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SO IT’S rewind time at West Ham with the return of David Moyes as manager, the man, in case anyone forgot, who was passed over by the board 18 months ago to make way for Manuel Pellegrini.
Defeat at home to Leicester City proved the final straw for West Ham’s owners, who summarily dismissed Pellegrini after this latest setback.
It was a turbulent reign for the Chilean since he took over the manager’s job from Moyes back in the summer of 2018.
Pellegrini made an instant impact, bringing in nine new players, including Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Lukasz Fabianski, Issa Diop and Jack Wilshere.
These signings proved a series of hits and misses. Club-record signing Anderson was a big hit unplayable at times, thrilling the fans with his mazy runs and scoring a collection of memorable goals.
Fabianski was an absolute bargain at £7 million. A brilliant keeper who saved the team many points last year.
Diop forged a formidable centre back partnership with Fabian Balbuena, then Angelo Ogbonna.
However, other signings were less successful.
Wilshere was signed on a three-year contract, reported to be around £100k a week but has played only a handful of games.
Yarmolenko was out for most of last season before returning with early promise this term but then again faded from the scene.
To give him credit, Pellegrini brought through some young players, with Declan Rice sparkling under his tutelage.
Grady Diangana also made a big impact, troubling defences and scoring goals. Though fans were left baffled as to why he was loaned to West Brom for the season, where he has prospered.
Pellegrini began his time at West Ham badly, losing his first four games, before turning the corner last season.
The team finished well considering the start, securing 10th, though it could so easily have been seventh or eighth.
With that being said, everyone at the club was optimistic for the new season.
There were new signings in Sebastian Haller (£43m) and Pablo Fornals (£22m) plus the return of Yarmolenko and a rejuvenated Michail Antonio.
Things began well, with the club in and around the top four come the end of September.
Then it all seemed to go wrong. The 0-4 League Cup defeat at League Two Oxford United seemed pivotal, referred to by Pellegrini as the time when things began to go wrong.
Three days after that game, talismanic keeper Fabianski was injured playing against Bournemouth and was subsequently out for three months.
What made matters worse was that his deputy Roberto proved to be a disaster, repeatedly making errors and costing points in the Premier League.
It was not until Roberto was replaced by David Martin, son of club legend Alvin, that things began to look up with a victory at Chelsea.
Another away win at Southampton showed further promise but still, the defeats kept coming at home.
The overall collapse in confidence is difficult to fathom. A team that was briskly passing the ball, going through sides with ease, now looked impotent. The confidence of early season visibly drained from the players.
A number of the players just did not look bothered. The confident Haller, who scored four early goals, looked a shadow of his former self — slow and uninterested.
In what proved the penultimate game against Crystal Palace, there was a big fall out on the pitch between captain Mark Noble and veteran defender Ogbonna.
The manager made some very odd selections over the past few months; sticking with Roberto when it seemed only he could see the value of the player, repeatedly substituting Anderson early, when he was often the most potent force on the pitch.
His signings have been a series of hits and misses, which is to be expected. However, letting keeper Adrian go to Liverpool, while replacing him with the error-prone Roberto, was probably the most costly mistake.
Critics also point to Pellegrini’s love of creative players — the signing of the likes of Wilshere, Fornals and Anderson — but failing to strengthen weak areas such as at full back and holding midfield.
Moyes should do a competent job. The team are not in the relegation area yet but are slowly sliding towards it.
Moyes will get the players fitter, with a very definite idea of how he wants them to play. If they don’t do what the manager wants, they will be out. Not always the most attractive team under Moyes, they will pick up the points needed to stay in the Premier League.
The failure of Pellegrini will be a big blow to the board, who brought in a big name, who they hoped would take the club to the next level. It has not worked out, with the club now lumbered with 18 months to pay out on an £8m a year contract.
The move to Moyes will for many fans will seem like back to the future: consolidation and safety, rather than going to the next level. The arrival of Mauricio Pochettino or Rafa Benitez would have testified that the light of ambition was still burning bright at West Ham.
Despite the recent form, there is though plenty to be optimistic about. The squad is good, with some exciting players emerging. There is huge potential to bring young players through.
It is now time to regroup at West Ham, before plotting the way forward — there is much that needs to be done at a club that despite its size continues to underdeliver for its fans.
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