West Ham United are having a stunning season. The Hammers currently sit fourth in the Premier League, are into the 5th round of the FA Cup and are into the round-of-16 in the Europa League.
David Moyes’ men are on track for a record-breaking season but there are major fears amongst fans and pundits alike that West Ham are a couple of injuries away from undoing all their hard work.
West Ham have a fantastic group of players and a couple of years ago, the depth that the Hammers currently have would have been more than acceptable. However, for a team that are pushing for Champions League qualification and silverware in two separate competitions, it is nowhere near good enough.
The January transfer window would have been the perfect opportunity to show some ambition and to bring in a couple of players to really ensure that West Ham have a strong end to the season. The bare minimum that was expected was another striker to provide cover and competition for Michail Antonio how has been the clubs sole striker for an entire year since the sale of Sebastien Haller to Ajax last January.
The club failed to do this and more worryingly, it seemed as if there was very little effort and intention to actually bring someone in. This is quite simply not good enough especially in the circumstances that West Ham find themselves in. You know things are bad when the club’s only striker is calling for the hierarchy to sign some competition for him.
Here’s what Antonio said to Standard Sport.
"“I’m a person where I want a challenge, I want someone to be there pushing me and make sure I am doing the right things. The time I went nine games without scoring a goal, maybe someone could have stepped in and given me that little push so that I could hit the back of the net.”“I am not a person that would shy away from a challenge. I would definitely embrace someone coming in, I’d embrace the competition.” – Michail Antonio"
There were so many talented options available in the January market which would have been an instant upgrade on what we currently have, yet it seems Moyes chose not to pull the trigger. Whether this is down to value for money, lack of scouting or just a general uncertainty about the player, is unclear but either way the outcome is still poor.
It is good that Moyes is being cautious over transfers as West Ham have wasted huge amounts of money in the past on players that just do not suit the club but the Scotsman is taking this to a new extreme which could end up seriously punishing his side.
An example of this is the pursuit of Marseille Centre-back Duje Caleta-Car. In the summer, Moyes bid £20 million for the Croatian which was rejected by the French club but it was obvious that the 24-year-old was a player that West Ham were seriously keen on, having been a long-term target.
With the season ending injury to Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop’s horrendous form, a Centre-back was high on the wish list in January. Naturally the club went back in for Caleta-Carr but were refusing to budge from a loan to buy deal. Marseille, who are in dire financial issues, were asking for £15 million for one of their prized assets which was £5 million lower than what West Ham originally bid for the player just months previously. It just did not make any sense.
The club have always been very unorthodox when it comes to transfers but this needs to change very soon because West Ham will find it very hard to move forwards with the current system.
According to reliable West Ham source ExWHUemployee, the club have a list of around 30 or so players for each position and just work their way down that list trying to find the best deal possible, both money and ability-wise. For a Premier League club the size of West Ham, this is laughable.
With the new investment from Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský, money shouldn’t really be an issue and the club certainly shouldn’t be sacrificing quality over price within reason.
The scattergun approach to transfers may have worked in the past but this was more down to luck and it certainly isn’t good enough for a team fighting for Europe. Structure in the transfer department is desperately needed and the best way to do that is to appoint a director of football.
Under Pellegrini’s reign, Mario Husillos was in the role and the pair were able to identify the players they wanted and quick to get deals done. Of course, many of the signings the pair made were horrendous but they were efficient in getting them over the line. It would be very smart for West Ham to bring in a DOF but it would have to be the right person and ideally, they should be chosen by Moyes.
It also seems that West Ham only finalise their targets towards the end of the window which is utter madness as it means the club are putting themselves under even more pressure to get deals done in a limited amount of time. For example, Moyes had the whole of January to bring in a striker but didn’t manage to narrow down his list to a select few which meant we missed out.
However, this should have been done before the window had even opened. It is a colossal waste of time to be narrowing down targets during the window as the management have had months to do this before January the 1st. It just eats up time that could have been spent negotiating deals.
Going forwards the club needs to have their targets finalised before the window opens so that they have the entire window to get a deal done. This will benefit the club massively and it will help the manager bring in the players that he needs as clubs are more likely to sell if they’ve got the time to replace their players.
Aston Villa are an excellent example of how business should be done.
The failure to bring in players this January may end up hurting the club’s chances for silverware and European qualification this season but it may also have a damaging impact on the club for the future. The lack of ambition was evident to see this window and this is not what the players and fans want to see.
Key players like Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen have big clubs sniffing around them and it is crucial that West Ham prove to them that they can fulfill their ambitions at the London Stadium instead of going elsewhere. If the Hammers do end up finishing the season with a whimper, then Rice and Bowen may well start to evaluate their options which could be cataclysmic for the club.
We must hope that things go swimmingly for the rest of the season and that our players can remain fit so that we can have a real shot at winning a trophy as well as trying to sneak into that last Champions League spot. If we can do this and then back it up with some solid, ambitious and structured movement in the summer transfer window, then we can prove to our players that the club is moving forwards.