Analysis: Pellegrini's positive philosophy plays out
Had the Premier League season started on 15 September, rather than a month earlier, West Ham United would be sitting sixth in the table.
The Irons have won six, drawn three and lost just three of their last 12 top-flight matches, collecting 21 points – more than Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth, the four teams above them in the real, season-long table.
Of course, the season did not start on 15 September and, in reality, the Hammers lost their opening four games, but their form over their last dozen matches is a clear illustration that Manuel Pellegrini’s philosophy is being transferred onto the pitch.
Just as happened during his first spell in English football at Manchester City, it took a few weeks for his newly-inherited, reshaped squad to understand the Chilean’s positive, attacking mentality and put his words and instructions into action.
Pellegrini has spoken publicly and privately about the need for his players to believe they can beat any opponent, to play with freedom and confidence, no matter the situation of the game, and to ignore any outside pressures or expectations which could negatively affect their performances.
That approach was there for all to see earlier this season, when the Hammers confidently despatched Everton at Goodison Park, then did likewise to Manchester United at London Stadium.
After a brief hiccup in the shape defeats by Brighton & Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur, and the concession of a last-minute, deflected equaliser at Leicester City, the confidence was not seriously dented.
The result was a dominant 4-2 home win over Burnley – a game in which West Ham had 63% possession and created 22 shots on Joe Hart’s goal.
After drawing at Huddersfield Town, defensive lapses cost the Irons a chance of upsetting Pellegrini’s former club Manchester City, but again the confidence instilled in his current team was not affected.
This past week, Pellegrini’s philosophy saw the Irons dismiss the challenge of three opponents they would realistically need to beat if they want to enjoy a successful first season under their new manager.
First, the Irons were full value for a 3-0 win over Newcastle United at St James’ Park – a ground West Ham had one at just once in the past 20 years – which Chicharito showing his predatory talents with two goals.
Next, a robust Cardiff City were beaten 3-1, despite losing Marko Arnautovic to a first-half injury. This time it was Lucas Perez and Michail Antonio who stepped up, sharing the goals, while Lukasz Fabianski saved a penalty with the game still goalless.
And to complete a memorable week, Robert Snodgrass and Felipe Anderson, whose own improvement and development under Pellegrini has been there for all to see, scored spectacular goals to spark an impressive come-from-behind 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
Pellegrini had spoken of the need for players to take responsibility and take the opportunities given to them and they responded by doing exactly that.
Now, the challenge for the whole squad is to keep putting their manager’s philosophy into action, starting with a trip to Fulham on Saturday.