West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini says it was a “very difficult” decision to drop Roberto and start with reserve goalkeeper David Martin in the 1-0 win over Chelsea.
The 33-year-old came in for the struggling Roberto – who had previously conceded nine goals in his last three games – and performed adequately between the sticks as the Hammers clinched three points and kept a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Why did Pellegrini drop Roberto for David Martin?
- First-choice ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski picked up a hip injury in September and has been ruled out until the New Year.
- Summer recruit Roberto has stepped up in the Pole’s absence while he recovers.
- However, West Ham failed to win a single match with the Spaniard in goal.
- The Hammers conceded 14 goals in six games and picked up just one point prior to the Chelsea win.
- As such, Pellegrini dropped Roberto for Martin on Saturday and West Ham picked up their first clean sheet since mid-September.
Since first-choice shot-stopper Fabianski sustained a hip injury at the end of September, the east London club had not won a single match prior to this weekend’s result in west London.
Roberto had been deputising for the injured Pole but came in for a significant amount of flak on account of numerous poor performances, culminating in Pellegrini’s eventual decision to drop him – which was not taken lightly, according to the Chilean.
He told reporters: “It was very difficult [to drop Roberto]. It’s a position you must be very careful of when you change it. I gave him the most amount of matches you can as a manager, but at the moment we needed a reaction.
“It was a risk with Martin because he had never played before in the Premier League but he did very well. They are a complete team and the defenders helped him a lot to keep a clean sheet.
“It was a very important win, because we have had results that are not expected or deserved. You must be solid and consistent. That was the major change that we did compared with other games and it allowed us to keep a clean sheet and beat a team like Chelsea who are in a very good moment.”
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I was struggling to eat for two days – Martin
As the full-time whistle rang out at Stamford Bridge, boyhood fan Martin sank to his knees before running into the terraces to share the moment with his father, Alvin Martin, who played for 21 years in the colours of West Ham between 1978 and 1996.
It was a heartfelt moment and reflecting on the match, Martin spoke of his pride in the performance, but also how nervous he was prior to his Premier League bow.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” said Martin, who is a boyhood fan. “I’m just pleased I got through it, I didn’t let anyone down and actually I enjoyed it in the end.
“My dad didn’t say much – I think we were both in tears. For my dad to play for the club for 21 years and see it, and for me to make my debut, keep a clean sheet and get win for the boys, it is so pleasing.
“I was struggling to eat for two days; Cressa [Aaron Cresswell] was laughing at me because my plate was taken away because I couldn’t eat my food.
“I hope I’ve given myself a good chance [to keep my place] but I have to work hard and keep grounded.”