West Ham 1-2 Leicester

Pellegrini cut a forlorn figure

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.

Pablo Fornals celebrates his excellent strike

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.

Misery for West Ham as Leicester celebrate

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?

In Memoriam

So. Farewell then
Manuel Pellegrini

“Big team mentality”
That was your catchphrase
Even though you managed West Ham

You had blue eyes
But you were born in Chile
That always puzzled me

And grey hair
You never smiled
And were rude
Not charming

You spent millions
On players
But they got worse

Just like we spent millions
On you
But you got worse

E.J. Thribb 17½  

And don’t slam the door on your way out!

FOR you, strategy and tactics were things other people do. Just go

The only person you really believed in was yourself. Go

You were arrogant, obstinate and vain. Go

Coming from a very comfortable background you never understood the working classes. Go

Worse, the people who pay their money didn’t like you. Go

You treated the press with barely concealed disgust. Go

You took a huge wage yet didn’t even attempt to step out of your comfort zone. Go

You are humourless, you don’t engage and we’ve barely seen you crack a smile. Go

If you had any humility or integrity you would have pushed off long since. Go

You were rude and lacked warmth. Go

You came in with a huge fanfare but never lived up to it. Go

Competence would have been enough. But you chose idealism even though your dreams were never going to fly. Go

You lost, then you lost and just for a change you lost some more.

Just go

Please go

Go

Jeremy Corbyn or Manuel Pellegrini? You decide.

West Ham 2-3 Tottenham

No man will make himself a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it

Andrew Carnegie

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.

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini

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.

Keeper Roberto fumbles the ball … again

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.

Hammers under Pellegrini give up too many chances

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.

The West Ham press is non-existent

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

David Sullivan – we are looking at you.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

Titles close

Scene: On the 276 bus to Stratford

Gordon Ramsey: I’m off to the east End of London, famous for gangsters, murderers and jellied eels. Today’s subject is “Club Jambon D’Ouest Uni”, a restaurant in West Ham’s ground where the owners are in a pickle. Since moving premises three years ago in an effort to grow the brand, customers are unhappy and many have left yet the standard on offer has dropped. Profits are down after a number of expensive ingredients turned out to be not worth the money.

GR: I’m due to meet owner David Sullivan.

Scene: On the centre spot at the London Stadium. GR and David Sullivan talk. Gordon holds his chin

GR: Hi David, what’s going wrong?
David Sullivan: I don’t know Gordon, I work my socks off – but everybody else keeps letting me down. I appoint all the chefs – but it can’t be my fault because I’m the man with the money.

Scene: In the restaurant. Gordon orders some food and casts his eye around. To camera:

GR: Wow! This is the oddest place I’ve seen. Décor soulless, no atmosphere. The seats are miles from the kitchen and somebody appears to have spilled red wine all over the new carpet. The tables have popcorn on them as a starter, the scaffolding decoration looks out of place and why are there no cups? Fuck me!

The food arrives and Gordon picks it about a bit before sending it back.

GR: My God! This is terrible. I need the toilet, excuse me.

Retching noises come from within.

Scene: In the kitchen. Chef Manuel Pellegrini stands in front of the microwave looking guilty

GR: Hi! Gordon Ramsay. You are the head chef?
Manuel pellegrini: Si.
GR: Do you think that was sufficient quality to get your customers to return?
MP: Si. We have a big kitchen mentality here.
GR: No pride, no passion, no preparation – you’re living on another fucking planet mate!
MP: I worked at the top restaurants in Madrid and Manchester, please don’t be rude.
GR: Rude?! Fuck off! Your Lasagne Al Fornals was underprepared – almost raw, the Cress was limp and the Wilshere Jack cheese just fell apart every time I tried to get it on my fork. The Pâté de Foie (Snod)gras with Scotch was ok but the only dish with any promise was the Rice.

GR: Mate, I was looking forward to a vintage Chilean red but all I’ve seen so far is cheap fizzy water.
MP: We are not in a good moment, I need another wingman.
GR: Fuck off! The only reason you’re here is to make a quick buck before you retire! You don’t care.

Scene: In the boardroom. Ramsay eyes the prawn sandwiches nervously. David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady look unrealistically confident.

DS: How was the food?
GR: Seriously? It was fucking awful! The French beefcake was all alone on the plate with nothing else – I was expecting some Gravy Diangana but the kitchen tell me they’ve will have to go to Birmingham to get any.
GR: As for the Spanish guaca-goalie, it was bright green and rancid – I expected something Fab but it absolutely stank the place out.

