Written by @jasoninge
With the transfer now closed, I feel this is the perfect opportunity to access where the club is in terms of progression and discuss what I believe our the fundamental issues with how the club is run.
After an underwhelming first season at our new home, I went into the summer hoping that the owners would learn from the poor recruitment that took place both in the summer and January, by purchasing players that would take this club onto the next level. We were promised that they would be playing their cards closer to the chest this time around, but through Director of Recruitment, Tony Henry, stated we were looking at bringing in quality over quantity with a maximum of three players coming in. I was immediately concerned by this statement because I felt that was simply just bringing the players to fill in the gapping gaps in the team and not looking to improve in every position with better players.
The beginning of the window saw us finally fill our problematic right back position for many of a year with Pablo Zabaleta joining, adding much needed experience and leadership to the squad. After a frustrating month in June, where fans alike began to panic that we would not bring in a top class striker, eventually deals for Marco Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez were concluded. Arnautovic has all the makings to be a top quality player but has blown hot and cold at Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and Stoke. However the general conscientious was that he would take away a huge burden on Manuel Lanzini to create chances and go some way at attempting to replace Dimitri Payet. Hernandez whose goals to minute’s ratio at football’s elite clubs speaks for itself and with West Ham strikers failing to reach double figures for goals for over a decade, can only be considered a superb bit of business. England’s number one, Joe Hart also joined on a year’s long loan deal. It is fair to say that in the recent couple of seasons, the goalkeepers highly rated reputation has fallen, but I do feel that if he can regain some form he is certainly an upgrade on both Adrian and the departing Randolph, who both had mistake ridden campaigns. The final signing of the window saw what has become commonplace as the ‘one for the future signing’ in Sead Haksabanovic. Like Edimilson Fernandes, I expect Sead to be in and around the first team, making the odd appearance from the bench.
The transfer window, we have also seen sixteen players depart, with all the permanent ones proving that they were simply not good enough for a club that is supposed to be progressing to the next level and we did make very good money on the majority of these departures.
Overall, I feel that the signings have been able to plug much needed gaps in the starting 11, but we simply haven’t done anywhere near enough business to strengthen an already stretched squad that consistently suffers injuries to key personnel. I feel we needed to buy at least one more top level striker, as in Carroll and Sakho, it’s the case of how many games we can get out of them, rather than relying on them week in week out. Plus with Sakho’s latest display of unprofessionalism, I hope he rots in the reserves. We have also seen three strikers depart and only brought one in, which simply leaves us short once again. Furthermore, I feel Hernandez is far more effective playing with a striker, than up top by himself.
I also feel that we need to bring in an additional creative wide player to replace both Feghouli and Snodgrass, as we really do lack creativity and players that can beat a man since Payet departed. In addition, we needed to bring in a top class defensive midfielder, to protect our shaky defence, as well as someone who is far more comfortable with the ball under pressure than our current midfielders. Finally I feel that we needed to bring in a new centre back, as without Reid, the other three defenders lack pace, concentration and composure with the ball.
So now assessing where the club is and where it is supposed to be progressing too, I am simply left disillusioned by the following two areas.
Back in 2010, David Sullivan and David Gold set out a plan to take the club to the next level, which saw an ambition proposal of the Champions League by 2017. Since then, we’ve obviously had a major rebuild and period of stabilisation, which was much needed. We also secured the former Olympic Stadium, which had been portrayed as a key ingredient to this club growing in stature, allowing us to purchase better players and ultimately become a side that can compete in Europe on a regular basis. Unfortunately this has turned out to nothing but a pipe dream. Now, I’m not disputing that David Sullivan works tirelessly in the transfer market, but ultimately he doesn’t have the finances to go out and purchase what is required to take this club forward. Only last night he put out a ludicrous statement on the official website, defending the transfer policy. It was claimed that a deal could have been done for the defensive midfielder that the team has been crying out for and the manager desperately wanted, William Carvalho. However we apparently ran out of time to conclude the deal due to not being able to complete a medical, with the player being away on International duty. Simply that is nonsense, as Leicester City have shown with Adrien Silva, who was also with the Portugal squad, the medical could have been completed after the window, providing the relevant paperwork for the signing was completed. Had we desperately wanted to get Carvalho over the line we would have.
