West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is “not worried about relegation” from the Premier League even though his side are above the bottom three by only a point.
Monday’s 3-1 home defeat by Arsenal was a seventh loss in nine games.
The Hammers travel to third-bottom Southampton on Saturday knowing defeat could leave them in the drop zone.
“In our last five games at home we got one draw and conceded three goals in our last three. I am more worried about that,” said the Chilean.
Some people within the club believe Pellegrini, 66, could lose his job if the Hammers are beaten at St Mary’s.
However, the club have repeatedly stressed they like to honour contracts, and the deal Pellegrini signed in May 2018 does not expire until 2021.
The Hammers have spent all but one season in the top flight since 2005. This is their eighth campaign since their last promotion and they have never finished below 13th.
Following their controversial move to the 60,000-capacity London Stadium in 2016, Hammers chairman David Sullivan has give Pellegrini – appointed to succeed David Moyes in 2018 – around £165m to build a squad capable of challenging for European qualification.
Yet, with the exception of the bottom three, West Ham have the worst goal difference in the Premier League. Only four clubs have conceded in excess of their 28 goals, half of which have come in the past six games.
Striker Sebastien Haller, their £45m record signing, has scored once since August and after starting on the bench against Arsenal, the Frenchman made no impact after he was introduced 20 minutes from time.
Pellegrini accepts that, as manager, “you take responsibility for results”.
“For 65 minutes there was only one team on the pitch,” he added. “But we must score the second goal to decide the game. If Arsenal had scored three times from seven chances, that would be different. The game was decided in three minutes. We need to concentrate more, be more consistent and more solid.”
There were thousands of empty seats visible at the final whistle after a game in which the Hammers had led through Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected header, only for three goals in nine second-half minutes from Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to transform the game.
Those West Ham fans who were left greeted the end of the match with whistles and jeers.
Nevertheless, Pellegrini says they are still behind his team.
“If you get one point from five games at home and concede three goals in three games, you can’t expect them to be happy and not to boo,” he said.
“But I don’t agree the fans are not behind the team. There are 60,000 here for every game. If they weren’t behind the team, the stadium would be empty.”
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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20 – World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.
“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.
“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”
With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.
There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.
That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.
South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.
“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.
Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?
Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.
England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.
Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.
Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.
The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.
Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.
South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.
Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.
“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.
But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.
While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.
The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.
First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.
But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.
Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19
Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections
Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.
The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.
Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.
Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.
Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.
More to follow