A bad smell – the guaca-goalie

GR: And your Brazilian dish couldn’t have been worse if somebody had boiled a sandal – a complete fucking Felipé flop!
GR: All your food is Fancy Dan – you need some meat and potatoes – good honest stuff that does a job.
Ramsay turns to Gold
GR: What about you Mr Gold, what do you do?
David Gold: I was born in Green St.
GR: What!?
DG: Yes, it’s true. And I used to play for the boys and now I drive a Rolls Royce and wear a blazer.
GR: Are you fucking serious?
DG: Oh deadly serious, Mr Ramsay, do you want to see my garden?
GR: Fucking hell, I’ve never met anybody so deluded in all my life!

Ramsay gives up on Gold – especially as he thinks he may need the toilet – and introduces himself to Brady.
GR: Hi, Lady Brady, pleased to meet you. What is your role in the process?
Karren Brady: I’m all about raising the profile of the place…
GB: Raising the profile? How?
KB: With my weekly piece in the paper and regular appearances on The Apprentice.
GR: Yeah, but what do you do for the customers?
KR: I’m the Vice Chair – and let me tell you, a good restaurant doesn’t need customers to be successful. No, I run a club called the Objectionable Supine Bootlickers, the OSB for short – and they tell me everything I want to hear. Sometimes we even offer them a few crumbs from the top table.
GR: So who gets feedback from the diners?
DS (interrupting): Oh, we don’t talk to them, why would anybody do that?
GR: Fuck me ragged, this place is a total shitshow and you lot are fucking amateurs. I can’t help you.

GR: I’m off!

Closing credits

Burnley 3-0 West Ham

Happy families

THE facts are stark – in their last six league games West Ham have won none, drawn two and lost four. Worse, this is not a “bad spell” as manager Manuel Pellegrini claims but a relatively easy run that contained none of the so-called ‘big six’ clubs. Our next four fixtures are against Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves and Arsenal.

All the chatter is of the manager facing the sack. At present it seems very unlikely – the Board decision to appoint a head coach on such high wages means we are stuck with him, especially as sacking him would mean paying off all his staff as well. Plus, the question remains over who would fill a vacancy – the club are not the attractive proposition many fans would like to think.

The arrogance we spoke of after the Newcastle game needs to stop. The coaching staff need to sit down and realistically think about how to win games. If that means a pragmatic approach to replace the manager’s idealism then so be it.

Of the six goals conceded in the last two games four resulted from set pieces. The issue must be addressed. Pellegrini needs to be disabused of his insistence “nothing will change” on the training ground. Properly executed set pieces are claimed to produce 15-20 goals a season in attack. At the other end of the pitch conceding in this manner will only put more pressure on a misfiring front four to produce.

Despite an attacking trio of midfielders who barely defend and don’t press (there was a good piece about this in The Athletic this week) the team are not producing chances for striker Sebastien Haller. The Frenchman must wonder what he has done coming to a club as dysfunctional as West Ham. Imagine how good he could be if somebody like, oh I dunno, Marko Arnautovic was playing behind him?

At the moment Haller is still working hard but at the risk of repeating ourselves midfielders, especially coming from wide, need to at once get the ball in front of him in the box and come in from the opposite post to get beyond him. Continuing as at present to play stupid little passes into his feet in the hope he will produce something on his own is futile.

Good sides often have a settled back four. Pellegrini must pick his men and stick with them. Of the games mentioned only against Palace did the manager leave his back four unchanged. The present requirement is for players least likely to make mistakes, which means Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna and Cresswell should start.

Eyes down for a full house

Some problems are insurmountable; there is nothing the manager can do about injuries to the unfortunate Manuel Lanzini or more worryingly Mark Noble, one of only three players along with Rice who can play defensive midfield, even if this further exposes the insanity of not replacing Pedro Obiang during the summer. It’s as though Michel Roux jr suddenly declared: “There’s no butter in the fridge and we haven’t time to go to Tesco, let’s just make our pastry without. Nobody’ll notice”.

Likewise the goalkeeping issue seems irreconcilable. We can only rue Mario Husillos’ decision to bring in Roberto Jimenez as cheap cover for Lukasz Fabianski, a decision that seems more expensive with every week the Pole takes to recover from a hip injury. Fabianski was worth 12 goals to the Hammers last season – it feels like his replacement chucks one in every game.

