While there have no doubt been signs of slow but promising progress, West Ham’s return of results simply can’t continue and something needs to change.
The Irons have failed to pick up a single point from their first four Premier League games and although they wouldn’t have expected much against Liverpool or Arsenal, Bournemouth and Wolves represent six points squandered at home.
Manuel Pellegrini must adapt his ideas, at least in the short term, to make the Hammers efficient enough to start adding to their points tally. With that in mind, we look at three potential consequences of West Ham’s latest blow – a last-minute defeat to Wolves on Saturday.
West Ham’s starting XI on Saturday featured an incredible seven new signings and that lack of familiarity seems to be costing the east Londoners dearly right now. Perhaps the fastest route to gelling the team together is by keeping them swimming in the deep end until something clicks, but that’s already proving to be a risky strategy.
The transition period could well require some of West Ham’s old guard to come back into the fold; the likes of Mark Noble, Pablo Zabaleta and Declan Rice were all important players for the Irons last season and can inject not only balance but also leadership back into the team.
Clearly they’re not Pellegrini’s preferred picks, but they could be vital to turning West Ham’s season around.
Pellegrini has made it clear on several occasions that he won’t compromise on style of play, but perhaps he’ll be a little more open to changing the shape of the team to make the Hammers that little bit more solid without the ball – they have, after all, failed to keep a clean sheet in five games this season and even conceded to League One’s Wimbledon.
The midfield feels like a key department for the Hammers, partly because there’s no immediately inspiring combination on paper and partly because the Irons have only played with two in the engine room so far this season. It’s stopped them from controlling games and left the back four really open, so it feels like time to revert to more of a 4-3-3 with an anchorman.
That would make room for Noble in midfield alongside Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez, and most likely result in Felipe Anderson moving from his No.10 position to the flanks.
It’s important to remember we’re only four games into the new Premier League season but West Ham’s campaign is already feeling like one that will inevitably be fuelled by the fear of relegation, especially when you look at the east Londoners’ coming top flight opponents.
By the end of November, the Irons will have faced Everton, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester City – while Brighton and Huddersfield away aren’t the easiest fixtures either.
So it’s entirely conceivable that West Ham will be rock bottom of the Premier League table heading into the Christmas period, and that’s when the pressure really starts to tell.
No matter how adamantly Pellegrini sticks to his philosophy, perceptions change behaviours of fans and players alike – that’s when draws are accepted for games which should really be wins, and suddenly the whole season becomes about simply survival. Once that mindset creeps in, it’s very hard to shake off.