Pellegrini confirms Nasri is ready to play after appearing on bench against Brighton
Photo: Getty Images - Marc Atkins

Pellegrini confirms Nasri is ready to play after appearing on bench against Brighton

The former Arsenal man is back in the Premier League. 

Matt Dawson

With West Ham looking bereft of creativity barring Felipe Anderson, it may have seemed the ideal opportunity for Samir Nasri to make his Hammers debut against Brighton on Wednesday night.

But step forward ten minutes of quite frankly ridiculous football. 

The first half had conjured up one of the worst halves of Premier League action this season; the second provided one of the most entertaining. 

Brighton took a 2-0 lead through Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy in the space of two minutes, meaning that with no football under his belt this season, Nasri was denied an opportunity with West Ham needing to up their intensity.

They found that through Michail Antonio who gave the Irons an added dimension they didn't have before.

However, it was Marko Arnautovic who played the starring role, latching onto a ball over the top to bring the Hammers back into the game eight minutes after Brighton's opener. Two minutes later and the Austrian had the ball in the back of the net again following tremendous work from Antonio down the right which ensured both sides left with a point.  

Intention was to use Nasri

The arrival of Nasri on a free transfer this week was met with scepticism. The creative midfielder joins following an unsuccessful period with Sevilla and after a doping ban, whilst he's now also the wrong side of 30. But that didn't stop him from returning to the Premier League to link up with Manuel Pellegrini again after previously playing under the Chilean at Manchester City.

Lacking in match fitness it may have come as a surprise to see him on the bench for the game with Brighton. But with numerous injuries in the Hammers side, particularly to Javier Hernandez, Andriy Yarmolenko and Manuel Lanzini, there was room for Nasri in the 18 man squad.

Commenting on the player, Pellegrini stated: "Samir has been working for us for one month, he is able to play 15 or 20 minutes without any problem."

However, Lucas Perez, Mark Noble and Antonio were preferred as the players to enter the fray throughout the match. Pellegrini revealed why Nasri didn't get his chance. "My intention was to use him but the way the game was, it was a risk to start playing."

Nasri's debut could come against Birmingham in the FA Cup this weekend, a match which the Hammers will be hoping requires less exertion. 

Carroll doesn't take his chance

This game was the first time Andy Carroll had started for West Ham for exactly a year. On his last start, he scored twice against West Brom but his performance on this occasion was in stark contrast. He struggled to get on the ball and Pellegrini's game plan of going long towards him didn't work. "We didn't create chances in the first half, we tried to find him [Carroll] with high crosses but they have two big centre-backs," the Chilean commented. 

During the first half, Carroll took an elbow in the face from Brighton defender Lewis Dunk, an incident that was accidental but required stitches as the striker was taken off at half time for Perez.

But with the ex-Newcastle and Liverpool man having struggled with injury in 2018, Pellegrini noted that was also a factor in him playing just 45 minutes: "It was a tactical and physical substitution," he confirmed. 

Set pieces cause problems

Brighton continue to struggle away from home and as such have failed to win 22 out of their last 24 Premier League matches on the road. But that didn't stop them from causing West Ham's backline issues from corners. 

For both of the visitors' goals, the Hammers defence was far from convincing. They firstly failed to clear sufficiently from a corner on the left which left Stephens to volley home to break the deadlock and then let the ball come through all the way to the back post for Duffy's strike from another corner. "All of us we know that Brighton have scored most of their goals from set pieces. Especially from corners. To concede two goals from set-pieces knowing that is very disappointing," Pellegrini asserted. 

Despite the draw, the West Ham boss was upbeat about the result. "I'm very happy about the spirit of the team after playing many games in December. I didn't want to lose the game, I think we must be happy."

During December, West Ham won more points, 15, than they have ever done in a single month of a Premier League campaign. After a poor start to the season, the Hammers have shown great improvement and following Wednesday night's result sit in 10th place.