Unfortunately with the owners, there is always an excuse and some form of justification for the not sealing the very best signings. David Gold, spoke on Talksport about having to find the money to do deals, which is frankly alarming for a club that is trying to progress. Karren Brady spoke on Sky Sports’ The Debate show about the club having to do sensible business deals, citing disdain at the likes of Manchester City for being able to just splash the cash on anyone and everyone. The reality is though, in order for this club to go to the next level, we need further investment. We simply do not have owners that have the finances to compete with the now top seven clubs and as a result our stagnating, with the hope of finishing 8th at best. To have an outgoing expenditure lower than Watford and Leicester and barely above Brighton and Huddersfield is a sad indictment on the ambition that we have shown. Man City and Chelsea have proven that the only way you become a big team is by financial wealth. With Everton, now securing a takeover, it going to become even harder for us to progress and I am left envious at them with the transfer business they have done in compared to ours. Make no mistake about this is just the start of something great for that club and my fear is we’re getting left behind. Now I’m not suggesting we need to riot and force them to sell the club, but I hope sooner rather than later, that the owners accept they cannot take the club any further forward and we attract a huge takeover opportunity that will give us what us fans deserve which is success.
The Manager Situation
Like all West Ham fans I am extremely disappointed with the start of the campaign. The Manchester United game was always going to be an extremely difficult game. They have brought very well in their quest to get back to the top and we had key personnel missing through injury. When you play against the top six sides, you’ve got to be at your best and they’ve got to be below bar in order to get a result. Unfortunately, after Obiang’s mistake we fell apart. The Southampton game, Slaven rightly made changes and frustratingly the players that came in, didn’t take their chance with fundamentally bad mistakes costing us goals once again. Even with that we showed great character and had it not been for poor officiating, we would have got the point our 2nd half performance deserved. The Newcastle game, we were just simply outclassed but fans need to realise that West Ham throughout our history have often produced dreadful performances, so it’s nothing new. As a result however, a lot of pressure is now at Slaven Bilic’s door, with a vocal minority now demanding he be sacked, with the belief he is a huge issue in this club going forward.
Now, I am a huge Slaven Bilic fan, he was my number one choice to replace Sam Allardyce, due to his connection with the club and also because you could tell he’s well liked by his players which is important to any clubs long-term success. Now two seasons on and a lot of criticism is being labelled at his tactics, playing players out of position and training methods. This has left me slightly disillusioned. In my opinion West Ham, really is a difficult club to manage. It is almost as bad as managing England. You have fans that think our team is better than it actually is and a chairman that is far too involved with the transfer business. However, I can acknowledge and accept that Slaven has made a great deal of mistakes over the past season in particular. I agree that not sorting out the right back position until this summer has caused major problems and has been completely exploited by the opposition, but hopefully now Zabaleta has signed, things will improve.
The criticism of style of play, again in my opinion, I feel it’s harsh. He’s no doubt tried to implement a far more expansive style of football since taking over. However, it’s pretty apparent that losing Dimitri Payet has had a major impact on the teams confidence and belief in the style of football that the manager wants to play. The efficiency of passing the ball has dropped significantly and now certain limitations of players is being shown on a regular basis, hence why we concede a great deal of goals from individual mistakes. This again is why I desperately wanted us to sign William Carvalho, as he has strength and composure in abundance.
The training methods, have well documented in the media with criticism over its intensity. Personally, I do take that with a pinch of salt to some degree. It came off the back of Slaven’s own comments after the Arsenal game last season, when he openly and honestly criticised the players. However anyone with a bit of nous would know it was to get a reaction of out his players which he did. Slaven is also faced with a great deal of injury problems to his team on a regular basis and I remember in the first season, it was believed he was training the players too hard, with double sessions and that was causing injuries. He has openly said previously that it is a catch-22 situation with training because he fears a lot of key personnel getting injured, so he is merely trying to find a middle ground. It has been mentioned before about the facilities at previously Chadwell Heath and now Rush Green not being up to scratch in comparison to the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham. For me, I think we missed a great opportunity to build a training complex around the London Stadium, where we could have had our first team and youth teams under one roof, but again is something that would cost a great deal of money that the owners simply don’t have. However, hopefully with the appointment of Gary Lewin, we will see some sort of improvement in keeping players off the treatment table, which therefore can increase the intensity of training.
I know we find ourselves in a dire situation at present and I know they’ll still be fans that want Slaven Bilic gone and replaced with ideally Rafa Benitez, but it’s far too early in the season to be making such a rash decision. Common sense says, see where we are after 10 games and ultimately it’s a results business so should things not pick up, the manager as always bites the bullet. My personal opinion though is that with the current personnel available, even the likes of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, wouldn’t be able to break the top six and until either a takeover occurs or investment comes on board, it is a pointless change anyway. I genuinely do believe Slav and the players will turn things around this season, starting with finally our first home game of the season against Huddersfield. It’s vital we get behind the team a week on Monday!
Come on you Irons!