WATCHING West Ham under Manuel Pellegrini is to be reminded of the old joke about the yokel who starts work in a sawmill. After 20 minutes the rookie calls his foreman over to complain he’s lost a finger on the saw blade. “How did you do that?”, enquires his boss, “Well, I just put my hand like this and – oh, there goes another one!” Just like the newbie, the Chilean never seems to learn – and cares even less.
Once again, the Hammers lost a game to a team on a poor run of form due to mental frailty born of tactical incoherence. Arsenal were terrible. Really poor. They looked like Avram Grant era West Ham. Unfortunately, the home side in contrast could be best viewed as a late-era Arsene Wenger side attempting to pass the ball into the net.
Pellegrini plays a formation that sacrifices central midfielders for wingers that won’t defend. Except the widemen (as well as everybody else) appear to have a moratorium on crossing the ball. The received wisdom is many goalkeepers are scared of crosses – at West Ham it’s our wingers. All the more frustrating when the first decent cross of the night resulted in Angelo Ogbonna scoring.
Arsenal, without a win in nine games could and should have crumbled. The Hammers should have tucked in, filled the midfield, shut the game down and picked the away side off as they stretched their play.
Instead of which the home team threw themselves lemming-like into the Gooners trap of playing out from the keeper. The claret and blue attempt at a press was dismal, those in yellow played through it and scored three goals in a nine-minute blitz as the Hammers defence disintegrated. For the third home game in succession West Ham conceded three.
Post-match as far as the eye could see were fans who shorn of anger were metaphorically throwing their hands in the air. David Sullivan might do well to reflect that apathy is a much more corrosive emotion for a football team than anger.
As to the immediate future, all the studies show that managers make very little difference to a football team’s performance and that wages are a far better predicator of a team’s success. It would appear sacking Manuel Pellegrini will make very little difference to West Ham’s prospects for the second half of the season.
However, there is also good evidence to suggest certain managers are outriders – David Moyes, Sean Dyche and Sam Allardyce among others, consistently overperform.
The West Ham Board have said their manager has one game (Southampton away) to save his job, a decision that by any logic is futile. If the boss needs that gee up in the first place it would suggest he hasn’t been carrying out his duties to the full in the first place. A win doesn’t solve the problem but merely delays crunch time until the next game. Whereas, if there is no improvement then it’s one more game we haven’t won. This would be a very West Ham tactic that allow a Board famous for the practice to brief against the manager to once again attempt to escape responsibility for poor decisions.
When Alan Pardew (in)famously called Pellegrini “A fucking old cunt” on the touchline at St James Park who was to know he would be speaking for all of us – even if the former Palace man is NOT a suitable replacement. Coming back to the opening quote, the only question remains how long it will take the Hammers manager to saw off his remaining fingers.