Manuel Pellegrini: the manager that needs to evolve with the times

“I’m certain we will achieve it. If we don’t this season then this is a year of preparing for trying to do it next season.” That was what West Ham United manger Manuel Pellegrini promised just nine months ago, yet looking at the statistics, they are fortunate not to be in a relegation battle.

The Chilean manager’s instalment back in summer 2018 filled the Hammers supporters with optimism that they could push into contention for a top seven finish. According to Transfermarkt, Pellegrini spent £84.51million in his first summer transfer window – signing the likes of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko – and optimism swiftly spread across the fanbase.

“I don’t get the impression that he’s going to motivate and inspire the players.” That was the words of Sky Sports pundit, Tony Cottee, just four games into the 2018/19 Premier League campaign as the Irons sat pointless at the foot of the table – the jury seemingly already out for Pellegrini.

When you look at the expected stats, there was a gaping problem – defensive frailties – and that appears to be a reoccurring theme so far this season.

Pellegrini achieved a 10th-place finish in his first season in charge of West Ham, which on paper is a respectable accomplishment; yet searching deeper, the Irons overachieved.

Throughout the 2018/19 Premier League season, West Ham scored 52 goals, but according to Understat, their expected goals (xG) was only 47.96, which would rank them as the sixth lowest scorers in the division. Marko Arnautovic scored 19% of the Hammers’ Premier League goals last season despite his desire to move to China in the January transfer window.

But what about defensively? Pellegrini made plentiful defensive acquisitions in the 2018 summer. The likes of Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, Ryan Fredericks and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski were brought in to eradicate the reoccurring defensive issues on display at London Stadium – conceding 132 goals in their opening two Premier League campaigns at their new home.

Pellegrini’s side in 2018/19 conceded 55 league goals, the lowest output since moving to Stratford. So that’s a positive, right?

Well, the expected goals against (xGA) last season for West Ham was 65.66, meaning they massively overperformed in terms of their defensive output. Using the expected stats, the Hammers had the fifth worst defensive record in the league and the largest difference between expected goals conceded and actual goals conceded.

Fabianski was an outstanding performer last season and topped the charts for most Premier League saves (148). The Poland international’s contribution in his first season for the Hammers was so impressive that he was crowned Hammer of the Year, highlighting his significance in the team.

West Ham accumulated 52 points throughout the 2018/19 Premier League campaign yet their expected points (xPTS) was 43.72, which would’ve placed them 13th rather than the 10th-place finish they achieved.

However, Pellegrini’s first season in charge at London Stadium was a transitional period. The Hammers encountered several injury problems throughout the campaign – the likes of Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere and Manuel Lanzini amassing just 27 league appearances between them. Arnautovic’s off-field problems also caused Pellegrini issues, so to judge him after one season would be unfair.

But when you look at the stats for the 2019/20 Premier League campaign thus far, the same themes are cropping up. Before the season started, the likes of West Ham, Leicester City, Everton and Wolves were tipped as the favourites to contest for a top-seven finish, but with the same defensive frailties reoccurring, any dream of a European finish for the Hammers seems rather bleak.

With 11 games played, West Ham currently sit 13th in the league table having scored 14 goals and rank as the eight highest scorers in the Premier League. Their xG, however, is 15.79, which suggests they are underperforming offensively, especially with the likes of Sebastien Haller, Anderson and Lanzini at their disposal.

Defensively, though, the same cracks are appearing. The Hammers have conceded 17 goals so far, yet their xGA is 21.45 – the second worst in the division. Fabianski has been ruled out for at least two months with a torn hip muscle and the 34-year-old’s absence has left a gaping hole defensively with stand-in replacement Roberto yet to keep a clean sheet.

Offensively the Hammers have the firepower to compete for a European spot, but if the Chilean manager cannot find a formula which prevents his team from conceding so many chances, he could see his tenure at London Stadium come to a premature end.

This image has been modified by Overtime Online under the Creative Commons License.

This image has been modified by Overtime Online under the Creative Commons License.

Leave a Comment