With four straight defeats to his name, West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini is now under extreme pressure to turn things around for at his new club.
We’re barely half way through September and already there is serious talk of supporter unrest and a manager under fire in the Premier League. But then again, it is the Premier League.
West Ham’s start has been dismal and they looked a true husk of a side against Wolves at home before the dreaded international break. Their fans are demanding a swift turnaround and some are pointing once again to the board. On their current form though, their next few fixtures do not look kind. Everton, Manchester United, Spurs and Chelsea all lie in wait for the Hammers over the next few weeks. Even in better form, West Ham could lose all four of those fixtures. If that happens, even the most rational supporter would be calling for the axe to fall on their new Chilean manager.
As painful as things are the moment for the club though, they must not rush into any rash decisions too soon. Yes they could find themselves in a lowly position after a run of ten to twelve games, but an honest assessment of West Ham’s recent history suggests that they will more than likely finish in the bottom half regardless of what they do or don’t do with Pellegrini this autumn.
West Ham currently suffer from a similar affliction to Newcastle United. They are somewhat confused as a football club. You cannot deny the passion and commitment of their large fan base, but the harsh reality is, they are a not by any other measure, a big club. In fact they have only managed top half finishes in the Premier League, eight times since 1992 and have played four seasons in the second tier during that period.
Newcastle fans point to their big gates and home support as tangible, irrefutable proof that they are a big fish and should be rightfully competing at the top of the tree. West Ham fans are the same, yet when you look at their history, there a no league wins, and just four major honours to their name, the last of which came in 1980.
Their record in Europe is modest at best, even compared to Newcastle, who have played more than double the number of competitive matches and played Champions League football. Yes, West Ham have had some truly great names and moments in their history, from Bobby Moore to Sir Trevor Francis, but again this is not enough to make them worthy of such demanding ambitions for 2018/19.
The fact they have been able to attract Manuel Pellegrini, one of Europe’s most intelligent and respected coaches, is a mighty coup for a club with such patchy recent history. Results and performances have been bad so far, but surely they should stick with their man and trust his hefty experience to get them out of this current hole? Their record of sacking and replacing managers is also pretty poor.
In November 2017, after a run of poor results, the club sacked the likable Croatian Slaven Bilic. After they were well beaten at home by Liverpool and floating dangerously above the relegation zone, with nine points from eleven games, the board got cold feet on their talented coach. They where not in an ideal place, but at that time just six points separated nine teams and all was far from lost for The Hammers. Their position was hardly terminal.
Yet panic set in and a decent coach, who had led them to seventh and sixty-two points in 2016, was on his way after a few rocky results. In their desperation to claw back some points and restore confidence they turned to David Moyes, whose fading reputation and perceived negative style was seen as something as a cop-out by the West Ham board.
Their 13th place finish under the Scot meant they avoided disaster, but would Billic have ultimately led them to a similar finish playing better football? Moyes’s swift departure is also evidence enough of just how unimpressed the fans were with their lot last season.
Once again, the club have tried to shake off the shackles of negativity, by appointing Pellegrini and investing heavily in attacking players this summer. It has not started well, but do the club risk pulling the plug and once again turning to a so called safer pair of hands? They’ve been down that road before and have experienced largely forgettable results, their fans left to pine for better football and more success.
The time will be now, for West Ham to prove they will not get cold feet on their Pellegrini project. He is a top class manager, with a pedigree of playing good football. He will need to get his players showing more fight and desire to at least try and keep the fans on side.
Perhaps he is not in possession of the knowledge of his best team yet. With £100 million spent on nine new players, this is understandable and probably contributing to their poor form. The Chilean though is a man used to managing an array of talent and a large dressing room full of egos; he will not be daunted by this latest challenge, even with things looking as grim as they currently do.
West Ham’s board have a chance to be brave, results are unlikely to flip over night and that aforementioned fixture list could leave them in a bit of mess. The pressure could be enormous for action to be taken.
Crystal Palace shamefully panicked last season and sacked Frank de Boer last season after just four league games and without giving him any time at all to make an imprint on the club. West Ham face a similar predicament, recent history tells us they are unlikely to back their man. Then again, West Ham’s recent history shows that Pellegrini may be better off out of it in the long run.