PLACE your bets as we assess the runners and riders ahead of the great Manuel Pellegrini sack race.
A pitiful two points from the last 21 are nowhere near good enough for a side claiming top six status. Plus, it has been said no Premier League manager can withstand five consecutive defeats and maintain their job. West Ham’s Chilean boss is currently on three with tricky away trips to Chelsea and Wolves looming. So let’s have a scan at the potential appointees for the claret and blue hot seat. In no particular order:
Pros: Seems keen and would sort the lamentable defence out. Has plenty of Premier League experience with Burnley, readily confounds the expected goals metric and is in possession of a strong work ethic. Cons: Would cost a bit prising him from Lancashire. Certain fans (among them the Chairman) might not appreciate his unremitting honesty. Hair: Brave nineties industrial. Odds: 5/1
Pros: Brilliant and inventive tactician who encourages signature moves such as the overlapping centre-back. Has done wonders with an average Sheffield United squad. Liked by the West Ham Board. Cons: Less than six months experience in the Premier League. Sheffield United wouldn’t let go of the former full-back without a fight – and especially not to West Ham! Hair: Silver fox. Odds: 6/1
Pros: Has worked at the top level including Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Stabilised a similar basket case to West Ham while at Newcastle. Good relationship with David Sullivan. Cons: £££ Hair: Max-era Peter Kay. Odds: 8/1
Pros: An up and coming manager, he has established Bournemouth as a Premier League side. Cons: He doesn’t want to come to West Ham and the Board don’t want him. Hair: Luvverly! Odds: 50/1
Pros: Knows what it is all about and did a brilliant job of keeping West Ham up last time around. Cons: Wants the Everton job above all. Was treated shabbily by Hammers fans and employers. Hair: Well seasoned – salt and pepper. Odds: 15/1
Pros: Out of work. Has top flight experience with Newcastle, Norwich and Brighton. Sullivan can sell him as an ex-West Ham player. Cons: Out of work. Limited tactically, ultra-defensive. Hair: No fixed abode. Odds: 5/4 Lump on!
Pros: Loved by the fans. Would get Sullivan off the hook. Er… That’s it. Cons: Lack of experience. Hair: Who would ever forget that razor sharp parting? Odds: 50/1
Pros: Inexplicably loved by those of a claret and blue persuasion. Cons: He’s a rubbish coach with very limited tactical awareness – particularly when Dimi isn’t around to bail him out. Hair: Ludicrous hair transplant. Just For Men’s the lot, beard included. Odds: 50/1
Paolo Di Canio
Pros: See Scott Parker. Cons: More baggage than EasyJet. Hair: Solar panel. Odds: 1,000/1
No man will make himself a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it
DID today’s events seem familiar? No, not West Ham going three down before giving themselves a chance with two late goals as they did against Newcastle in their previous home game. Nor Jose Mourinho being unveiled at his nth new club as manager. Neither was it the woeful Roberto Jimenez chucking another one into his own net for the first goal.
Yes, it was the sound of the David Sullivan carousel turning, as again the players provided a performance that will have the West Ham Chairman on the phone to agents assessing the suitability of potential managerial replacements.
Obviously, Sulley won’t be able to do the deed decisively and with the minimum of fuss in the manner his equivalent at Tottenham, Daniel Levy, dispatched Mauricio Pochettino. We will first “enjoy” stories on favoured websites about current manager Manuel Pellegrini mugging old ladies, stealing the charity tin at Rush Green or defecating on Mark Noble’s shirt during an ill-judged training ground stunt. Only then, with a furious fanbase marching on Hackney Wick with scarves, caps and flaming torches will Sullivan hand Pellers his P45
For the record, there will be no tears shed at OWHWLY Towers when our Chair hands the Chilean the glass of single malt and pearl-handled revolver. Off the pitch an obsession with talking about “big team mentality” looks, after a run of two points from the last 21, to be little more than false entitlement. Pellegrini treats journalists, and by extension the wider public, with an ill-deserved hauteur. He is rude, arrogant, and refuses to answer pertinent questions preferring instead to waffle on about nothing.
On the pitch displays have worsened. Whether you look at expected goals against (xGA), big chances given up or pressing statistics, West Ham are bottom of the Premier League for defending. Against Spurs, the manager’s tactical winner was to offer no protection for either full-back in the same 4-1-4-1 formation that has served him so badly for so long. The received wisdom is elite sport success is defined by tiny percentage gains. Here at West Ham Pelle has been throwing blocks of points away with a refusal to address defending, set pieces or – and this will come to define his reign – not possessing a goalkeeper with even the most basic goalkeeping skills. Our local rivals, who hadn’t won an away league game for nearly a year, took gleeful advantage
Pellegrini has been given more money than any other Hammers manager in both real and relative terms. Yet big money attacking buys Anderson, Fornals and Haller are failing badly and bereft of confidence, largely at the hands of a restrictive tactical formation that precludes either crossing early balls, going outside a full-back or getting midfielders in advance of an isolated loan striker. Against Tottenham wide players Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko produced almost nothing in attack – but were nowhere to be seen without the ball either.
It was difficult to know who had hit the wine hardest, Pellegrini with his “tactics” or referee Michael Oliver – who had a terrible game which included booking Issa Diop for getting fouled by Harry Kane and not red carding Ryan Fredericks for a shocking challenge on Son Heung-Min. Unfortunately for West Ham neither Mourinho nor his players were intoxicated by anything other than success … we can confirm Spurs midfielder Harry Winks wasn’t tiddly
Once again, an idealist manager charged with playing football “the right way” has failed, creating the need for a pragmatist to bail the club out. Sullivan, desperate for supporter approval, will look to somebody to “do a job” then not allow them to continue because of an adherence to some misty-eyed ideal, before getting in another expensive flop. Blind to the nature of this continuum it might be said the Chairman’s only aim for the club is the maintenance of his own position.
Pellegrini, shorn of a ‘Plan B’ – for which Sam Allardyce and David Moyes were panned – will leave, possibly after the Southampton game and only once Lukasz Fabianski has returned to fitness. Even Sulley wouldn’t expect a new manager to deal with the car crash that is Roberto. The money spent rescuing the coach from China (much of it a bribe to keep quiet about Sullivan’s lack of method) will have been wasted and a further wedge will need to be spent paying off his backroom associates.
As pleased as Sullivan may be that the crowd didn’t revolt during or after the Spurs game, he should be careful – in matters of the heart apathy is a sign the love has gone – at least anger means there is still something there. His next appointment will be (temporarily, at least) the difference between a Premier League future and a relegation spiral. The club owner loves to ascribe some connection to the club when making appointments but surely even he would be forced to blench at “club legend Chris Hughton”
A scenario: Rafa Benitez is said to be unhappy at Daliang Yafang in China, plus there is a feeling on all sides the Spaniard owes West Ham, given how gracious they were about him ditching their offer for Real Madrid. He and Sullivan are said to get on well even despite a characteristic Brady slur in her Sun newspaper column. However, there is a problem – around 30-40 million of them. Buying off Pellegrini won’t be cheap, nor will getting Benitez out of his contract. If we know anything about Sullivan it is he won’t tip up with the money. So here it is: Sell Declan Rice to pay for Rafa Benitez? We would take it, even if it doesn’t address the problem at the heart of the club