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Time Is Not On Our Side, Manuel


Filed: Tuesday, 21st August 2018
By: Paul Walker


Manuel Pellegrini has only been around five minutes managing West Ham , but he’s already stuck between a rock and hard place.

The Rock? That’s new boy Carlos Sanchez who he has to get into the side in place of Mark Noble for Saturday’s trip to Arsenal, in the opinion of the twitter generation of amateur football managers who have decided that our captain just has to go.

The Hard place? That’s our wonderful London Stadium, the venue Pellegrini reckoned should not inhibit his newly constructed team,. They should be above all these so-called problems with the place. He knows differently now.

He can’t understand why the ground was half empty at the end on Saturday against Bournemouth, West Ham losing just 2-1 and with the possibility of a grandstand finish. You can see his point, but the Boleyn used to empty pretty quickly just he same when things were not going well, so this is nothing new.

I’m not sure Pelli should have stepped into such a complex problem this early in his tenure. The fans’ sites have been awash with pompous, high- moral-ground fans complaining that you are not a real fan if you leave early.

I’ve been doing this for 60 years now, and I defy anyone to suggest I am not a real fan because, yes, I left, five minutes early on Saturday. There are always reasons. One guy said he had to get to work, another than there was a train strike in Surrey(so how did he get to Stratford in the first place?)

Me? Well Euston was shut for the day, fans inside the TFL area don’t understand such problems. It took me five hours to get to the match, and my last train back going anywhere further north than Birmingham was from Marylebone at 6.05. Sometime needs must, so blanket condemnation of the ’ we can see you sneaking out ‘brigade is a touch unfair. And anyway, people pay their money and they should be free to leave when they like even if it does upset the lot who live inside the Tube map.

You see, fans did not walk out on Pellegrini’s Real Madrid and Manchester City teams when they were rubbish. Mainly because they rarely were. Bet they didn’t have to put up with the trials and tribulations of getting away from Stratford, with all that queuing, kettling and crowd marshalling. World class transport? Do me a favour.

Every big stadium like ours in the country has this same problem, fans leave early. I have mates who watch Manchester United who can be left in the car park for 90 minutes without moving sometimes, it’s the sign of our times.

Anyway, our next level boss has more pressing problems to sort out than worrying about how the club’s fans get away from the wilderness that is the Olympic park. My advice mate is to leave well alone anything that looks even vaguely like club politics. It’s not worth the brain cells.

But it’s not been good so far, has it? No goals from open play, the flair boys struggling to make an impact. We have more bookings(8) than shots on target in two games(7), so we all know it has not been very pretty.

Now I am not a believer in the ‘give it time’ the new players have to ‘gel’ and it will be ‘OK in the end‘ theory. We should be looking better than this. The Premier League is ruthless, unforgiving and cruel at times, your weaknesses are quickly discovered and exposed. And we have a few.

So for all his calm words, our Charming Man needs to get the show on the road, and the fixtures don’t get any easier. But I sense he will be single minded, stubborn, determined to impose his style on the team. He’ll want to continue with the high line.

I have no problem with that as long as it isn’t an excuse to play an offside trap. We seem to be doing that, and encountering all the problems that ‘ second phase‘ throws up. Over and over again on Saturday we left two or three players in offside positions, but they were not interfering with play so the scene was set for players to steam through the line onto passes and chips. Too often we were stood there, hands in the air like Arsenal of old.

Pellegrini has been told by the board that our culture as a club needs changing. He has clear views on this, no sitting deep and playing on the counter, he wants us to be on the front foot, attacking and imposing our game.
He wants to play with a back four, he opted not to deploy a holding midfielder on Saturday and the centre of our midfield looked like a sieve. He knows only too well that he has to sort out our defence and central midfield.

Where do I start? OK, Mark Noble. He’s no fool, he knows his legs are not what they were, but what annoys me is the deluge of fans on social media who have been claiming that he has lost his desire and can’t bothered about running any more.
He may have been treading in treacle as he tried to catch Callum Wilson on that slalom through our defence for their equaliser, but to suggest he is not trying. Good grief, have a look at yourselves, people..

He knew from the first second that Robert Snodgrass’s poor pass was intercepted and spun instantly back past him , that he had no hope of stopping the Bournemouth man. Five years ago, yes, but not now. But he may well have felt that the four defenders confronting Wilson could manage to stop the charge by foul means or otherwise. Yes, Noble was too slow. But Fabian Balbuena’s dangled right leg would have been a disgrace on Hackney Marshes, while Pablo Zabaleta and Angelo Ogbonna’s wild challenges were painful to watch. And the otherwise excellent Lucasz Fabianski should have stopped the shot, anyway.

But you can now see Pellegrini having the opportunity to leave out Noble. He has handled this problem with dignity and respect so far, and giving Marko Arnautovic the penalty gig is more about making sure such a vital job is done by a player who will likely be on the pitch all the time. Consistency and continuity are vital for that role.

Noble has been substituted in both matches so far, and we saw Sanchez--a year older than Noble--arrive and for the 13 minutes he was on the pitch he looked calm and a good passer. Pellegrini has to do something now to halt the flow through midfield, where Noble and Jack Wilshere do not look a destructive partnership. Pellegrini has tried and axed Declan Rice from that role, so Sanchez looks the next name on his list.

Rice and Ryan Fredericks were both dumped after the Liverpool reverse, maybe a touch unfair considering the quality of the opposition. Fredericks has looked quick and positive, but the Liverpool game was his first-ever in the top flight, he may well not have such a bad time again against lesser opposition. And as I have said earlier, I do not see Rice as a midfield player, and the way Balbuena can look composed and cool one moment and then seems to be sinking in quicksand the next with his brain in neutral, maybe Rice is the best option in central defence.

Many would like to see Issa Diop given a run, but I would be surprised is Pellegrini made such a dramatic decision--axing Ogbonna too--for the game at the Emirates.

Mind you, next week’s League Cup trip to Wimbledon may be the place for that sort of change gamble--and what about giving Xanda Silva a run-out there, the teenager has already scored four goals in two games for the under 23s.

Ogbonna has been poor this season, his single handed presentation of the second goal to Bournemouth, just about summed him up. A silly foul on the edge of the box when he should have cleaned out the problem, and then farcical grabbing and holding while not even watching the ball presented Steve Cook with the visitors’ eventual winner.

How long all this takes Pellegrini is the problem. Half a dozen defeats while we are practicing new ideas is not acceptable. He wants the team to trust themselves to play this system, to retain possession and press opponents high up the pitch. We just have to trust Pellegrini to get it right, and quickly.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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