Will it be the annual Man City rampage at the London Stadium as Pellegrini welcomes his former side at the weekend?by Andy Dillon / 23 November 2018, 11:06Tweet
MANUEL PELLEGRINI has been saying all the right things this week as part of West Ham’s latest PR drive.
In the week that his club manages to gain access to 9,000 extra seats at their controversial London Stadium, quiet man Pellegrini suddenly comes out fighting.
Within the three years of his £7m a season contract, West Ham should be ‘fighting for’ European football says the cautious Chilean who normally thinks saying ‘good morning’ is too much commitment.
It’s a truly impressive ambition for a team which currently sits 13th in the Premier League - the same place where they finished last season.
And it’s a battle cry that will be greeted warmly upstairs with so many more season tickets to try to flog from now on of course. Subliminal marketing it’s called.
More outspoken commentators in the East End of London might refer to it as something else of course.
After all, West Ham finished 11th in 2017 and their most recent European match of note ended in a 1-0 defeat at home to Romanian minnows Astra Giurgiu in the qualifying rounds.
It’s still regarded as a huge embarrassment by the fans who refer to their opposition that cringeworthy night as ‘Kajagoogoo’ - in homage to a pop band considered cheesy even by the 1980s standards.
Good luck to West Ham of course. Let’s hope they do make it all the way to the Champions League in fact. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high and a new face among the elite.
But the one big issue is the team and the work that needs to take on the current top six who are stretching further and further away from the pack.
For example, West Ham caused a lot of fuss about their striker Marko Arnautovic - as has the player himself lately with hints that he fancies a move to a bigger club or maybe an expensive new contract.
This weekend’s opponents Manchester City should provide the ultimate test for a self-confident player like Arnie, who clearly rates himself. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, it is worth noting that Manchester City have scored 13 goals at the London Stadium since West Ham moved there. Arnautovic has managed nine.
And City have needed only three visits to get there. Arnautovic has played at his home ground 24 times following a £23 million transfer from Stoke City the summer before last.
West Ham have scored once in reply in those three games at home to City by the way.
City’s annual rampage around the vast open spaces of the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford is a gut-wrenching time for most Hammer's fans.
Pitting Pellegrini against his former club and the man who openly took his job should give it added spice.
In normal circumstances the pressure would be off West Ham’s manager despite the historic links to his former club. Nobody expects them to be the ones to throw a spanner in the well-oiled works of a team which has dropped only one point on the road in the Premier League this season.
Pellegrini could have seen this one out, got it over and done with, winced as the goals went in and shrugged his shoulders like everyone else does when City come visit.
Instead by talking up his team and his grand ambition, the paying customers will now be demanding more of a show.
It’ll be great if West Ham can halt the City juggernaut, even if only temporarily, to give Premier League managers everywhere renewed hope.
But what could have been an easy weekend for Pellegrini and West Ham has suddenly just got a lot more difficult with the dizzy talk of European football within the next two and a half years.