West Ham are suffering from inconsistency once again this season but it is a problem that could have been avoided with astute recruitment over the summer.
The addition of Sebastien Haller looks to be paying off already with the striker scoring four goals in eight league games, but there is a lack of strength in depth as a result of big spending on the German and Pablo Fornals, particularly in midfield.
West Ham were very dependent on Declan Rice and Mark Noble last term with Carlos Sanchez and Jack Wilshere missing for long spells, yet Pellegrini didn’t address the issue, and that has led to fan concern.
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As a result, there is a lack of competition for places in the middle of the park, and though Wilshere is fit and pushing for a place currently, his history dictates that he is not a player who can be relied upon.
That suggests a lack of long-term planning at the club, with the likes of Sanchez and Noble not getting any younger, but it could also have a negative effect this year, with a lack of effective options to come in to replace the first-choice midfielders should they experience a drop in form.
With that in mind, we asked our writers whether West Ham made a mistake by not strengthening their midfield in the transfer window. Here’s what they said.
“West Ham’s great start has been undone in rather remarkable fashion. From teetering on the edge of the top four to suffering a defeat against a far from competent Everton, Manuel Pellegrini’s men are struggling. Having signed Haller there is undoubted quality in attack but if there was one area you could criticise about the Hammers it would be their midfield.
“Pellegrini made a monumental mistake in not sufficiently strengthening that area of the pitch over the summer and even Pablo Fornals has found life a struggle. He was woeful versus the Toffees and his three unsuccessful touches tell a sorry story.
“I’d like to say Jack Wilshere could be a solution but he’s quite frankly far too injury prone to be relied upon. Mark Noble is getting on and beyond those options, they look stretched. They have Declan Rice among their ranks but rarely is he given too much support. January will be a pivotal time for them and if they’re not already out of the race already, failing to bolster their midfield ranks could have a big impact on their European ambitions.”
“When you look at the attacking midfield three that Manuel Pellegrini likes to employ behind Sebastien Haller, West Ham appear to have an abundance of riches. The Hammers have the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Robert Snodgrass and even Michail Antonio desperate to play in those offensive roles.
“The real problem however for the London side, is their lack of real quality from their deeper-lying midfield two. Both Declan Rice and Mark Noble offer defensive discipline and a tigerish attitude – they average 3.4 tackles and 1.1 tackles per game respectively. But are the duo capable of playing those incisive passes into the front players and breaking the lines?
“Pellegrini’s side desperately need creativity from further back, as evidenced by their 11 goals in nine league games, and it was a glaring error to not have signed someone who could dictate the tempo.”
“I think that the Hammers should definitely have looked to strengthen this area.
“I’m not sure if they got too excited in trying to make big-money additions such as Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals, but there were definitely players out there who they could’ve signed to sort the issue without breaking the bank – Crystal Palace reportedly got James McCarthy for under £1m, and he would’ve been a useful player for Manuel Pellegrini.
“Carlos Sanchez is getting on a bit at 33 years of age, and can’t seem to stay fit, whereas Mark Noble definitely needs to be replaced in a few years. I would be surprised if this area is one that doesn’t get looked at in January.”
“It is surprising that Pellegrini didn’t add a centre-midfielder over the summer considering the lack of options he had last season.
“To make matters worse it is not a priority for him in January if reports are to believed, which suggests he must have a lot of faith in Rice and Noble.
“If he can get the attacking midfielders playing at the top of their game it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but he is currently failing to do that and fans are disappointed with Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson recently, which has contributed to poor results.”