West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini has admitted it was a ‘mistake’ to start centre back Fabian Balbuena against Manchester City on the opening day.
The Paraguay international has not featured in league action for the Hammers since being part of the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the champions in early August, and Pellegrini has now come clean on his error in starting the defender.
“The reason was that Fabian Balbuena couldn’t work too much in the pre-season. He arrived from his national squad late and he played just one [full] game,” he told Football London.
“That was my mistake to play with him in the first game because I trusted too much in what he can do, but it was too soon for him. Now he is trying to return to his normal performance, working hard. Angelo [Ogbonna] worked with [Issa] Diop the complete pre-season and now they are the two centre-backs who must play.
So not only is Pellegrini saying that it was a mistake to start Balbuena v City, he is also consigning the centre half to a bench role moving forward. Clearly Ogbonna and Diop is the manager’s preferred partnership at this moment in time, and the one he is going to be sticking with moving forward. Balbuena might view that as harsh considering how well he played for much of last season, and because he has been the victim of a busy summer and one bad game. He was away on Copa America duty and so missed pre season with the Irons, during which time Ogbonna and Diop were continuously working on their partnership at the heart of the defence. However, it tells you how highly Pellegrini thinks of Balbuena that despite that he still went with the Paraguayan for the City game. It’s worked against the player here, though, because he had a horror show and is now way down the pecking order at the London Stadium. That’s a shame for him, but Ogbonna and Diop is undoubtedly the premier partnership at the minute.