Saving For Summer
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 6 February 2019 at 7:36pm
Written by: Michael Randall | @oklahammer1
Two days before the transfer window shut, with a plethora of injured players, and a failure to even register a shot on target against Wolves – there might have been a case for spending in January. That was the verdict from a large section of fans who were caught up in the hype and excitement that rolls around each year, with teams forced to find cover, reshuffle an ineffective squad, or add the final piece to the puzzle as they look to chase a few extra places in the league table.
West Ham’s plight is multifaceted of course with a deluge of injuries plotting to derail any hopes of achieving a European qualifying place. Such then was the abject disappointment as the transfer window closed; a collective groan as another busy month of fixtures looms on the horizon.
There had been talk of course. Papers don’t sell without some morsels to tempt readers. There was a multitude of stories linking the team to all manner of targets. Some sounded reasonable, such as Danny Drinkwater and veteran Gary Cahill to add much needed cover. Others were more outlandish, like Mario Balotelli or Zlatan. The main talk surrounded Maxi Gomez, mooted as an ideal replacement should Arnautovic have gotten his ‘dream move’.
There were just two arrivals in January; Samir Nasri – who had trained with West Ham prior to the end of his ban – and Portuguese youngster Mesaque Dju, straight into the U23’s. Nasri’s contribution before being sidelined was promising, but his arrival in early January seems almost forgotten in the furore surrounding deadline day.
There’s evidence to suggest that West Ham try not to add much outside of summer. Consider last year’s only arrival in Jordan Hugill, while the year before saw Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass join. Snodgrass illustrates the precarious nature of the January window, having been purchased to replace the outgoing Dimitri Payet, though his initial performances didn’t meet expectations.
January also has the problem of inflated prices. Clubs are aware that managers are desperate to add to and improve certain areas, resulting in unrealistic price tags for players that would go for much cheaper come summer. So to are players and agents making bigger and greedier demands. Michy Batshuayi had been strongly linked with West Ham, until the player’s wages were deemed ‘unrealistic’.
In fact the club’s stance on Batshuayi demonstrates how West Ham have not acted rashly this January. There’s little doubt had the prices been right there might have been a more aggressive approach to transfers. But as thread bare as the squad is, there was no panic from our man in charge. He didn’t throw money at paycheque mercenaries, or spend big on a marquee signing for the short term.
Instead the Chilean looked internally to returning players. The game against Liverpool – another demonstration of our inconsistency – showed the current squad are capable of turning up and putting in a shift. Some, like Antonio and Cresswell, are finding a new lease of life, while the likes of Rice and Diop continue to flourish – no doubt looking over their shoulder as players need to do, wary of those returning who should be pushing for a place themselves.
Pellegrini could have spent, taking a risk on a name who might not have lived up to expectation. But adding players midway through a campaign can sometimes hinder progress instead of promote it.
Having current players push for a start is a preferred option, the result of which means whoever finds their name on the teamsheet each week knows they have earned it. Some will continue to feel West Ham failed this January. Others might argue that being reactive is not the best course of action. But there is some sense in waiting for the summer, when decisions can be taken with care. Only then we will see if Pellegrini’s January business was in fact spot on.