Manuel Pellegrini: Four things new boss needs to do to push Hammers up the table

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini
Pellegrini faces the toughest challenge of his managerial career
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After West Ham confirmed the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as manager, Alex Keble looks at the former Man City man's in-tray at the London Stadium and suggests four key priorities...

"Pedro Obiang and Joao Mario have the potential to improve, but nevertheless fresh blood is badly needed in the middle. Yaya Toure is currently 5/4 to sign for West Ham this summer; he is not the solution."

By appointing a glamorous older coach plucked from semi-retirement in China, there is a worrying sense that hiring Manuel Pellegrini is just another example of West Ham United chasing glamour over substance. The trail of thought from the unfit-for-purpose London Stadium, to Pablo Zabaleta, to Patrice Evra, to Manuel Pellegrini is easy to follow.

West Ham's board is renowned for its naivety, for its idealistic choices that merely project an illusion of prestige. With that in mind, Pellegrini's arrival is a tad unnerving. Although the Chilean's time in England began with a title win it ended with fans lamenting his indecisiveness and inability to adapt tactically; Man City became an ageing team playing lethargic, stale football.

That's not to say the 64-year-old won't be a success at West Ham. After all, he won the league title with Manchester City in 2013/14 and took both Villarreal and Malaga to the Champions League. But West Ham are a club locked in a semi-permanent state of crisis. The project facing Pellegrini is surely the most challenging of his career.

Here's a list of the issues Pellegrini needs to prioritise over the summer:

1) Sign a defensive midfielder (or two)

One of the most frequent complaints regarding Pellegrini was his over-commitment to attacking football, leaving the central midfielders with far too much ground to cover. Yaya Toure looked lost as part of a two-man midfield during much of the Chilean's tenure, repeatedly letting opponents walked through the middle of the park. Alarmingly, at no point did Pellegrini seem to realise his mistakes.

West Ham already suffer from a similar issue. Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble have been constantly exposed over the last two seasons, highlighting West Ham's need to sign an athletic centre-mid this summer. Pellegrini's attacking football will heap pressure onto the more defensive components of the first 11, which means a highly energetic player is required to hold the fort at the base of midfield.

Pedro Obiang and Joao Mario have the potential to improve, but nevertheless fresh blood is badly needed in the middle. Yaya Toure is currently 5/4 to sign for West Ham this summer; he is not the solution.

2) Find a goalscorer to maximise Pellegrini's wing-focused attacks

Pellegrini loves to play traditional wingers who attack their full-back and launch crosses into the box, explaining why the often infuriating Jesus Navas played such a key role at City. Arthur Masuaku and Michail Antonio could thrive on the flanks under the 64-year-old's tutelage, but only if West Ham can finally find a reliable poacher.

In Javier Hernandez Pellegrini may already possess the striker he needs. His fellow South American will surely get more playing time in east London in 2018/19, although at 29 Chicharito isn't quite the player he once was. Worryingly, only twice in his entire career has Hernandez scored over 12 goals in a single campaign.

Pellegrini was a big fan of Kelechi Iheanacho at City, using the Nigerian as a six-yard-box striker alongside Sergio Aguero and helping the youngster average a goal every 94 minutes of Premier League football in 2015/16. After a disappointing year at Leicester City Iheanacho could be an astute first signing.

3) Build the side around Lanzini or Arnautovic

Every successful Pellegrini team has had a creative focal point, a playmaker given a free role to conjure magic from central attacking midfield; at Villarreal it was Juan Roman Riquelme, at Malaga it was Isco, and at Man City it was David Silva. Consequently West Ham's team will be built around either Manuel Lanzini or Marko Arnautovic.

Lanzini is considerably more hard-working than Arnautovic, meaning he will probably get the nod in Pellegrini's high-pressing system. Everyone knows the Argentine is phenomenal on his day, and with a nurturing attacking coach at the helm Lanzini should become a consistent performer at the London Stadium.

4) Clear out the older players to rejuvenate the defence

West Ham's ageing squad already resembles the Man City that was engulfed by lethargy towards the end of Pellegrini's tenure. He must get rid of the dead wood as soon as possible, lowering the wage bill and clearing the air for the younger generation. Declan Rice, Sam Byram, and Reece Oxford all deserve a chance in the first team ahead of the likes of Patrice Evra and Pablo Zabaleta.

Oxford in particular should be a regular starter next campaign, although West Ham need to sign a ball-playing centre-back to start alongside the 19-year-old (and challenge Angelo Ogbonna). Winston Reid does not have the technical attributes to excel under Pellegrini, while James Collins is clearly past his best.

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