There was plenty of excitement when West Ham kicked off the Manuel Pellegrini era by bringing in a raft of signings this summer but Premier League results are proving that it was too much too soon for the east London club.
Since the end of last season, the Irons have introduced a new manager, a new formation, a new club-record signing, a new style of play and practically an entirely new defence, but the shock doctrine just hasn’t worked with four defeats in their opening four top flight encounters.
It’s already starting to feel like a relegation-threatened season but there’s plenty of time to get the Pellegrini revolution right. It may just require leaning on some of the old guard for the time being – players who know the club, the Premier League and what’s needed to get back to winning ways.
With that in mind, here’s three players Pellegrini desperately needs to bring back into the team when West Ham face Everton after the international break…
Declan Rice was arguably West Ham’s most reliable defender by the end of last season but following a summer of heavy recruitment at centre-half now bizarrely finds himself trying to do a job in midfield.
Early outings there have been far from encouraging – he was hauled off at half time in the defeat at Anfield and didn’t offer much against Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup – and while Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have shown steady improvements as a partnership, Rice would bring some Premier League experience and a no-nonsense approach to the heart of defence.
He’s strong in the air as well, which is where Balbuena and Diop have lacked so far.
He may not be able to fly down the wing with the same speed and purpose of summer signing Ryan Fredericks, but Pablo Zabaleta is a safe pair of hands who adds real leadership and aggression to the team – even if ageing legs allow him to be caught on the counter-attack a lot more these days.
Add in a good understanding of the way Pellegrini wants this side to play, having worked under the Chilean at Manchester City, and it’s actually a little surprising Zabaleta has only made one Premier League start this term compared to Fredericks’ four.
The 25-year-old is still yet to really replicate the same kind of impact he had at Fulham.
When the chips are down, Mark Noble always seems to come to the fore for the Hammers.
Admittedly, the entire objective of West Ham’s summer recruitment was to move them away from the raft of veterans who always seem to end up steering the club clear of relegation battles each season, and it feels as if Pellegrini is making an active attempt to phase Noble out anyway, with his removal from penalty duties a telling sign. But nobody injects passion into this Irons side quite like their skipper and he’s got them out of plenty of messes before.
The only question is how to fit him into the same midfield as Jack Wilshere, with neither particularly physical presences these days.