ANALYSIS: ‘Tinkerman’ off the wagon as West Ham win again

Alan O’Brien 

Claudio Ranieri all but banished his “Tinkerman” moniker upon leading Leicester City to improbable heights in 2016. The over-rotation of his Chelsea tenure gave way to consistency of selection at the King Power Stadium, much to the surprise of Ranieri’s many media detractors. But tinkering, apparently, is a habit that’s hard to break. And, much to West Ham United’s delight, the Italian very much fell off the wagon at half-time here. Continue reading

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ANALYSIS: Reasons to be cheerful persist for luckless Hammers

Alan O’Brien 

Shorn of nine senior players, West Ham United nonetheless edged out Leicester City prior to Mark Noble’s ill-judged lunge. That the Foxes required a massive last-minute deflection to restore parity speaks highly of Manuel Pellegrini’s hamstrung Hammers, whose growing cohesion confers great credit on the under-fire Chilean. 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: Liverpool punish Pellegrini’s haphazard Hammers

Alan O’Brien 

Manuel Pellegrini got everything he wanted upon assuming the Hammers helm. The Chilean was empowered to rebuild West Ham United’s squad from scratch, without board interference. Armed with his handpicked director of football, Mario Husillos, Pellegrini captured ten signings at a net cost of over £80 million. But two obvious questions resulted: how quickly could the newbies bed in, and how quickly could David Moyes’s boys adapt to a progressive style of football? It’s impossible to answer either just yet, but after Sunday’s opener at Liverpool the early signs are far from promising. 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

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 16

Alan O’Brien 

1) Hard-running Hammers consign sluggish Slaven days to memory

If Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United had greeted the champions in this manner, claret (and blue) would surely have spilled. Continue reading

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 12

Alan O’Brien 

1) Set-pieces may keep Manchester United in the hunt

Two seasons have passed since Manchester United last racked up a respectable goal-tally from set-pieces. The total of 12 amassed during Louis Van Gaal’s debut season was middling. What followed — two consecutive sevens, twice placing United second-last — was not. Continue reading

Premier League: Two tactical talking points from Matchday 10

Alan O’Brien 

1) 5-3-2, the counter-attacking formation-du-jour

Ever the tactical trendsetter, Chelsea’s Antonio Conte has done it again. Last season’s switch to 3-4-2-1, that inspired a title-grabbing 13-game winning run, was shamelessly copycatted across the Premier Division; most notably by London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Continue reading