Manuel Pellegrini says he not worried about West Ham being relegated from the Premier League, but he needs to wake up because right now that is a possibility.
Monday’s 3-1 home defeat by Arsenal means the Hammers have taken just four points from their last eight games – a run that leaves them one point above the drop zone in 16th place and puts them rock bottom of the form table.
In fact, the only positive result in that terrible run – a 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month – may have had an unintended negative effect, fooling them into thinking that a liberated, open style of playing is working. In reality it is the opposite.
West Ham actually started the season well, after getting their opening day 5-0 mauling by Manchester City out of the way. A six-game unbeaten league run was a time of feast; now they are going through a famine.
They just can’t seem to sustain performances for a full 90 minutes. There is no long-term form under Pellegrini and once you are on a slippery slope it is difficult to get off.
Pellegrini is an experienced manager, but he is not used to leading a side who are battling to avoid relegation. He has previously taken charge of sides like Real Madrid and Manchester City, so I wonder if he is more focused on coaching quality, attacking football.
Right now that is not what West Ham need. Half of their 28 goals conceded have come in the past six games and they need to get back to basics to stop the rot.
The right mentality
To succeed in the Premier League as a player you need the right level of talent, but also the right mentality. When your team is struggling it is about working hard together, communicating well and digging deep to ensure everyone is turning in 6/10 performances, instead of 4/10 ones.
A good way to tell how well a side is drilled is by watching how they operate collectively.
The majority of football, perhaps 95 per cent, is about what you do out of possession: how you keep your shape, close space and make clever tactical decisions.
If you can do those things well, you will gather confidence and the other five per cent will come.
We saw a good example of this on the weekend, with interim Everton manager Duncan Ferguson getting his players to simply work harder against Chelsea. They made 37 tackles – the most of any team in the Premier League this season – and won 3-1.
Players like to have clear instructions. After a poor performance video analysis can be used to highlight when people have switched off and mistakes have been made. Hard truths are needed after falling apart too frequently and conceding far too many goals.
It’s not about being negative, but about recognising what is most important when you are in a dog fight. Pellegrini must act now, because getting a result from Saturday’s league game against 18th-placed Southampton is vital.
West Ham might be backing their manager at the moment, but there is no doubt their board of directors have done their homework on potential replacements.
Lose at St Mary’s and the Hammers could find themselves in the relegation zone and Pellegrini could find himself without a job.