If you’re on Twitter, you’re probably aware that QPR’s Eberechi Eze looks set to join Crystal Palace. And according to some West Ham fans, that’s the end of the world.
Now, don’t get me wrong, seeing talented players join rival teams is always a kick in the teeth. And we were rumoured to be interested in Eze, so to think that Palace has outbid or seem more attractive than us is also gutting. But if West Ham is to really analyse what Eze would bring to the club, I don’t think it’s worth getting all doom and gloom.
Firstly, the Hammers currently have a lot of players capable of playing in the positions Eze does best. Felipe Anderson and the returning Grady Diangana are the two top contenders for the left-wing position whilst Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals and Michail Antonio all want to occupy that second striker position. Granted, we’re reportedly looking to sell Lanzini and Anderson so this point may change over the window, but for now, adding more to our poor finances without moving anything else on seems foolish.
Secondly, it wasn’t finishing that meant we ended up struggling in the Premier League last season. Using understat, we can look at how good the chances we created were. From open play, the Hammers created chances worth 33.9 xG and scored 31. Compare us to Southampton, Everton and Brighton. Southampton created 39.7 xG, scoring 38, Everton 36.8 xG and scoring only 30 and still finishing comfortably ahead of us.
More from Green Street Hammers - West Ham
Brighton created 35.22 xG, but only scored 26. And they also finished ahead of us. We created fewer chances than all three of these sides but scored more than two of them. Even when talking about the attacking end of the game, scoring isn’t our issue, creation is. Eze would bring goalscoring ability for sure, but Diangana created more goals per 90 minutes last season (0.29 compared to Eze’s 0.18) and that’s what we need more of.
But West Ham’s big issue is at the back. We allowed 51.36 xG of chances against last season, far worse than any of those other three. Brighton allowed 44.7 xG, Southampton 42.9 xG and Everton 38 xG. For the Hammers, that’s a huge differential to be trying to make up by getting better at finishing, when we have to work on how we’re going to concede fewer opportunities at the back.
I would also note that making the chances harder, rather than guilt-edged, would also have a big impact. The Hammers gave up over 20 xG worth of chances inside our own 6-yard box, and almost 44 xG in the penalty area. Brighton was the highest otherwise with 16.5 xG given up in the 6-yard box, and 38.7 in the penalty area.
With the greatest respect to Brighton, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves with them. They certainly shouldn’t be beating us across all those metrics, given their revenue stream and fanbase. But we haven’t invested at all wisely in recent years, and now the fans are clamouring for something to hold on to. And that’s why we’re getting all this doom and gloom.
When you sign a marquee striker or exciting attacker, it’s easy yo get caught up in the club again. A defender isn’t as fun a signing, and it’s hard to always tell how good they are going to be in your current backline. So we hear about the board’s interest in a young attacker and you get caught up, even if you think it’s not what you want. Because it’s fun, and that’s what sport is about.
But the board have to realise that this isn’t Football Manager, and they have to either take a step back from transfer involvement or get serious about it. Because if we’re going to be ‘interested’ in all of these young attackers and sign none of them, then the fans will not get back on their side at all.