Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 18 January 2020 at 10:25am
Written by : Corey Kemp
It’s just turned January and the mayhem of the transfer window is upon West Ham. This transfer window may be one of the most crucial in the club’s recent history. Failure to recruit effectively in the summer, despite spending over £60 million, finds David Moyes in dire need of energetic and technically talented players to stop West Ham from failing into the Championship.
The animosity towards the owners is no more poignant than in this situation. Despite spending significant money in the summer, the release and sales of squad players on high wages has left the first-team squad depleted of depth and consequently suffering from lack of options. Most fans were worried when Manuel Pellegrini failed to recruit additional squad depth and it looks like they were right to.
It is disappointing that the recruitment in this window is centred around surviving the drop, rather than adding to options and a push towards European football.
The term ‘transfer policy’ has an incredibly loose meaning at West Ham, given the rumoured lack of scouting, absence of a director of football and involvement of David Sullivan and his preference to use agents.
It was stated that the Club wanted to look at purchasing young players with sell-on value but now they find themselves in a situation where they may have to spend high wages on short-term ageing players that may have better quality than the substitutes have at the moment. A terrible position looking from the outside in.
From a football perspective, it is obvious what the team require at this stage. Let’s look at the key positions and the options available in the market.
Mario Husillos for all his good work, royally messed up in choosing Roberto as the second-choice keeper for the Club. He appears to be off to Alaves to join Lucas Perez until the end of the season. So the obvious task for the recruitment team was to find a keeper that would be a comfortable choice for number two and who wouldn’t affect the team’s performance in the way that the Spainard has done.
Darren Randolph has since been signed by the Club in what I gather is a cheaper deal than communicated, given Middlesborough still owed money for the transfer. Randolph, although loved by West Ham fans, wasn’t as reliable as some may choose to believe.
He fleeted in and out of the first-team with the erratic Adrian proving too much for Slaven Bilic’s Champions League push. I feel like he grew into the role, however, and demonstrated some match-winning performances.
His experience at Middlesborough can only be a good thing for West Ham. Playing regular will have kept him match-fit and allowed him to improve in a league where there is less pressure and ultimately less quality.
I am happy that he has returned and I feel it is a positive move by David Moyes. He is well-liked at the Club and this will only benefit squad morale in the inevitable fight against relegation. Given the recurring injury to Lukasz Fabianski, Randolph may offer occasional relief in the FA Cup to ensure the Polish international is available in the second-half of the season.
David Moyes has appeared to have chosen the 3-5-2 formation as he did so in his last spell with the Club. Whilst I don’t agree that it will be an attractive style, it is pragmatic enough to feed the more creative players and provide Sebastian Haller with aerial service from the wing-back role. Because of this, it is crucial West Ham bring in the right type of player.
Pablo Zabaleta isn’t that man. In this system, he is exposed to regularly as Saint-Maxim and Zaha will contest. A six-month loan option for a back-up to Ryan Fredericks is the most logical strategy.
I honestly didn’t want to say this but Nathaniel Clyne or Cedric Soares would fit the bill. Both have a reputation for attacking ability and supplying crosses into the box. I think Nathaniel Clyne offers more risk given his history with injury and whilst, Cedric Soares isn’t a typically attractive fit, he has worked well in a high-press style adopted by Ralph Hassenhutl. He has also been agitating for a move away so I see a good option for David Moyes in this player.
Whilst it will invoke those common feelings associated with a West Ham transfer window, this decision would provide a stop-gap within the price range of the club and more importantly, a fit to David Moyes’ system.
Ever since Mark Noble has lost a touch of energy, West Ham have needed a box-to-box midfielder. He doesn’t have to be technically superb but he has to do the dirty work for the gifted Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson. And with Pablo Fornals having the hall mark of a fantastic number ten, this leaves an option to recruit a player with energy and stride to move past players and deliver the ball to the plethora of attacking midfielders.
Ideally, a player like Ruben Loftus Cheek is what the midfield needs. Aside from how technically gifted he is, his physique and his ability to go past players would benefit the Hammers no end. Chelsea won’t let a player of his talent go and equally, I don’t think recruiting a player that has a terrible injury record is wise.
A clever decision would be to test Norwich City’s resolve offer their key assets – Emiliano Buendia and Todd Cantwell. Granted they will command a fee and a permanent transfer but the Canaries are in a perilous position. Both work in a hard-working Norwich side and both are technical enough to create and score goals – something that the team lacks in the centre midfield role.
In this position, offering £20 million for Todd Cantwell, given the Club is the 18th richest in the world, isn’t bad value for money for a player that has proven their worth in the league. Whether this will even be explored remains to be seen.
An argument could be made for multiple profiles of striker. Albian Ajeti has not progressed as hope and Michail Antonio isn’t a natural fit for a forward so a hold-up man, finisher and a forward with high work rate could all be identified.
A man that is hot and cold but could ‘do a job’ is Southampton substitute Shane Long. By no means do I think he is the best option but he cannot be accused of not working his socks to win the ball and retain it for his team. This is a role that Antonio does excellently and it would provide this if he picks up another injury.
There is the forgotten man at Newcastle Dwight Gayle to look at. His goal scoring record is tremendous for a player that has very little first-team football but has proven it in the Championship. He could be available on loan and would offer a different dynamic to the forward line, although I don’t think a finisher is the top priority for this window.
The ambitious moves would be for either Michy Batshuayi or Danny Ings – hear me out. Although Batshuayi has turned West Ham down on multiple occasions, I wonder whether the Euros in the summer and the chance to play regular football may appeal to him. There is also the money element that is clearly attractive so a non-committal loan deal with a player of the stature of Sebastian Haller may be something he would move for.
The Danny Ings choice is pie in the sky thinking but it isn’t unrealistic if the Board want to invest. I saw a statistic this evening saying he has not only scored 14 goals in 18 games but has only missed 4 chances in those games. That is incredible sharp shooting that West Ham, who are notoriously uncreative, would benefit from if they want to nick a 1-0 here and there. A bid of £25 million may tempt the South Coast outfit into selling for a forward who is terribly underrated. There was a reason he earned a move to Liverpool and with his injuries behind him, he is showing serious potential.
So that concludes my wish list for this window. There are some left-field suggestions but the premise of the transfers is their attainability. It is time to avoid the big-name and look at players who fit the mould of the system. If only West Ham had a scouting system to do it…