You wanted attacking football? Well, you’re going to get attacking football.
West Ham’s defence – which conceded ten goals in its first three Premier League games this season – will hardly be helped by the arrival of all-out-attack’s Manuel Pellegrini, but that’s far from the point: at this stage, Hammers fans really just want to *feel* something. They’ll certainly feel it with the former Manchester City manager who loves a risk in attack. With a bit of luck, the whole Premier League will, too.
There are some within the game whose eyebrows will rise at the prospect of that. A team who have been in a relegation battle for much of the year should be sorting out its defence before worrying about the attack, you can imagine them arguing. In many cases they’d be right, but at the London Stadium a bit of joy might go a long way.
Pellegrini’s teams provide that.
He’s not like a Kevin Keegan figure, a coach famed for attacking at the expense of his defence. But what he does have is a very clear idea about how football ought to be played – with the ball at your feet and bounding flat-out towards the other team’s goal.
That sort of attacking mindset will – hopefully – lead to a happier atmosphere around the London Stadium. The creation of a team with a positive, attacking identity may go some way to healing some of the wounds opened up by the move to the new ground.
The bigger question might be whether or not West Ham are simply attempting to attract a big name in order to paper over the cracks. That might be a more accurate charge and we’ve seen that it doesn’t always work: we’re living in an era of super clubs, and that’s brought with it a collection of super managers. Pellegrini – whose recent jobs include Manchester City and Real Madrid – is one of those men. But the Hammers aren’t currently one of those clubs.
The key, then, is what success looks like for the Chilean.
Given the top six dominance over the league, a spot in the Champions League looks well out of reach. Indeed at least two members of the top six will miss out. And that probably leaves seventh place as the glass ceiling. That is likely to bring with it a Europa League qualifying spot, though only if the domestic cup competitions are won by top six clubs, too. West Ham don’t have the best memories of those qualifying rounds.
Pellegrini, however, has a track record at managing at that level.
His biggest success is arguably with the Villarreal side of the mid-2000s. Taking over at a small club from well outside the footballing hotbeds of Spain, he brought them to a Champions League semi-final where they lost to Arsenal in 2006 and turned them into one of the most recognisable names in European football.
More recently, at Malaga, he negotiated some choppy waters with an erratic board and a dysfunctional squad to create a side who came within seconds of making a Champions League semi-final.
There’s no doubt that this is an exciting appointment for West Ham, and indeed for football lovers throughout the league. The question marks will be around his suitability for the role of a club who, just a few weeks ago, looked like they could easily have been relegated if they lost at home to Southampton.
This might be an appointment to stimulate a fanbase starved of entertainment since they first arrived at the London Stadium, but if the Hammers board have taken a risk appointing Pellegrini, his attacking style and his track record with ambitious, overachieving clubs make him the safest choice they could possibly have made.