Four defeats from four games makes tough reading for West Ham, who have struggled with the sheer volume and size of the changes Manuel Pellegrini has attempted to bring to the London Stadium since being appointed as David Moyes’ replacement during the summer.
That lack of familiarity has most notably manifested into defensively porous displays; the Irons conceded nine times during their first three Premier League games under the Chilean, as attempts to play a high line cost them dearly against Liverpool, poor organisation at set pieces saw them lose to Bournemouth and a succession of individual errors provided the proverbial bullet for their own foot in the defeat at the Emirates Stadium.
Another loss at the hands of Wolves then, especially after conceding to third-tier Wimbledon in midweek, would suggest Pellegrini is yet to arrest the standout flaw of his opening encounters in charge of the east Londoners, especially as it came on the counter-attack from an incredibly wayward Carlos Sanchez pass which the Irons’ fifth different backline already this season failed to stop from becoming Adama Traore’s stoppage time winner.
But in truth, the defence was perhaps the only department that looked like it had adapted the instructions of its new manager on Saturday as Wolves were kept at arm’s length for much of the ninety minutes, and no player highlighted that better than summer signing Fabian Balbuena who had an action-packed game at the heart of defence alongside fellow new arrival Issa Diop.
In a beastly defensive display, the Paraguay international made the most tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks of any Hammers player while being only beaten by Michail Antonio for successful aerial duels. And although the centre-back, who Transfermarkt value at just £4.5million, may not have caught the imagination when he arrived this summer quite like Felipe Anderson or Andriy Yarmolenko, he’s perhaps one of the few players that seems to be getting more comfortable with the way Pellegrini wants his side to play.
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For fans too, that should provide a much-needed cause for optimism. Even though West Ham lost and even though Pellegrini’s primary focus will always be on creating problems at the end, getting the right platform in place for the rest of the team to attack from will be vital to stopping the Hammers’ poor run of results. Balbuena looks capable of providing it and that could be the turning point this Irons side, not to mention their new manager, desperately needs.