our defence requires massive surgery, we could probably do with a new goalkeeper and our lack of a true defensive midfielder is actually a little bit embarrassing.
Claret and Blue Moon Rising?
Be under no illusions that we need Pellgerini more than he needs us. As a manager, Pellegrini has had the pleasure of working for some of the most reputable and well-run clubs on the planet: River Plate are a huge team in South America and it goes without saying that Real Madrid and Manchester City dwarf West Ham into a state of near insignificance.
A large part of me is concerned by that. Pellegrini has been collecting a pay-cheque in China for the past year and has already proven his worth as a top-level manager. So, would it be fair to assume that he has agreed to come to the London Stadium for monetary gain – given the suggestion that he is now the third highest paid manager in the league?
I would argue not.
I hope with all of my worth that Pellegrini has decided to roll the dice with us because he genuinely believes in “the project”. I sincerely hope that the board back him to the extent that he can totally revamp our squad so that we are no longer reliant upon players whom are either not good enough (Aaron Cresswell), injury prone (Andy Carroll and Winston Reid) or both (Sam Byram). I hope with all my worth that Pellegrini is able to instil a “big team mentality” within our squad for next season. I hope with all my worth that Pellegrini is capable of transferring the London Stadium into the fortress that we were promised it would be.
I certainly don’t expect us to set the world alight next season – heck, I’ve been a West Ham for far too long to have any hint of optimism ringing from my keyboard. But what I do expect is an improved brand of football, a style based on our strengths rather than that of our opponent’s. I want to see two strikers, I want to see goals and I want to see us stuff Cardiff on the road in our teal away kit.
Manuel, allow us to believe again.
Written By Luke James | @Lukejames_32