Is 'The Engineer' Manuel Pellegrini building something special at West Ham?

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 19 March 2019, 09:45

Manuel Pellegrini has achieved what only Alexis Sanchez had managed to do so far at the London Stadium.

West Ham’s manager joins the former Arsenal striker as the only two men to have claimed hat-tricks at the one-time Olympic Stadium which is now the home of the Hammers.

Last Saturday’s 4-3 win over doomed Huddersfield Town was the first time West Ham have won three games in a row at the stadium which was once dogged by controversy.

This time last year pitch invasions and a mass assault on the directors’ box during a miserable 3-1 defeat by Burnley forced joint-chairman David Sullivan to flee his VIP seat.

Sanchez smashed in three goals for Arsenal in December 2016 - West Ham’s dire first season in their new home.

The big teams were handed the freedom of the vast expanses of the 57,000 bowl in Stratford that brought out the best in the top teams and the worst in West Ham.

On the pitch there is now a vastly different feel to the team following the arrival of Pellegrini and a substantial investment in quality new players.

Off it the stadium will always divide opinion and will never be as good, as traditional or anywhere near as intimidating for away teams and fans as gritty old Upton Park shoehorned into the cramped streets of London’s East End.

But there is now a feeling that everybody at West Ham is at least pulling in the same direction.

The board of directors, once bunkered down for their own safety, have reached out to the fans who were naturally unsettled by such a massive move from the spiritual home of 112 years, to a concrete bowl in the middle of a municipally-owned sports park.

A supporters’ committee now regularly meets with the top brass and dialogue off the pitch has cooled some of the biggest divides and allowed Pellegrini to focus on the job of putting a team together capable of relative success.

West Ham are ninth in the Premier League and this week 16 players are away on international duty with 13 different countries - including the high profile return of a West Ham player to the England squad in Declan Rice.

They have won as many home games as Manchester United and beaten them and Arsenal backed by 60,000 fans.

Rice is a household name at 20 years old: fellow Academy graduates Grady Diangana and Ben Johnson are on the fringes of the first team. Midfielder Josh Cullen has been called up to the full Ireland squad for the first time.

Pellegrini has had the benefit of a record investment which goes a long way of course: £47 million for Felipe Anderson, £23 million for defender Issa Diop, £80K a week wages to pick up free agent and Premier League title winner Samir Nasri.

But he has also bought wisely and nobody can doubt the astuteness of buying keeper Lukasz Fabianski, restoring Robert Snodgrass to the squad. Having the luxury of being able to allow playmaker Manuel Lanzini time to fully recover from a serious ligament injury to return to the team early and every bit as good as he was.

Pellegrini doesn’t shout about it - let’s be honest it’s almost impossible to hear a word he says in press conferences but there is a feelgood factor at West Ham that has been hidden away for almost three years that is slowly re-emerging.

Pellegrini’s appointment was questioned by a lot of people last summer as it looked like the former Manchester City boss was being brought out of semi-retirement in China for one last big Premier League pay day.

But the Chilean brainbox nicknamed the Engineer for his impressive academic qualifications might just be building something at West Ham.

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