Written by : @samizgould

As fans of West Ham, we could name an extensive list of the most difficult things in Football. In recent times we certainly have experienced many days and events that would qualify as the most difficult. But thankfully for all of us our manager has a very different and somewhat more simple view on football. In an interview a few weeks ago in the Independent, Manuel Pellegrini talked about his love for technical players, the big club mentality that he is trying to bring to our club – but the most impressive part was his simple, yet effective, view on winning football.

“Technical players make the game easy. They have a view of the pitch different from other players. They put the last pass for the strikers. They are the players that lose two or three balls in a year. The most difficult thing in football is to give the ball to a player that has the same colour shirt.”

In a league where teams have spent billions on players with world class skill, we have become almost accustomed to seeing teams dominate with over 80% of possession in games. It is easy to forget just how hard it can be to pass the ball “to a player that has the same colour shirt” – although any weekend match down the park has the ability to quickly remind you!

Throughout the season, when players have had poor games and given away the ball regularly Pellegrini has been quick to make changes. Obiang’s time has been limited, not only due to Declan Rice’s form, but mostly due to how often he has given the ball away in dangerous areas (and perhaps this helps explain why Pellegrini has also given limited praise to Michail Antonio despite his improvement in recent matches, only suggesting he needs to keep working and has areas to improve.) It seems form is heavily affected in Pellegrini’s view by his players ability to hold onto the ball.

It’s not a case of being a simple thing, or just holding onto the ball for the sake of it. Controlling possession is the foundation for all that Pellegrini wants to bring to the squad. In order to achieve “The Big Club Mentality” that we have heard spouted and been working towards, it seems that for Pellegrini aside from going into every match with a belief that we will win, he wants the sort of players that make the most difficult thing look simple.

In Lanzini, Nasri and Felipe Anderson he believes we have those players – although he has pushed to get more from Anderson (particularly early in the season where he publicly told him to stop giving the ball away needlessly.) Sadly, until recently we haven’t seen enough of these players together due to the never-ending concerns with injury our club has become renowned for. When Pellegrini himself includes both Wilshere and Yarmolenko and the other three to the list of technical players it’s clear that he believes we have a midfield of players who can do what he asks, but until we can get them onto the pitch together he will have to look at other methods.

Mr Pellegrini’s fearless and welcome approach to Academy players has seen the history of our great club restored, as we have always been a club that coached young players to play with style and technique using the ball on the ground. One suspects this is another reason that Manuel was interested in coming to East London. He knew we could produce the young players to play the football he and the fans want to see. So, the move to include juniors into the training with senior players can only leave our club in a better place than it was before he arrived and help realise the potential that the Academy was known for in the past. 

This summer window can’t come soon enough as we look to further develop a team that can achieve the style and demands of this fascinating and humble manager, let alone get all our current players fit and, on the pitch, together. With Pellegrini’s ability to make the most complex tactical systems simple and focused, like the playmakers he loves so much, we too could see the game in a new but familiar view. Moving on from players with injury ridden histories and attitude concerns will be a massive shift in and of itself; but adding players with technical ability across the pitch could help us see the ‘West Ham Way’ revitalised on scale we have only dared to dream of.