As everybody’s Gran used to say: “Buy cheap, buy twice”: If a point in the Premier League is said to be worth £1million, the £40,000 or so saved on wages is costing the club around a hundred times as much. Michel Roux jr again: “This butter is way too expensive, lets get some Netto own brand marge instead. What could possibly go wrong?”

Arguments are raging both on social media and among individual supporters over where the blame lies for our current predicament. Some apportion blame to the manager, others the players, still more the Director of Football. We say this: The Chairman is in charge. It was his decision to appoint a manager who matches his arrogance. Pellegrini in turn, appointed a DoF who chose the players he wanted to buy. The squad are struggling under the vague tactical instructions of a hands-off manager who believes “big team mentality” is the essence of his footballing philosophy. Therefore, it seems obvious to look to the top for responsibility.

David Sullivan, this is your omnishambles. Fucking own it!

Sullivan’s sting in the tail

IN the most predictable set of events since Jack Wilshere last presented himself to the club medical team, a West Ham slump in form has been followed by a welter of briefing against club employees. Even though Manuel Pellegrini’s job is said to be safe (it would cost a lot to sack him and his staff), Mario Husillos’ reign as Director of Football appears to be nearing a close at the London Stadium.

Pertinent to these events are the old Russian fable featuring a frog and a scorpion. Put briefly it goes something like this; A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog afraid of being stung defers. But the scorpion prevails, reasoning should it attack the frog they will both surely die. The frog relents and begins to carry the arachnid on its back. Midstream the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why, to which the scorpion replies “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”

Just as the scorpion can never escape his deadly instinct even when it leads to his own demise, so Hammers owner and coincidentally Soviet paraphernalia wearer David Sullivan is drawn to implicitly criticising staff members via friendly journos and bloggers every bit as surely as a drunk will inevitably weave their way to a kebab shop. It’s in his nature, you see.

Quite what the bloggers themselves get out of the transaction is difficult to ascertain. Any “reflected glory” from our owners would be about as lustrous as a ten quid fake Rolex brought back from a holiday in Turkey. The paradox is Sullivan engages in this activity in an apparent desperate attempt to keep supporters onside – yet is the owner of one of only two clubs in the country that refuse to interact with supporters’ groups. He insists we supporters listen but refuses to reciprocate.

A good owner would stand or fall by their own actions, not donate responsibility to staff members. Many fans see through this charade and recognise the Chairman’s behaviour as weak and indecisive, just as in our own workplace we all know a boss for whom ‘shit rolls downhill’.

The remedy is for Sullivan to butt out. Unfortunately, he seems to have little idea of the overarching role a DoF actually entails, meaning any appointment would be on a haphazard basis. In that sense if no other it was a reasonable process that saw Husillos chosen not by the Hammers’ owner but by his own head coach that in any well-run club would be a subordinate. File under: Only at West Ham.

Sullivan’s period in the job saw him rely almost exclusively on agents instead of a scouting network, a process that has resulted in too many “marquee signings” at the expense of future revenues. There are persistent rumours at other clubs that West Ham are too close to one agent in particular. Until Sullivan comes face to face with the reality that he is the problem not the solution and the process is every bit as important as personnel we fear “Dabbler Dave” will persist and money will continue to be wasted.

West Ham 1-1 Sheffield United

THE contrast could not have been greater.

Watching on TV as England humbled the almighty All Blacks with a brilliant display of precision and power and coming away from the game breathless and exhilarated. Then later in the day trudging through the Stratford drizzle to see West Ham bumble and fumble their way to a lame draw against recently promoted Sheffield United.

Yes, they are different sports being played at quite different levels but if you aspire to be the best it must be worth adopting the processes that lead to being the best in all codes. There are parallels to be drawn, particularly as West Ham’s financial turnover is roughly equivalent to that of the RFU.

Ignore those telling you the boys with the red rose on their chest won because they showed “passion” (possibly one of the most overused and meaningless words in sport) and bellowed the National Anthem with gusto. England beat New Zealand because they analysed the opposition and sought weaknesses before putting in place a blueprint to exploit the flaws they found.

Coach Eddie Jones picked a team of individuals best suited to maintain discipline and carry out the game plan as the implemented individual skills to for the greater good. Most of all trusted they their defence, brilliantly organised by John Mitchell to hold out safe in the knowledge they had the players to hurt the Kiwis in attack.

It isn’t clear if Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini uses statistical analysis to prepare his sides. Frankly, it’s doubtful; certainly, he never mentions it at pre or post-match pressers preferring to keep his comments as anodyne as possible and repeatedly speaking only of “big-team mentality” (heaven only knows what that means).

