The Chilean opted to keep the same line-up against Newcastle United that drew with Sheffield United the previous week, but saw his selection backfire in a woeful 3-2 defeat.
Now, Bent has had his say: “[Manuel] Lanzini not starting, I couldn’t understand that one,” he said on talkSPORT [04/11; 16:08]. “One of the biggest ones for me was [Pablo] Zabaleta. You know you’re playing against [Allan] Saint-Maximin, who’s arguably one of the fastest players in the league, and you’ve got [Ryan] Fredericks on the bench who’s one of the quickest full backs in the league.
“That, again, is why I wonder if Pellegrini did his research and, kind of, understood the team that he was playing against.”
Bent is absolutely bang on the money, here. The Zabaleta decision was indefensible. Saint-Maximin is absolutely rapid, one of the quickest players in the Premier League, as Bent says. We all knew that he would almost certainly start on Saturday, and so it was absolutely baffling that the 34-year-old Zabaleta was picked ahead of Fredericks, who is extremely fast. Why was he sat on the bench for a clash with one of the quickest wingers in the top flight? It makes no sense. The proof was in the pudding during the game, as the Argentine international was ripped to shreds by the former Nice man. Then there’s Lanzini. To be fair, he hasn’t been playing particularly well so far this campaign. However, when creativity is such an issue for the Hammers, you may as well gamble on Lanzini finding form again. That’s certainly a better policy than playing two holding midfielders against a team as poor as Newcastle.