Where it has all gone wrong? An insight

During the current mini-crisis, the most-asked question from bemused fans is "What has gone wrong behind the scenes?"

The season started well, with talk of Europe, top six or even top four. Then before our eyes the atmosphere changed, the confidence drained and the team has slipped into the bottom half of the Premier League on the back of a winless, six-game run.

Fans are confused, searching for answers. The target for their collective concern has been Manuel Pellegrini, a manager who gives very little away to the media.

The manager was even castigated recently for being economical with the truth over injuries and availability. Although just why he would want to tell the world such things ahead of matches is another argument.

Into this period of concern for all West Ham fans has dropped an article by newly-founded The Athletic digital newspaper. Available on subscription, US owned and funded, it's a vast company that has hoovered up a lot of top young British sports journalists at no little expense.

The article, published this week via the hand of former Daily Mail writer Adam Crafton and the Athletic's designated West Ham writer Roshane Thomas is all source-led. There are no named quotes (hardly to be expected) and it suggests the authors have been talking to a player and/or a senior club official.

We have no reason to decry these quotes, an organisation like The Athletic doesn't invent material. And what the article shows is an interesting insight into what has been happening behind the scenes at West Ham and the Rush Green training ground in what is becoming an increasingly difficult season.

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Firstly, we have the revelation that West Ham have a short list already drawn up of potential players to replace Declan Rice should Manchester United's desires become more upfront that the current leaking of interest.

The Athletic accepts that West Ham have had no approaches or discussions over Rice, but the club is not stupid enough to believe there is no smoke without fire.

In fact, I would be astonished if West Ham have not already started to look beyond Rice's employment. If they hadn't already started along this route it would be a major dereliction of duty. But it is made clear that director of football Mario Husillos has already started work on finding a replacement.

The article also talks of the club's awareness of interest in Issa Diop, Manuel Lanzini and even Felipe Anderson next summer.

Earlier this year there was plenty of pre-season talk about Diop leaving and Juventus monitoring Lanzini, which probably prompted West Ham's keenness to get the midfielder signed to a new contract to protect their interest.

But the most interesting source quote is regarding Anderson, Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko. It says: "They press once, they press twice, then they walk."

That just about sums up what many feel about the defensive abilities of all three, although Anderson this season has shown a much greater willingness to graft when not in possession. But the fact that West Ham's attacking players are seemingly incapable of producing match-long pressing, like Liverpool and Manchester City, is a telling insight into the current situation.

And that it is an issue for the manager and their team mates.

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Another source quote says: "It feels like they are drifting a little, there are persistent problems of underlying motivation, and that deep down players are happy doing nothing more than mid-table.

"Declaring Europe as the target was meant to change that attitude, but it is too easy to lose yourself in the no-man's land of mid-table."

It goes on to claim that West Ham tried to sign Norwich midfielder Emiliano Buendia last summer, that Pellegrini does not trust Jack Wilshere to last a full game and is not always concerned much about the analytical department's breakdown of matches

It's an interesting read, and there is no reason not to believe the sources that The Athletic have used - even if some of this will more than concern fans about what is happening behind closed doors at Rush Green.

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