Written by : Conor Culverhouse @ConorCulver
West Ham’s humiliating 3-1 defeat to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday night has left many people questioning Pellegrini’s team selection. However, it is not this that should be scrutinised. Instead, the embarrassment should be down to the team taking a win at AFC Wimbledon for granted.
First, it is worth noting that the team selected was strong enough, on paper at least. We have seen all of the players that played put in a number of decent games in the Premier League so they should, in theory at least, be able to put in good enough performances at a League One side. Also, consider it this way – if West Ham won, many fans would be praising Pellegrini for finding a team to win whilst also resting our best players. So it cannot be the team selection that cost us the game and led to our disappointment; instead it was the clear complacency of some of the players chosen which may have come from the fact we had already beaten them 3-1 earlier in the season.
Arnautovic aside for obvious reasons, the two main outfield players rested were Rice and Anderson. First, we should question how good we actually are if we can’t beat AFC Wimbledon without those two players. But second, there are good reasons for resting them. For Declan, he has played in so many games and has played 90 minutes in pretty much all of them so he deserves a rest and what better game to do it in? With regard to Anderson, he is that much quicker than most players in the Premier League let alone League One which just opens him up to late tackles. Imagine the reaction if Anderson were to be injured for an extended period of time away against AFC Wimbledon in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. Diangana and Snodgrass have shown on multiple occasions this year that they are more than capable of putting in a quality performance against better opposition and so they were more than decent replacements for Anderson.
You could understand why fans won’t be happy with Pellegrini’s selection; he fielded a weaker team and they didn’t show up and as a result we have lost our final chance at a trophy which, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and now Spurs being out, was our best chance in a long time especially with how we’ve been playing this year. But it was not the team selection. Six of the starting XI on Saturday started the game earlier in the year and we won comfortably. What cost us is a lack of discipline, team wide complacency and a lack of respect for the FA Cup and the upsets it can provide if not taken seriously enough.
The magic of the FA Cup is well and truly alive, and West Ham are the latest team to be cast under its spell.