First day gubbing by Manchester City aside, things had started off fairly brightly for Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham this season.

Unbeaten in six after that opening day trouncing, the Hammers were riding high in fifth at the end of September, with three wins and three draws safely tucked under the belt. 

Since then, things have taken a rather bleak turn for the worse. Now, Pellegrini's side are 13th in the Premier League, after scooping just one point from their following four games. 

Disappointing defeats against Crystal Palace, Everton and Newcastle have been bad, but the nature of the performances are what have caused the most concern. Even the draw with Sheffield United at the London Stadium was a lame, tame affair.

Manuel Pellegrini

So what's changed?

Well, not much in truth, and that in itself might be the problem at West Ham.

Pellegrini took charge at the London Stadium last summer to a wave of optimism and excitement among West Ham's fanbase. On the surface, you'd understand why that would be. The Chilean is, after all, a former Premier League winner with ​Manchester City and also managed Real Madrid.

But that excitement has been tempered over the past six weeks or so, as worrying problems from West Ham's past don't seem to have been addressed. Simple things like the basics of defending set pieces, for example. Fundamental things that should really have been improved, even slightly.

Stuart Attwell,Andriy Yarmolenko

Sadly, that doesn't appear to be the case. Secondly, the team's mentality does not appear to have changed. Yes, West Ham now prettily stroke the ball around from side-to-side, but is there really any substance to what we're watching?

Having possession is one thing, but doing something meaningful with the ball is an entirely different proposition. To progress, a ruthlessness and cutting edge needs to be shown, on more than one occasion. A bit of spring, a bit of urgency and a bit of pace to transition the ball out from defence would give the Hammers more creative outlets to actually run with the ball and make things happen.

That just isn't happening - not on recent evidence at least.

Team selection is another worry. Ryan Fredericks, one of the club's most improved players this season, has been dislodged by 34-year-old Pablo Zabaleta recently for reasons unknown, while Pablo Fornals has barely had a sniff of a chance in the team, and certainly not in the role in which he has previously starred for Villarreal and Spain's Under-21s.

Why? Nobody knows.

There's also West Ham's fragile state of mind. The atmosphere does, at times, turn toxic at the London Stadium when things aren't going well, and obviously that doesn't help. But after a while, you get the feeling that a response must be coming from the players. Surely a bit of fight, a bit of determination and a bit of resolve in order to turn a game on its head.

Again, on recent evidence, that's not the case.

Against Newcastle, ​West Ham were a shambles defensively. Cut wide open by a team who had scored just six goals all season, Pellegrini's side could have conceded six in the first half alone. And that's not even an exaggeration.

Instead, the Magpies took just two of those opportunities, though they must have been wondering how they hadn't exploited the freedom of Stratford afforded to them by West Ham. What's worse is that Pellegrini, in his typically calm demeanour, stated after the game that he found it 'difficult to understand' why his team had started off so slowly, demonstrating such a lethargic attitude.


'Difficult to understand?' Manuel, you're the manager of the football club. 

It's your job to know why your players aren't motivated for the fight.

It's your job to ensure that they go out all guns blazing, ready to show some passion and intensity.

It's your job to ensure that Robert Snodgrass isn't the only player who can be bothered to maintain a high intensity press, instead of dropping off and walking round after more than 10 seconds of trying to regain possession.

It's your job to come out, admit that things haven't been good enough and get those players together in the dressing room for a good old fashioned dressing down.

It's your job to impose change, Manuel.

Fans can tolerate their side being beaten by the better team, but it's difficult to stomach a performance that embodies everything you don't want to see - nervousness, weakness, and absolute vulnerability - particularly when Manchester United ​were seen off with such ease at the London Stadium in a display that symbolised everything good about Pellegrini and his patient brand of football.

The next step in West Ham's evolution is addressing these aforementioned demons. Tackling the bad times head on, ensuring that things don't escalate like they usually do and blow up into a full blown crisis. 

To do that, Pellegrini must first admit to himself that there is a problem, must admit that West Ham need a plan B and must admit that they simply must be harder to beat. If they don't, they'll stagnate - and his job actually will be on the line as big-money investment in the likes of Fornals and Sebastien Haller goes to waste.

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