West Ham United: A Masterclass In Papering Over The Cracks

Despite buying four Premier League-proven starters, (three of which have won the trophy on multiple occasions) spending £40m, including large amounts on hefty wages and seemingly ‘improving’ their first team considerably, I believe at this point West Ham have again failed to conduct a totally successful transfer window. 

With the league’s top 6 looking stronger than ever, mid table strugglers battling for European spots had really ought to invest money efficiently and effectively should they wish to stand any chance of breaking it. As big clubs snap up the world’s current stars, for instance, Alex Lacazette to Arsenal and Nemanja Matic to United, those elsewhere in the league must look for the future’s next greats. Those that will bloom as they mature, bringing their club up with them. This investment in youth can be seen clearly working in several teams around world football. A prime example being the Monaco team of 16/17. After putting faith into youngsters like the phenomenon Kylian M’bappe, winger Tomas Lemar, now £40m Benjamin Mendy and more, they managed to secure the Ligue Un title as well as reaching the lofty semi-finals of the Champions League.

West Ham, however, have done the polar opposite. They’ve bought players at an average age of 30, meaning there is only 1-2 seasons that these players can offer to the club. 

Firstly, Joe Hart will only be at the club for a single year anyway as he’s on loan – making this transfer seem utterly pointless with Adrian already at the club. Especially when there’s still huge question marks as to whether he’ll find his form again after a shaky season out in Italy.

Zabaleta, at 32 with shot knees will also bite the dust pretty soon, and may not even last the season. Under Pep he looked a shadow of his former self, being replaced by Bacary Sagna when both were fit for the majority of the campaign.

While Arnautovic is by no means a poor player, he is terribly inconsistent and 28, entering the latter years of his prime. His output last season was mediocre, notching 6 goals and 5 assists whilst playing in a variety of positions across the front four for Stoke. Paying £24m for him seems an excessive purchase since we could quite easily have savvily scouted for youthful alternatives. 

Business models such as Southampton’s that pride themselves on excellent scouting are proof this works out. Wingers such as Saido Mane, Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond have all recently went through the club, going from relative unknowns in England to highly desirable players (particularly the two formerly mentioned). 

Finally, we can look at our best bit of business in Javier Hernandez. Averaging a goal every two games in the Bundesliga during his two seasons in Germany, the man is nothing but prolific. He also had a great goalscoring record off the bench at Manchester United – proving he has calibre in England. Although a good signing, this purchase still follows the short term mindset the board have set out with this season. At 29, Chicharito will unlikely be a staple of our starting 11 for any longer than two seasons, seeing out the last year of his huge £140,000 a week on the bench – which is an immense amount of money to be throwing at a substitute.

In light of the negativity, the board have hinted at times to the kind of ambition I’d like to see at the club. The speculative Keita bid is a sign of intent to invest in youth. His 1.4 key passes per game is more than that of Manchester City prodigy Leroy Sane, and his 16 goals from 21 starts is also incredibly impressive. 

The early chase of Kelechi Iheanacho was also encouraging, but madly we gave up on the boundlessly talented Nigerian that would have cost almost exactly the same amount as Arnautovic. A natural poacher, Iheanacho will surely be a success at his new destination Leicester, following on from his stunning numbers from his first two campaigns in the Premier League: 0.9 goals per 90 in 15/16, and 0.6 goals per 90 in 16/17. These are the sorts of players that any board in West Ham’s position should be hungry to recruit as they will serve the club for a great period of time, and only increase in value due to their age. 

Only time will tell as to whether this window will be a fond one for the memories, or yet another failure. But in my opinion, unless we begin planning for the future and pairing players such as Manuel Lanzini, Arthur Masuaku and Reece Oxford with more quality young footballers we will never etch our mark on the top 6 due to our futile, unhealthy habit of buying players for today, when we really should be building for tomorrow.

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