ANALYSIS: Pellegrini’s big team mentality trumps unpenetrative Arsenal

Alan O’Brien 

If anything, Declan Rice may be too mature for Manuel Pellegrini’s own good. The teenager’s all-seeing performances in holding midfield may have convinced his manager it was safe to revert to 4-4-2 back in November. One central midfielder was therefore dumped, as the 4-3-3 that plugged West Ham United’s yawning early-season gaps fell by the wayside. Fortunate victories over Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Fulham masked the lack of balance this switch engendered. A subsequent festive period run of one win in four, therefore, came as little surprise to more keen-eyed observers. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Alpine Klopp must learn from the original

Alan O’Brien 

Ralph Hasenhüttl has performed miracles before. In under three years, the gregarious Austrian transformed lowly Ingolstadt from second-tier relegation fodder to a mid-table Bundesliga force; no mean feat by any man’s standards. But even Hasenhüttl must have been shocked by the speed with which he reinvigorated Southampton in Mark Hughes’ grumbling wake. Two wins in his first three games, claiming Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten scalp in the process, suggested the Saints had taken to his high-pressing doctrine like ducks to water. Who could blame him for getting carried away? Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Hardy Hammers hamper Hazard

Alan O’Brien 

Statistics can be misleading. Jorginho’s 180-pass haul in this stalemate, a Premier League record, prompted plaudits from all corners of social media. West Ham United risked ridicule by gifting the ex-Napoli playmaker his freedom. But there was method to the Hammers’ madness. And, in the end, they were all the better for it. Continue reading

ANALYSIS: Counterattacking Hammers finally break their duck

Alan O’Brien 

Old dogs don’t tend to take kindly to new tricks. So, at the age of 65, Manuel Pellegrini was never likely to be parted from his obsession with a “big-team mentality”. But chastening defeats to Liverpool and Bournemouth, suffered right at the beginning of his nascent West Ham United tenure, must have given the Chilean pause for thought. Evincing a slightly more reserved tactical outlook, the Hammers were unlucky to go away empty-handed from subsequent engagements with Arsenal and Wolves. Everton, unbeaten but brittle, represented the perfect opportunity to turn that luck — provided Pellegrini did not revert to gung-ho type. Continue reading