A year ago, we ended November being stuffed 4-0 at Everton, with Wayne Rooney scoring one from his own half, so as we enter the Christmas period, now seems like a good time to see how far we’ve come in a year. My verdict is — typical West Ham. One week it looks like it’s all coming together against Manchester United, then two weeks later it all comes apart against City.
The biggest improvement we’ve made is the manager, and some of his signings. I’ve been reading Robert Banks’s ‘An Irrational Hatred of Everything,’ and I’d forgotten some of the shocking signings we’d made over the years. At last though, we have someone who knows what he’s doing, and who has been backed, and the quality of the signings has really improved.
We’ve not made huge progress in the last 12 months, but we’re heading in the right direction. We won’t set the world alight this season, but if we can build a solid base and put ourselves in a good position for next summer’s transfer window, then finally we might achieve something. But of course we’ve got the Christmas period to get through first. Seven games in December, and the computer has dealt us a pretty decent hand. Newcastle, Cardiff, Palace, Fulham, Watford, Southampton and Burnley.
Put a good run together here, shrug off the pressure of getting sucked into the relegation zone and it’ll make all the difference. It’s hugely important to avoid getting beaten, and clean sheets build confidence — when I played, we honestly never thought we’d get beaten, but that’s been a bit of a mental block in recent years. So this is a great run of games to have at this time. At least 15 points from those seven games is realistic.
As an individual, I like Manuel Pellegrini a lot. He’s not a screamer and a shouter, a Mourinho who throws his toys out of the pram, he’s a great figurehead for the club and having managed at clubs like Real Madrid, he’s dealt with a lot of pressure and politics, although I’m not sure he’ll have encountered some of the stuff he might have to put up with here!
The way he had us play against United was brilliant — right from the start we were all over them. Get yourself a reputation as a team like that and can’t be pushed around, and things will change, which is why having him is the biggest improvement this year. It looks like Andy Carroll’s finally back as well, but I’m not sure that’s a big deal. If you look at all the games he’s missed and all the money that’s been spent on him, I think his ship sailed long ago. He’s not dependable, and if you want a big man up front, then Marco Arnautovic is a far better player than he will ever be.
One player who might be joining who makes me excited is Samir Nasri. I think he was a bit of a dressing room stirrer at City, so I’d put a question mark over his character, but clearly he’s a massively skillful player and I don’t think Pellegrini had a problem with him, so let’s trust the manager’s judgement. If we get him on a short-term deal and get the best out of him there’s nothing to lose and it could be an inspired move.