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: 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

ANALYSIS: Prodigal Pellegrini can have no excuses

Alan O’Brien 

In an era of dwindling managerial autonomy, Manuel Pellegrini stands almost alone. Prior to assuming David Moyes’s mantle, the Chilean demanded sole responsibility to remake troubled West Ham United in his own image. Owners David Gold and David Sullivan, still smarting from last season’s unrest, were only too happy to oblige.

Pellegrini was empowered to handpick a director of football, in former Malaga co-conspirator Mario Husillos, who set about dispensing a near-£100-million transfer kitty in the manner of his master’s choosing. Husillos acquired 10 players, of which nine are first-team ready. For Pellegrini, therefore, the heat is on: instant success, of the kind secured at Villareal and Malaga, is a must. Continue reading

Stoke City 2-0 Manchester United: How Stoke Hammered Another Nail In The Coffin Of Van Gaal’s Moribund Manchester United Reign

There were numerous moments during Saturday afternoon’s defeat to Stoke City that one could highlight to illustrate the irreparable dysfunction rife amid the ranks of Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United. Continue reading