Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images

Pellegrini must abandon offside trap which didn't work at Manchester City

Obviously, there is no need to panic after West Ham’s opening game of the season, despite the 4-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

Teams who have been together a lot longer than Manuel Pellegrini’s new-look squad will suffer at the hands of the Champions League finalists and not a great deal can be read into the Chilean’s tactics or approach.

However, there is one tactical trait that did not work at all at Anfield. Pellegrini used it during his time at Manchester City and the early signs are that he plans to continue in east London.

Manchester City’s Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini (L) consoles Manchester City’s Belgian defender Vincent Kompany as he leaves the pitch injured during a UEFA Champions League last 16, second leg football match between Manchester City and Dynamo Kiev at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on March 15, 2016. / AFP / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

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That is positioning the defensive line on the edge of the penalty spot, regardless of the position of the ball or the game situation.

This weekend, Sky Sports Jamie Carragher highlighted this approach as potentially dangerous from Pellegrini, and criticised it during his time as City boss.

In the pundit world, there is no greater authority than the Liverpool icon when it comes to organising a defence, but the flaws in the offside trap are clear for all to see.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 12: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring his side’s second goal with Naby Keita and Sadio Mane during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United at Anfield on August 12, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Having the line set on the edge of the box regardless allows plenty of space in behind for onrushing strikers, who have the clearest possible guide of where they need to stand in order to stay onside.

It allows strikers to get the march on their defenders from wide areas and has absolutely no flexibility. Instead of Pellegrini trusting his defensive leaders to set the position of the line in relation to the ball and the opposition, he takes control away from them, and in pursuit of clarity of thought, he loses adaptability and effectiveness.

No other club in the Premier League will defend this way and it caused issues for Pellegrini at an elite club like City, so there is every chance it will prove an issue with a new-look defence which is desperately trying to improve its record from last season.

Pellegrini has made a strong early impression, some good signings and is a perfect fit for what the owners are trying to do.

But this insistence on an inflexible offside line, which is so, so easy to breach threatens to hamstring his attempts to revolutionise West Ham and turn them into an attractive, top-half side.

There is no need to panic after Sunday, but Pellegrini must abandon this doomed defensive strategy as soon as possible, starting this weekend, against Bournemouth. Failure to do so would be very costly as the season wears on.


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