What’s eating West Ham?
No, really. Manuel Pellegrini’s side were given a thorough chasing by Newcastle of all people this weekend, but it wasn’t an isolated bad performance: that was their third defeat in four and they haven’t won a game since the middle of September. And that was against Manchester United, so it barely counts.
It’s clear there are some problems, so who better to ask than Benji Lanyado, of the Stop: Hammertime podcast, who joined us on the Totally Football Show this week to pick over the defeat at the weekend.
“West Ham sucked,” he said. “The score really doesn’t tell the story of the game at all – Newcastle should have won 4-0, 5-0 – they were really, really impressive.
“It’s been maybe four or five games in a row where their attacking players – their strongest area – have not been able to change the game like, dare I say it, Marko Arnautovic could. Pellegrini’s got a hell of a job to do.
“It’s not immediately obvious what the problem is. The only thing that a few different people have said is the team have lost confidence since Lukasz Fabianski got injured. Roberto is not a good replacement: frustratingly the ideal replacement we sent off to Liverpool, in Adrian.”
But there isn’t a clamour for a change in the dugout just yet: “The West Ham fans will have a lot of patience with Pellegrini because he’s this wise, very experienced manager – playing Pablo Zabaleta against Allan Saint-Maximin was inexplicable.
“He’s clearly an upgrade on the last two or three managers we’ve had. This guy is probably the highest calibre manager we’ve ever had: he took Villarreal and Malaga into the Champions League, he won the Premier League with Manchester City. I think we’ve got to trust him, but there are a few things that raise significant question marks, like Zabaleta vs Saint-Maximin.”
Saint-Maximin is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the most entertaining players in the Premier League, and caused West Ham plenty of problems in this game.
“Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron are chaos theory on legs – they come at you incredibly quickly, they usually make the wrong decision but the energy and power with which they run at you discombobulates the defence. None of the goals came directly from them but I think they unsettle defences so much that it makes them more vulnerable.”
He caused so much panic in the Hammers XI that even the most unlikely sources scrambled to stop him, as Jack Lang pointed out.
“What stood out to me in the two occasions he got free of the West Ham defence – both of which were counter-attacks – the player that got closest to him was Felipe Anderson. He’s someone you want to be on the edge of the Newcastle box, but such was West Ham’s disarray, he felt he had to bail the team out on both occasions.”
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