The power plays of player power

While the past few weeks has seen Manuel Pellegrini pondering whether to give Marko Arnautovic first team football, it has dawned on me that the type of situation West Ham are suffering from behind closed doors is one that has embedded itself into our dressing room before.

And not so long ago.

Football has shifted in the past few years. Now more than ever players have such a seize on the decision-making and control of a club. The role a manager bears is losing the impactful nature it once had, as the player power present in some of the camps up and down the league is beginning to flaunt its strength.

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Away from West Ham, the actions of Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Carabao Cup final in February were well documented. While the recent sacking of Claude Puel at Leicester City has been put down to his unhealthy relationship with their mascot striker Jamie Vardy.

But brewing in the dressing rooms of the London Stadium seems to be the increasing frustration of our Austrian forward as his role has been reduced to that of a mere impact sub.

What this entails, particularly after our unorthodox win over Huddersfield, now looks in the balance. His performance was wanting that day, to say the least.

Contrast with the substitute showing from Javier Hernandez, who came on to turn the game around netting twice, and you start to see where our Chilean boss has a dilemma.

It's almost impressive how poorly the timing was for all this to unfold. Having won four of five of our fixtures in December, approaching the January window with real hopes that the climb would continue and the winning mentality amongst the squad was finally being displayed on a consistent basis, we traveled to an out of sorts Burnley and were humbled at Turf Moor.

We lacked conviction, creativity and intent. Worse still, since that game our away form has been woeful, our performances lacklustre and the spirit the side had shown in the months prior has dwindled into complacency.

With three of our last few outings at top six venues, while it's difficult to expect results from the squad during these games our good performances against the bigger sides is inexplicably professional when compared to our displays at Cardiff, Wolves and Bournemouth.

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The only one of those big three that the Austrian has featured in was our defeat at Stamford Bridge; a game that was wholly decided by some individual brilliance from Chelsea's main man Eden Hazard.

Arnautovic, much like the rest of the side, raised his game in the second half as the team's shape adjusted and he performed well without being hugely inspiring, thus leading to calls for him to start at Old Trafford that same weekend.

Yet for the third time since the January window closed, Marko wasn't present in the match day squad at all. Two trips to Manchester. Two sick days for our number seven.

My take on the situation is that with very little left to play for this season, Arnautovic being involved with the side might only bear fruit if he contributes enough to raise his own transfer value.

As it stands, that figure is diminishing week by week. Whether he features or not. His attitude and demeanour since the turn of the year looks to have nearly halved the selling value of what was one of our more pricey assets.

The situation is reminiscent of that which saw Dimitri Payet leave the club for just ?25million. Weeks after he was linked with a massive ?60million transfer to Inter Milan.

Payet had the more understandable reasoning. Both however have handled their situations about as poorly as their counterpart.

Personally, I feel leading the line with Chicharito or Michail Antonio, while makeshift, is the best way forward.

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Three of our four strikers look certain to depart in the summer and it seems the club won't have the same financial flexibility we had a year ago.

Holding on to at least one of them, namely Hernandez, is important given our frequent fallibility in the market and inevitably long injury list. Offering the Mexican first team football is all that looks likely to keep him interested in extending his stay in east London, despite the lone striker system not suiting his play style.

Tactically I would be inclined to give Michail a run as the main striker, especially after his impact as a substitute at Old Trafford. His physicality and general chaos factor seems like something we could experiment with up front, until the end of the season.

Pellegrini must manage the issue delicately, and keep the dressing room knitted together despite the toxicity.

The club is continuing to employ PR mind games, where European football is still in contention. Had I really believed that this was still possible I might've come away from the trip to Manchester United a lot more aggrieved than was the case.

There was more a sense of pride that we played Solksjaer's men off the park and, come full time, were in full voice getting behind the side, despite losing to some delirious officiating.

One can only hope that what we saw from our boys is something that we becomes a more regular pleasantry. God forbid this is a one-off.

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Our next four fixtures seem fairly unlikely to give us much to play for. Leicester City at home on Saturday will be a test of character, our trip to Spurs is an opportunity we'll all be relishing and our final game at Watford could have a great deal more context closer to the time.

That being said, it's likely the season will peter out and while that's disappointing it has been a progressive campaign. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the summer, I'm keen to see how Pellegrini operates on a restricted budget, and how quickly we can make key sales in order to raise our resources.

The infinite work in progress that is West Ham United continues.

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