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Is Pelligrini Setting Up For A False Number 9?

Blind Hammer looks at a possible virtue born out of necessity.

The willingness with which Pelligrini sanctioned the departure of Hernandez with serious injury to Antonio has surprised some.

Whilst Haller has hit the ground running, backup now seems skimpy. Ajeti, untested and untried in the PL is the only like for like replacement.

However, Pellegrini may well plan another option in the event of injury to Haller and/or Ajetti.

West Ham’s current wealth of midfield talent means that they are more equipped than ever before to deploy a “False Number 9”.

A False Nine operates in a side intentionally set up without a centre forward to disturb established defensive patterns. The False Number 9 retreats into a midfield role and attempts to develop interplay to progress a team towards the box. When it works well-confused defenders find themselves without anybody to mark, and opposing midfielders outnumbered and outplayed.

West Ham deployed the tactic to remarkable effect nearly 6 years ago in a thrilling 3-0 win at White Hart Lane. The win was orchestrated by the unexpected genius, on the night at least, of Sam Allardyce setting up Ravel Morrison as a False Number 9. Morrison capped his finest display in a West Ham shirt with a stunning solo goal. Andre Villas-Boas’s Spurs were completely unprepared and outfoxed by this tactical switch. They had, until that October 2013 clash the joint-tightest defence in the league, conceding only 2 goals.

Since 2011 Barcelona have intentionally deployed Messy in the false number 9 to devastating effect, as did Chelsea with Eden Hazard last season.

West Ham has a number of options. It is not inconceivable that Lanzini could thrive, Hazard like, in the role, given his close dribbling ability and his ability to turn players. More likely the goal-scoring pedigree and physique of Andriy Yarmolenko provides this option. Indeed, for Kiev, Yarmolenko has on occasion provided a formal centre forward role. He is conceivably a backup centre forward in waiting anyway.

In terms of the False Number 9 though the most exciting option is Felipe Anderson, who has experience of playing across the line for Lazio, performing his best work not just on the wing but in central attacking roles. In recognition of this ability, Lazio changed his shirt number from 7 to 10. He has both the dribbling ability and eye for goal which could thrive in the role.

So Pellegrini’s backup to Haller and Ajetti may not be a player but a change of system. It will be fascinating to see how things evolve.


David Griffith

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About David Griffith

My Father, born in 1891 was brought up in the shadows of the Thames Ironworks Memorial Ground. I remember as a child jumping over the settee when Alan Sealy scored in our 1965 European Cup Winners triumph. My first game was against Leicester in 1968, when Martin Peters scored what was adjudged by ITV’s Big Match as the Goal of the Season. I became a season ticket holder in 1970. I was registered blind in 1986 and thought my West Ham supporting days were over. However in 2010 I learnt about the fantastic support West Ham offer to Blind and other Disabled Supporters. I now use the Insightful Irons in-stadium commentary service and West Ham provide space for my Guide Dog Nyle. I sit on the West Ham Disabled Supporters Board and the LLDC Built Environment Access Panel. David Griffith aka Blind Hammer

8 comments on “Is Pelligrini Setting Up For A False Number 9?

  1. Maybe… I think the concept of false 9’s or just playing attacking players up top that are not out and out strikers is becoming part of the modern game. Or to put it another way, the old number 9’s are often being replaced by 10’s or even 8’s.

    This is all more prevalent when playing a front 3 rather than an isolated lone striker,

    As well as Hazard and Messi you have players like Firminho, who is hardly a traditional striker and often plays behind the 2 wide men. Arnautovic was a converted winger, and if memory serves me right, so was Aguero.

    That’s why I am glad we didn’t sign free agents and was happy to let Chicha go. We have enough attacking players to create a dynamic front 3 if we lose Haller through injury.

    This obsession with us having to sign any old striker, just to have 2-3 in reserve is old hat.

  2. Yarmolenko has played a lot of games as a striker

  3. we’ve had a few “false” number 9’s over the years who turned out to be real number 2’s

  4. …and scored 36 goals in 80 internationals for Ukraine…This even compares with Sir Geoff (24 in 49)… 😉

  5. I think he could play the false 9 with any of the midfielders Fornals is also capable, the best finisher though is Yarmo, Anderson if he could work on his finishing should get a lot more goals than he does. I would like to see us try 442 with Ajeti he looks like a pure finisher also.

  6. Fascinating article. I think you’re on to something. Game plan 1 and 2.

  7. Made me chuckle Teddysalad. lol

  8. The u23’s are playng with a false 9 at the moment, so probably the 1st team are too training with a false 9 in some sessions.
    They way the U23’s are playing I wouldn’t be suprised if a couple of them are being made ready to step up. I think we could see a false 9 played against Oxford in the cup.

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