West Ham United is a household name in English football, known for its passionate fans and electric stadium atmosphere. Besides the fanbase, West Ham have also produced some of the best players the country has seen such as Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand. Until recently, the club had a tried and tested identity which was showcased through its former home ground. The Boleyn Ground was a tightly packed stadium with little distance between the pitch and spectators. It gave West Ham's home games an intense feel.
Things haven't quite been the same since the club's move from the Boleyn to the London Stadium. West Ham moved into the new stadium after a victorious bidding war against Tottenham. As expected, the opinion on the matter was split amongst the fan base with some excited about the move and others more skeptical about leaving the home they have known so well. Within the club, the move was seen as the next step to launch West Ham onto the global stage.
The move to the new stadium has not been as smooth as expected. The team was engulfed in relegation battles in the 16/17 season, and the 17/18 season. Both Slaven Bilic and David Moyes tried and failed to stabilize the club after the move. Under Moyes, the team was able to improve results for a short period, but still struggled to perform consistently.
Moyes' reign of West Ham will mostly be remembered for the fan invasion that took place at the London Stadium. Although West Ham were able to secure their Premier League safety, it was clear that David Moyes was not going to be a long-term option for the club and was sacked at the end of the recently concluded season.
On the 22nd of May 2018, Manuel Pellegrini was announced as the next manager, in a deal worth £7 million/year (after add-ons).
Pellegrini's diverse background and pedigree
The Chilean comes into the club with a very impressive CV, with jobs at Villarreal, Malaga Real Madrid, Hebei China Fortune, and various clubs in South America. More importantly, Pellegrini is no stranger to Premier League football. He's not only an incredibly experienced manager, but he is also a proven winner, having led Manchester City to its second title, in the 2013/14 season. In addition, he managed to win the League Cup twice during his time with the club.
Pellegrini's diverse background will be crucial for West Ham as they try to push onto the next level. The Chilean's CV shows that he has been successful at clubs of varying financial budgets and expectations. At Villarreal, he had a modest budget, while at Real Madrid and Manchester City he had unlimited resources. In all those jobs he found success in one way or another.
Under Pellegrini, Villarreal and Malaga were able to find success in Europe. Even the so-called "failure" at Real Madrid consisted of a 96-point league campaign, which was a record for Real Madrid at the time.
Welcome Change in Philosophy
Traditionally, most mid-table teams in the Premier League did not play entertaining football. Most were focused on the defensive side of the game rather than an "attractive" style of play. Nowadays, fan bases of teams like Everton and West Ham are expecting more from their teams in terms of attacking football.
They do not want to see their teams sit back and defend for 80 minutes, in the hope of salvaging a 1-0 win. The fans want to see their teams go out and attack the opposition while playing attractive football. For the purpose of changing the style of football at the club, West Ham has found the perfect man for the job in Pellegrini.
Pellegrini has always maintained his desire to play open and expansive football, whether it be at Real Madrid, Villarreal or Manchester City. In a recent interview, Pellegrini said, "I think that West Ham had a difficult season last season and I hope that next season we are going to play football that will delight the fans."
The proposed style of play will be a welcome refreshment from the more conservative football deployed by the likes of Bilic and Moyes. While the change in philosophy will take some time, it may be easier than most think. In players like Arnautovic, Lanzini and Hernandez, West Ham already have the talent suited for expansive football. Arnautovic and Lanzini have shown in the past that, when given the freedom, they can be just as dangerous as any duo in the Premier League. With three or more signings of his own Pellegrini can shape this team to fit the type of football he wants to play.
Lastly, Pellegrini has always focused on the development of youth. Before the Chilean took charge at City, they had a weak youth system with little-to-no players making first-team appearances. After his arrival, the City academy was re-established.
Today City's academy is gaining ground on other teams, producing the likes of Zinchenko and Phil Foden. West Ham will reap the benefits of Pellegrini's focus on youth. The benefits will not only be seen on the pitch but financially as well. With West Ham aiming for Europe, the foundations of the youth system needs to be strong.
The Epitome of Professionalism
Pellegrini is not known for being an outspoken manager. He is a manager who likes to quietly go about his work without attracting too much attention. The perfect example of his professionalism was during his time at City, when halfway through the season the club announced that Pep Guardiola would be taking over as coach from the Chilean for 2014/15 season.
This change came about even though Pellegrini had won the title in the 2012/13 season. Many coaches at this juncture would lose their cool, but Pellegrini just went about his job, honoring his contract and even managed to lead them to the UCL semi-final that year. The Chilean's ability to keep out the negative noise around him is one that should not be taken lightly.
West Ham has had a tough two of years when it comes to managers. Bilic's last few months got pretty ugly and the short-term success under Moyes was not enough to mask the issues facing the club. Fans invaded the pitch at one of West Ham's home games due to their displeasure with the state of the club.
The relationship between the fans and the club has not been the best since the move to the London Stadium, but the calming demeanor of Pellegrini can bring some stability to the club and help strengthen the bond between the team and the fans.
The Perfect Match
West Ham fans have been craving for change ever since the club's move from the beloved Boleyn Ground. The Boleyn Ground created its own unique atmosphere, with a strong identity that the fans were content with.
The move to the London Stadium has changed those expectations because the club were indicating their ambitions to challenge the best in the country. Sadly, other the move itself, West Ham have done little on the pitch to keep spirits high. With the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham can finally start to push on to meet the expectations of their fans.
The former City manager will lay the foundations for the club in order to achieve long-term success. With the 3-year deal in hand, Pellegrini knows he has the time to build something meaningful at West Ham. The club would not have made him their highest paid manager if they didn't believe he was the best man for the job.Published 02 Jun 2018, 10:38 IST