As human beings we are on a journey to betterment…a treadmill being the vehicle to hone our bodies and focus our minds. If there is any noble quest to improve ourselves then as individuals and as groups, we must analyse when we succeed and equally when we fail.
The study of performance is something that has intrigued me for many years. Whether in the workplace, on the racetrack or on the field of play. I look to the elite competitors and teams and wonder what it is that they are doing that can and will affect performance and lead to improved results.
As a fan, as an interested party…even as a casual observer, I scrutinise where performance is being improved and where it is not. However, I do not solely look to those activities that directly affect me, but rather I also look beyond the borders of my mighty pond and wonder is there anything else that I can use or adapt that may improve what I am doing or what other around me are doing too.
I have used this approach countless times in my work life or my motorcycling interests too and it has proven to have had some success. However when I look towards my other great passion in this world, I wonder where the management are even on the same wavelength as I’m on.
As a lifelong West Ham United football fan, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. There have been monumental highs locked away in distant memories and there have been horror shows that have leapt off the abyss into the hellish crevasse of lower tiers and never knowing when and if we could climb our way out to the sun.
There have been some great seasons over the years but mostly they have been poor or plagued by inconsistency, and whilst there are new superstar players that occasionally display the footballing aptitudes that we all hoped they would, they are far too infrequent that would galvanise a squad of misfits into heroics.
The club uprooted and moved into the London Stadium for the promise of better times and European vacations but it appears mostly that players are already on their holidays and Europe has become a dirty word just like Parliamentary Brexit debates. Fans were encouraged to dream big after a summer spending spree that came 2 years too late. The management was changed and big names were supposed to bring us hope of glory…but two feeble cup exits and multiple missed opportunities to secure foundations just outside of the top 6 in the league has become our season legacy…and mid table mediocrity is what many would reasonably expect the club to finish now…but is that what the fans expected or is that what they have resigned themselves too…just as I have!
Recent performances against Cardiff and Everton especially have put a sour taste in the mouths of many within the West Ham world. This lack of cohesion, effort and guile leads other teams to feel empowered and to attack us with mundane ferocity whilst the defence just wilts into chaos and our attack is as blunt as a butter knife and as razor sharp as a comedian dying on stage in front of an audience that heckles, moans and then stunned into silence.
West Ham do this with alarming regularity and have done so over many years, however there is a greater expectation these days and most of it has been self imposed by the actions of the club too. The manager could demand more money, the club could capitulate and miraculously spend another £150m on supposed superior talent…however nothing will be resolved until somebody within the management structure starts to ask the most important questions.
Why are the players and the team so inconsistent? Why do they usually play better against better teams but let themselves down when playing others? Why are players that have proven themselves to be disruptive or those that have not performed well, still given the opportunity to start games?
Pellegrini has one job to do now and surprisingly it is not about winning matches…it is about digging deep into the fabric of the club and unearthing the deep rooted botrytis that has affected performances for too long. He needs to sit down with each and every player in the squad and given them some ‘bad cop-bad cop’ style interrogations. He must ensure that each and everyone is aware of their responsibilities and what it means to play for the team and not as individuals.
We undoubtedly have some talented players in the squad, but we also have some players that continue to struggle or whom do not have the fortitude to rise up for the battle ahead. The team lacks leaders, cajolers and beraters but is far too infected with moaners, sloths and slanderers. For those that try and regularly perform must also wonder why their efforts and performances and not matched by others too…perhaps they are then distracted by the allure of open doorways and the siren’s call.
Pellegrini must look to the likes of Arnautovic, Lanzini, Anderson, Snodgrass and poke the finger and demand more effort and quality both on and off the ball. He must hold the hands of Fabianski, Rice and even Noble, and raise them to the skies to shed light on how players should perform or at least demonstrate what level of commitment and effort is expected.
He must hold court this week and lay out the battle plans for the next few games and demand that each and every player, regardless of their summer futures, come together and play as one hive mind, one team with one goal…to perform with commitment, resolution and attacking intent. It is not acceptable to raise their games in the next few weeks against Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs but falter against Leicester City, Southampton and Watford in the final game of the season.
Pellegrini escapes no criticism for his starting line up against Everton however he was astute enough to identify that Obiang and Perez were not working…something virtually every fan before the game could have told him so too. His job is a lot bigger than possibly he’d ever imagined and until he cracks this nut and figures out why the inconsistency is the curse of the club, the performances will continue to be lacking in confidence, spirit and focus.
Of course there needs to be a clear out of players in the summer…and many of those that I have defended in the past must look upon themselves with embarrassment, but the here and now is that this squad and management must activate the kill switch on past failings and look to where others succeed, mirror those traits, morph them to suit if they must…but show the determination to play with width, pace and into space and above all play for each other, play for the shirt of the club they represent and put on a determined display for the fans…and leave their individual prejudices and gripes at the door…or at least until the final whistle at the season end.