Team selection and formation against the Blades seemed capricious. Having struggled with a lack of midfield presence the Chilean decided to remedy the situation by playing Declan Rice on his own in a 4-1-4-1 formation(!) Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson wide with Robert Snodgrass and Mark Noble given the job of supporting striker Sebastien Haller.

A not uncommon sight; West Ham six against six in defence

Arthur Masuaku, Ryan Fredericks, Angelo Ogbonna, Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals were dropped from last week with Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena, Pablo Zabaleta, Robert Snodgrass and Yarmolenko coming in. Changing three-quarters of a back four seems odd, especially when the problems at Everton last week were further forward. Rather than a set of changes to improve the whole it appeared as though a frustrated and confused manager was punishing various players for heaven knows what. As a friend commented: “This is a team picked by Twitter”.

The system failed. The game plan had not been thought through. Without a tackler alongside him to break up play Rice was repeatedly outnumbered. Worse, the attack was a mess. Nobody was able to get alongside Haller, never mind advance in front of him leaving the Frenchman isolated and frustrated as he attempted to hold the ball up and play in … nobody. Meanwhile the wide men and fullbacks hit crosses in to … nobody.

Haller is an incredible striker with so many skills in his repertoire but the team are not playing to him. Pellegrini’s pre-match criticisms seemed both out of character and inappropriate. Without a second striker (given our lack of central midfield options we wouldn’t advocate 4-4-2) or better still a goalscoring midfielder coming from deep the former Eintracht Frankfurt player is wasted. Essentially Pellegrini is attempting to recreate the style he used at Manchester City without the individual skillsets.

The home side scored, as Pellegrini sides seem to, not through overwhelming the opposition but by a piece of brilliance – in this case a lovely cushioned volley from Yarmolenko that set Snodgrass away to finish calmly just before half-time. The Northerners equalised mid-way through the second half after two failed headed clearances by Issa Diop allowed an unmarked Lys Mousset to mishit his shot under a collapsing Roberto Jimenez in the West Ham goal. The rest of the game degenerated into sloppy pub football.

Once again we faced the drizzle.

There May Be Trouble Ahead

MANUEL PELLEGRINI’S preference for playing three attacking midfielders behind a lone striker is a real problem. The gains made from such a line-up are more than outweighed by losses in defensive solidity given the personnel available.

Don’t believe us? Perhaps you should read today’s report from football analytics experts Statsbomb that confirmed all our worst fears.

Essentially, our defensive expected goals or xG (the odds on us conceding) are the worst in the league. Our attacking xG is a bang average tenth. Not only do these statistics make expectations of a top six finish appear fanciful in the extreme, they point, once things settle down, to a possible relegation scrap with only Newcastle possessing a worse combined xG.

At this point it is worth saying that if Sebastien Haller stays fit there is little chance of the club going down – but that is pretty cold comfort given the money spent over the past two seasons.

On a sliding scale of manager Manuel Pellegrini’s attitude to team selection you might term it idealism, stubbornness or arrogance. Whichever you prefer, the fact is he has boxed himself into a corner.

For various reasons (return from injury and unfamiliarity with the Premier League prime among them) our attacking trio are just not firing. They have scored just three times between them in nine games; all from the left foot of Andriy Yarmolenko. Individually none have created more chances than Watford’s much maligned Tom Cleverley.

Given the alacrity with which we give up chances the obvious answer would appear to be replacing one of the attackers and reverting to a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 with strength added in the middle of the park.

Unfortunately, the three players in our squad capable of playing the role are Jack Wilshere, Carlos Sanchez and Robert Snodgrass. The first has neither the defensive capability nor fitness to fulfil the role with Colombian Sanchez one of the worst ever players I’ve seen in the claret and blue. That leaves us with the 32-year-old former winger Snodgrass as the man to shore up the team alongside fellow 32-year old and skipper Mark Noble in the position that traditionally requires the greatest miles run per game.

As much as we might recommend the club buy one or preferably two fit central midfielders who are mobile and can defend as well as pass, we have to ask why Pellegrini and his Director of Football Mario Husillos preferred buying attacker Pablo Fornals (who is yet to realise his potential) over the summer to replacing the wantaway Pedro Obiang with a player that gives the team better value.

If either Noble or fellow deep midfielder Declan Rice cop a bad injury things could get even nastier than one of David Sullivan’s straight-to-DVD films.