Why Manuel Pellegrini can guide West Ham United to a top-six finish
10th May 2016. It was the day when West Ham United played their last ever game on the Boleyn ground, the same place where they had been playing their football for the past 112 years. It was one crazy night of Premier League football where West Ham led 1-0 from an early Diafro Sakho goal to find themselves losing 2-1 in the second half after two quick-fire Anthony Martial goals.
But some things are just meant to be. The spirit of the Boleyn ground just couldn’t allow the Hammers’ fans to return home disappointed. A possessed Dimitri Payet led the comeback and the hosts won the game 3-2.
The West Ham fans dreamt that night. They dreamt of a place amongst the elites of the Premier League as they finished 7th. Their next step was to move to the new and shiny Olympic Stadium.
But ever since that move, everything that could go wrong for the Hammers has gone wrong. Their first season in the Olympic Stadium was a horror show as they came crashing down from 6th place to get involved in the relegation battle under Slaven Bilic.
Bilic survived the summer but midway through his third season, he was fired after the Hammers were languishing in the 18th spot. David Moyes was brought in to steady the ship and the former Everton boss did the bare minimum. He helped the Hammers avoid relegation and finish 13th. But the mood amongst the West Ham faithful was quite bad and David Sullivan, the club owner, saw the wrath of the season ticket-holders during that home game against Burnley.
But the club have rectified the mistakes of the past seasons by roping in Manuel Pellegrini, the former Manchester City boss and a Premier League winner. And in the summer, the Hammers conducted some impressive transfer businesses.
The first big names to come through were defenders Ryan Fredericks, Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop. Then came in Lukasz Fabianski from relegated Swansea. He is certainly a good upgrade on Joe Hart, who was not retained after a terrible season on loan. Jack Wilshere was the next in line, joining on a free deal.
Signing the central midfielder was a good piece of business for both parties as Wilshere will now get the minutes he always wanted.
But what came next was the real surprise package. Andriy Yarmolenko arrived from Borussia Dortmund, followed by Felipe Anderson from Lazio. The trio of Marko Arnautovic, Yarmolenko and Anderson combined well in pre-season as the Hammers defeated Aston Villa and Ipswich Town.
Any other manager would have thought that he has enough players in his team, but Pellegrini is not your average manager, is he?
On deadline day, he brought in two more players in Columbian midfielder Carlos Sanchez from Fiorentina and striker Lucas Perez from Arsenal.
Neither of these players seems like typical West Ham signings. Anderson was linked to some of the biggest clubs in Europe and Yarmolenko already had a good reputation in Germany. Wilshere, if fit, could be a bargain for Pellegrini and Perez has the potential to form a deadly partnership with Arnautovic up front.
But the only problem West Ham face is their horrible fixture list for their opening 10 games of this new season. They start their season with a visit to Anfield and then face Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the next 9 weeks.
We all know Pelligrini can play beautiful football and with the kind of players he has at his disposal now, there is no reason why he can’t combine beautiful football with winning football. If the new signings find their feet quickly in the Premier League and remain fit, Pellegrini can deliver a dream that Slaven Bilic couldn’t – a top-six finish.