How Manuel Pellegrini may have found the right formula at West Ham

After losing their opening four Premier League games, the mood around the London Stadium was becoming increasingly sour.

A 1-0 loss to Wolves prior to the international break left many worried about their trip to Merseyside on Sunday afternoon.

With Goodison previously a ground that had offered them very little success over the past eight seasons, few would have expected West Ham’s performance.

Unquestionably their best 90 minutes, they left Everton with a very impressive 3-1 win.

Andriy Yarmolenko scored twice on his first start for the club and Marko Arnautovic added a third to give the Hammers their first win of the season.

On his 65th birthday, West Ham are finally showing signs of adapting to life under Manuel Pellegrini.

So, what has suddenly changed at West Ham?

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: Manuel Pellegrini, Manager of West Ham United looks on prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at London Stadium on September 1, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

A change of formation offers defensive stability

Undoubtedly the key part behind West Ham picking up their first win of the season was Pellegrini’s decision to alter his formation.

Previously, the former Man City boss had opted to stick with his trademark 4-2-3-1 formation.

However, after four defeats on the bounce, Pellegrini decided it was time for a change, specifically in midfield.

His decision may have been inforced by the news that Jack Wilshere will be sidelined for six weeks with an ankle injury.

Ahead of Sunday, many wondered how the Hammers would line up.

Opting to play a 4-1-4-1, the reintroduction of Declan Rice in a central three almost flipped a switch for West Ham.

Making six changes to the team that lost to Wolves 1-0 before the international break, many will wonder why they hadn’t set up like this earlier.

It wasn’t just in front of West Ham’s defence where Rice had an impact.

Having a natural holding midfielder allowed Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang to provide service for their attacking trio.

Almost forming a 4-3-3 when attacking, Marko Arnautovic, Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko had the chance to interact together.

Although Pellegrini is famously a manager who likes to control the possession, his decision to let Everton play proved a smart one.

Even though they only had 44% of the possession after 90 minutes, they finally looked defensively sound.

While a first Premier League clean sheet is still to come, the protection in midfield left Diop and Balbuena relatively unscathed.

They now face back to back home games against Chelsea and Manchester United in the coming weeks.

Ahead of an important time, have West Ham finally found a formation that offers them stability?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 16: Andriy Yarmolenko of West Ham United celebrates with teammate Mark Noble after scoring his team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Everton FC and West Ham United at Goodison Park on September 16, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

New signings finally gel

Fielding as many as seven new signings, a lack of time to find any chemistry has been a problem.

Breaking the £100million barrier over the summer, West Ham’s new look side couldn’t find any real rhythm.

However, the change of formation allowed the likes of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko to feature more heavily.

Showing the quick counter-attacking style that Pellegrini promised for their first goal, West Ham’s new recruits set an early tempo.

A tempo that they did not let drop over 90 minutes.

With left-back Arthur Masuaku replacing Aaron Crewswell from the start, the £36million Anderson appeared to have a solid understanding with the Congo international.

The 25-year-old relished the freedom he was given to play by his central trio.

The Brazilian had the most touches for West Ham with 84 and also completed a season-best 55 passes.

Showing a glimpse of why West Ham made him their record signing, Anderson epitomized their new found connection.

A sign of things to come?

Pellegrini and West Ham fans will be most impressed with their sides resolve.

With Gylfi Sigurðsson heading home a minute before half-time, the traveling fans would have thought a similar story was playing out.

No team have thrown away more points from a winning position at the start of the new season.

Unlike their first four games, West Ham stuck to their plan in the second half and reaped the rewards.

While two-goal hero Yarmolanko also proved to be a willing runner and offer Pablo Zabaleta plenty of protection.

Although many were worried that the 33-year-old Zabaleta would be exposed, the Ukranian winger put in a disciplined performance defensively.

If Arnautovic, Anderson, and Yarmolanko can continue to find the same page, the Hammers could finally have the attacking identity they have been longing for.

It isn’t just in the final third their new signings are finally finding some form.

New number one Łukasz Fabiański has been their standout performer this season and the new center half partnership of Diop and Balbuena showed signs of improvements.

West Ham fans will be hoping they can keep up this momentum.


West Ham United injury blow: Jack Wilshere’s long-term timescale revealed

West Ham’s Lucas Perez slams ‘media falsehoods’ after Everton