The Blind Hammer Column

Blind Hammer looks at West Ham’s prospects under Pellegrini.

One of the most concerning aspects of the recent run of grim results is that Pellegrini has been somewhat nonplussed to account for the performances.

Pellegrini has repeatedly asserted that West Ham players should have the mind-set of a “big club”.

However this positive assertion leaves him little wriggle room when his squad respond with recent performances. An upcoming fixture against a rampant Liverpool is unlikely to provide an immediate relief. Pellegrini is under the most pressure since his rocky start.

I wrote last week that it was a massive strategic error to treat the game against Wimbledon as anything less than the absolute priority. This is why my blog was titled “Time to Reverse Priorities”. I wrote then that if we entered the game against AFC Wimbledon with anything less than our first and full strength 11 we were courting disaster. In that event we would deserve everything we got. Any resting of players should have been reserved for the game against Wolves.

I received some criticism for this at the time but I was pacing around with annoyance as soon as I saw Pellegrini’s team. Banal platitudes that the team “should have been good enough” to beat Wimbledon completely misses the point. Wimbledon was the absolute priority. All our available big guns, including Anderson and Arnautovic should have played.

Even if we were facing a replay our season would look completely different now. We would be facing the possibility of taking on Millwall at home, which, whilst a potential security nightmare, would have been a kind draw in an increasingly open competition. We would have been favourites to progress.

The defeat against Wolves was always on the cards, as is a likely reverse against Liverpool next Monday. The compensating progress in the FA Cup would have ameliorated all these problems.

So for me the team selection against Wimbledon was Pellegrini’s biggest strategic error so far. I remain a Pellegrini supporter but his confusion at the way his squad has responded in recent days demonstrates that his project is still in its infancy. He has much to learn still about managing a club of West Ham’s size.

The reality is that West Ham does not have the squad of a “big club”. Putting out second string players for our most critical matches does not represent good decision making. We must manage our meagre squad resources better. This is why, against Liverpool, Arnautovic should not play unless 100% fit. We should hold his powder dry for later, more productive opportunities.

The compensation is that after the Liverpool game every home fixture until the end of the season is theoretically winnable. We have the opportunity to create momentum for a positive surge which could carry over into the next season. If the latter stages of this this surge allows room for the reintroduction of a returning Lanzini and possibly Yarmolenko then excitement could re-emerge. Wilshere could even prove us all wrong and emerge as an important player.

So the answer to the question “have the wheels come off” is obviously no. West Ham could still amass one of their highest point’s tallies for many years.

Financially we are the 20th biggest club, according to Deloittes, in the world. More pertinently we have the 9th largest turnover in the Premier League. It is about time that we consistently punch our weight. We have under achieved for years.

Pellegrini remains our best hope for West Ham finally realising “big club” status. However this transition requires improvement from top to bottom at all levels of the club. He will not be immune from scrutiny.
David Griffith