12 games into the season and we have already reached our third international break. Leaving that particular subject for another day, it is now a good time to reflect on our season so far, with nearly a third of the campaign having already passed us by.
Manuel Pellegrini’s start
With only three wins to date, you’d be forgiven for being a tad pessimistic heading into the next round of fixtures, having failed to beat the likes of Bournemouth and Wolves at home, while amassing only two points from our away fixtures.
Yet despite all of this, there is still a sense of optimism in the air, with Pellegrini continuing to implement his fresh ideas and philosophy on the squad. Continuing here being the key word, with lots of work both on and off the pitch still be done.
After the latter stages of Bilic’s reign, along with brief Moyes’ stint as manager in the second half of last season, the players are still getting used to Pellegrini’s contrasting methods. Success (in whatever way you interpret that word) under the Chilean will take time, and patience is required from the supporters for things to properly catch on.
We don’t need statistics to see that we are trying to play a brand of football closer to the West Ham fans’ hearts, with a pass and move philosophy currently a work in progress.
Not only that, but Pellegrini himself is still clearly trying to work out what is best for the squad in terms of personnel, formation, and the odd tweak in tactics.
21 players have been used at some point in the season so far, some due to rotation, some due to change in formation, and as is the case every season, some due to injury.
With the likes of Lanzini, Carroll and Reid having missed the whole of the season so far, along with Wilshere and Yarmalenko joining them on the treatment table, consistency in team selection is not something Pellegrini has been awarded the full benefit of so far.
We all saw Lanzini’s link-up play with Arnautovic at times last season, and once our little jewel in particular gets back to full fitness (touch wood), he could be the boss’ missing ingredient in the midfield to provide that moment of magic that we sometimes sorely lack.
Victories and positive football
That being said, we have had some memorable matches already, with some scintillating football on show, and a teaser of what may be to come.
When we click, we really do seem to click. All of our wins so far have seen us score a combined total of 10 goals. And if you want to take that further, we’ve scored another 11 goals in our two Carabao Cup victories of the season, albeit against lower league opposition.
An impressive 3-1 away win against Everton set us off the mark in terms of wins for the season, followed by another 3-1 victory at home to Man United. Our last win came two weeks ago against an admittedly leaky Burnley side, collecting the three points with a 4-2 win (which I’m sure even the most ardent of Burnley die hard’s would admit flattered Dyche’s side).
The football in display in these matches is hopefully an indication of the direction that we are heading in with Pellegrini on board, rather than them being anomalies.
The defence – a concern
One thing we have a right to be concerned about, however, is the left back spot. You would be hard pressed to find a fan out there that hasn’t been impressed with all of Fabianski’s, Zabaleta’s, Balbuena’s, Diop’s, and Rice’s consistent performances this season, so why exactly have we conceded a high total of eighteen goals?
Pellegrini has rotated Masuaku and Cresswell throughout the season so far, in the hope that he finds that defensive solidity that the aforementioned players apply. Yet we continue to look vulnerable down that left flank no matter who fills the gap on any given game day.
Either at least one of the two left backs need to considerably improve the defensive side of their game, or we seriously need to look elsewhere in the January transfer window to tighten our elsewhere solid back-line up.
When we revisit Premier League football after this international break is over, taking the Man City game out of the equation for obvious reasons, we have a run of fixtures that we realistically should be looking to get a high number of points from.
With two home games against Cardiff and Crystal Palace respectively, sandwiched either side of away games away to Newcastle and Fulham, Pellegrini and the squad will be eyeing up a big points haul which would hopefully boost us up into the top half of the table, and set us on our way for an exciting second half to the season.
With all the negativity surrounding club at the best of times, West Ham United under Pellegrini is something that we can afford to get a little bit excited about.
Written By Louis | @lou_pye