Manuel Pellegrini is under pressure as West Ham fell to their second consecutive defeat on Saturday.
Goals from Lewis Cook and Callum Wilson were enough to see of the struggling hosts, who were hoping for a comeback after their desperate 4-0 defeat to Liverpool last week. Midway through August, a familiar gloom is falling over the London Stadium.
It was supposed to be different this year. Few sides have been as active this Summer, with Felipe Anderson and Issa Diop headlining a busy summer of arrivals. The club might have spent in excess of £100 million, but there are weaknesses in the squad that Pellegrini has failed to address.
The frontline at West Ham is perishingly thin despite the club investing heavily in those areas. Marko Arnautovic might have scored eleven goals last season, but his career is a tale of fits and streaks. The Austrian has never truly convinced over an extended period.
Javier Hernandez, meanwhile, is a shadow of the player who once thrilled at Old Trafford and Bayer Leverkusen. Last season he struggled to put his mark on the team as he netted just eight Premier League goals, not a high enough total for a player that was signed to be a lethal finisher.
A starting midfield duo of Jack Wilshere and Mark Noble, meanwhile, might be full of passion but it is short on arguably everything else. Height, strength, mobility, fitness, consistency – you name it, they ain’t got it.
As for the Colombian Carlos Sanchez, Aston Villa fans still have nightmares about the last time he lined out in claret and blue.
“We made mistakes” said Manuel Pellegrini after the defeat on Saturdays citing the presence of a hangover from last season’s disastrous denouement. Back then, West Ham’s campaign collapsed amidst angry fan protests and pitch invasions.
Whilst Pellegrini is right to point out last season’s chaotic scenes as a damaging influence, fan discontent still brews angrily on the sidelines.
There were boos at the final whistle on Saturday, with David Sullivan and Gold looking on disdainfully at their team’s performance. It took vociferous protests and angry scenes for the owners to invest in players this summer, but even with money poured into new recruits, the atmosphere is approaching febrile.
Already, it feels like West Ham are one poor result away from another crisis. Sullivan, with his mock-Cossack get-up and forthright opinions, has never been one to keep himself recused from footballing matters, and it is unlikely that he will take a back seat should the team continue to stutter.
Given all this, the potential for West Ham to go down is obvious. The incessant negativity surrounding the London Stadium feels suffocating. If the club’s poor start mutates into an extended run, it could prove disastrous for their survival hopes.
It’s too early to write the Hammers off yet, though. Lucas Perez is an exciting addition from Arsenal, whilst Lukasz Fabianski is one of the most dependable stoppers in the league.
Many Fulham fans were gutted to see Ryan Fredericks join the Hammers this summer, and for good reason – the youngster will offer more pace and stamina on the right than the solid-but-crumbling Pablo Zabaleta.
Pellegrini, meanwhile, is an outstanding manager who has worked under trying circumstances at Malaga.
The Chilean is a soothing presence, whose emphasis on attacking football will appease an exasperated fanbase. Even with Manchester City and Real Madrid on his CV, however, this feels like it might be his most difficult job.
Will the Hammers flourish or founder? The next few weeks could be crucial in finding out.
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