Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
Although they may have broke the bank this summer, West Ham just can’t get going this season. Even with the addition of former Premier League-winning manager Manuel Pellegrini, there are still several questions about their ability to defend.
A 4-0 loss to Liverpool on the opening weekend, coupled with throwing away a 1-0 lead at half-time against Bournemouth on Saturday, the Hammers are still to pick up their first point of the new season. With some of their big-name arrivals failing to gel, the London Stadium can be an unforgiving place and Pellegrini must make changes to help turn the morale around.
Making the trip across London to the Emirates this weekend, West Ham face another stern test. Although Arsenal are in a similar position to their guests and without a point to their name, new boss Unai Emery must feel Saturday is a chance to get their season going.
While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Iwobi, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were particularly wasteful in front of goal, Arsenal will know they could have left Stamford Bridge on the right side of a 3-2 win on another day.
Once again playing the role of the underdog, here are three things Pellegrini must do if he stands any chance of defying the odds:
1 Play Felipe Anderson higher
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If the new Hammers boss took anything away from Arsenal's 3-2 loss to Chelsea last weekend, it should be that there is plenty of space behind Hector Bellerin. With the Spanish international having arguably his worst afternoon in an Arsenal shirt, Marcos Alonso constantly had an abundance of space to work in and it showed with his assist after just ten minutes.
Often looking overrun and constantly out of position, West Ham's summer signing Felipe Anderson should be an important man for Pellegrini against Bellerin.
While the former Manchester City boss is yet to deploy his trademark 4-2-3-1 formation, allowing the former Lazio man to play on the left of an attacking three will certainly pertain to more creativity from the 25-year-old.
Playing in a midfield five and spending most of the time inside his own half against Liverpool, coupled with playing in a 4-4-2 against Bournemouth last weekend, the Brazilian is yet to show why West Ham invested £42 million and made him their most expensive player.
With Jack Wilshere's vision, having Anderson in a more advanced role will give him the chance to keep Bellerin where he is least comfortable, defending the space in behind.
2 Bring in Issa Diop
Shipping six in their first two games, West Ham's major issue this season is the same as last year's; their form at the back. Conceding 68 goals in the Premier League last season, the joint worst record with relegated Stoke, Pellegrini's side have struggled without long-serving defender Winston Reid.
With summer signing Fabian Balbuena looking out of his depth against Liverpool and Bournemouth, the former Corinthians man and new partner Angelo Ogbonna have been unable to form any kind of chemistry.
After Arsenal missed a string of golden opportunities at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Pellegrini will know he can not risk relying on the Gunners' profligacy again. If they are on the end of a similar outcome to their 4-0 defeat to Liverpool, the mood in East London will turn very sourer, very quickly.
The answer to the Hammers' issues could be sat right on their own bench. Bringing in the highly rated 21-year-old Issa Diop from Toulouse this summer in a deal worth up to £21 million, West Ham are yet to see anything of the France U21 international as he was an unused sub in both of their opening games.
Standing at six foot three and gaining a reputation for his ball-playing ability and turn of speed, Diop became Toulouse's captain last season and attracted interest from sides across Europe.
After both Balbuena and Ogbonna made a string of defensive errors that caused the Hammers to throw away their advantage last time out, many around the London Stadium are calling for Pellegrini to make a change at the heart of his defence.
3 Turning Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi
Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Similar to what Anderson must do with Bellerin, it is important that Pellegrini gets Arsenal's latest defensive pairing of Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi on the turn.
With Emery's side now shipping five in their opening two matches, there has been a long list of questions over their defending at the start of the season. Still with so many concerns over his position in the side, Mustafi hasn't been able to fill the void left by Laurent Koscielny's long term injury and Arsenal's defensive line continues to prove problematic.
Electing to play an incredibly high line against Chelsea, the Blues' front three effortlessly found ways through the heart of Arsenal's defence with a simple chip over the top.
With Sokratis' worrying lack of pace highlighted over the weekend, the Greek international often makes rash decisions and flies out of position, leaving the already vulnerable German exposed.
The ever willing runner he is, Marko Arnautovic certainly possesses more speed than either Sokratis or Mustafi and, as Alvaro Morata showed last weekend, that can be lethal.
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