We believe he’ll attract new talent to the London Stadium as well as improving the current squad. Above all he is a winner … and we believe his experience, quality and proven record of taking teams forward quickly will ensure that he is successful here.David Sullivan on Manuel Pellegrini
FOR one glorious moment we were witness to the dream as the largely disappointing Felipe Anderson broke free of his shackles both mental and positional and surged forward, running at the Leicester defence before playing a neat one-two with Ryan Fredericks and crossing low for Pablo Fornals to sweep home. A marvellous goal in construction and execution to give us a glimpse of what Pelle-ball was supposed to be.
Unfortunately, the allegory doesn’t finish there – for the rest of the game West Ham looked, as so often under coach Manuel Pellegrini, devoid of coherence, tactically naïve, lightweight in midfield and a shitshow in defence. Nothing exemplified the manager’s reign more starkly than the comedic defensive efforts of centre back Issa Diop in the build-up to the killer second goal – the Frenchman couldn’t even foul an opponent properly. On the odd occasion Pellegrini entered his technical area the Chilean cut a lonely figure as his oversized white trainers rather cruelly cast him as the head clown at the West Ham circus.
The boss’s much vaunted “big team mentality” presumably never included contingencies such as Arthur Masuaku whose defending is at best, “up and down” and whose wayward header led directly to Leicester’s first goal. Neither could it possibly involve the all-round play of Carlos Sanchez, surely one of the worst players to ever pull on the claret and blue (and yes, we’ve seen Bill Green in the flesh).
More generally, Pellegrini never appeared to work on set pieces at either end to make up for deficiencies and personnel and is reputed to have never studied opponents never mind watched them. He decried the contemporary need for analytics preferring instead his own eyes.
Most of all, his attacking players never produced enough chances to compensate for their lack of contribution in defence. The team needed an energetic box-to-box player to play alongside the sitting Declan Rice but more often than not had the 32-year-old legs of Mark Noble instead. Up top the manager paid big money for the excellent Sebastien Haller but starved him of chances and expected him to peel off defenders and find space like Sergio Aguero – a player with a completely different style.
There were notable improvements in performance against Leicester – for the first home game in four the Hammers managed to concede fewer than three goals – but that statistic needs to be set against the nine changes the opponents made with manager Brendan Rodgers confident even his reserve side would win.
Not even the return of Lukasz Fabianski and a penalty save following an uncharacteristic blunder off his line could stop the opposition. The feeling was always the opposition had a bit in the tank. Nothing emphasises the difference in relative squad strength more than Foxes defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy. In only his second appearance of the season he looked at least as good any midfielder West Ham have played since the arrival of the current owners. .
Thus it was no surprise to anybody, not least we suspect, the manager himself, when the club website announced Pellegrini had been sacked with Vice Chair Karren Brady (she seems to be employed solely for such occasions) applying the coup de grâce. Pelle-ball had collided with reality in much the same way Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s awful election campaign. Perhaps Pellegrini also thinks he “won the argument”? It doesn’t matter, he can retire to his home in Santiago, Chile, safe from any financial worry. Who knows, he may even have an allotment?