It’s another international break and rather than going on holiday, twiddling their thumbs or feigning interest in England’s world cup progress most online media has turned its attention to the surefire fail-safe topic of the upcoming January transfer window; remeber there are only 81 shopping days to go and I, for one, am getting excited for the launch of the John Lewis Transfer Window video.
A few days ago we published our review of the season to date and without doubt the outcome of those next 8 Premier League games will set the tone for any transfer activity that takes place during January. We are supposedly a club with growing ambition but if we continue to flounder in the lower reaches of the league at the end of December then player recruitment will, by necessity, be focused on survival rather than growth.
Having had a (generally accepted) disastrous pre-season window it would be doubly disappointing to be forced to bring in players whose main attribute is either their experience or an ability to roll up their sleeves for a relegation dogfight. It goes without saying that maintaining Premier League status is the top priority but I had hoped the days of the short term fix were well behind us. If we are able to claw our way to mid-table obscurity by mid-season than at least the plan can return to one of continuous improvement; even if the execution of that plan is not always successful.
Scanning through the steady trickle of transfer speculation that has started to surface we have already been linked with a bench-full of unsuitable players looking for another big payday; while on the other side of the equation it appears that several Hammer’s names are being pencilled in as other clubs prepare their list of targets prior to opening up their war chests.
Players reportedly ‘on our radar’ include: striker Mario Mandzukic (31), probably because he is Croatian, who is currently out of favour at Juventus; Branislav Ivanović (32) and snarling Cesc Fàbregas (29) who have both fallen down the pecking order at Chelsea now that they are a decent side again; and Mamadou Sakho (26) the hopeless Liverpool defender. Unsurprisingly, there is nothing there to get the juices flowing I have already mentally filed them as made up nonsense as all would be desperate signings. In the case of the Liverpool Sakho my assumption is that the link was a Friday afternoon post pub cut and paste error and should really have been West Brom. where he would be far more suited.
Over recent seasons West Ham have thrown off the reputation of being a selling club even if the real reason for this is that we have not had any players that other clubs wanted. Now the times appear to be changing again with predators allegedly sniffing around Payet and Obiang and even the injured striking duo of Carroll and Sakho. It would be disappointing but not surprising if Payet left to capitalise on his new found superstar status with a final bumper contract at one of the Champion’s League clubs where money doesn’t matter (such as PSG). In theory I guess a club can refuse to sell but in practice they generally yield to players looking to leave to further their bank balance rather than have them skulk around the training ground.
The injury records of Sakho and Carroll would seem to make transfers in a few months time extremely unlikely. A scenario where such a player returns to full fitness, demonstrates their goalscoring ability (at a club where a striker has not scored all season) and is still sold is too fanciful even for West Ham.
Loan flops Simone Zaza and Gokhan Tore should certainly be dumped out of the January window if not before. With Tore, it seems that Besiktas are proving reluctant to accept returns for damaged goods and we may have the same battle as trying to return unwanted Marks and Spencer underwear after Christmas if not in the original packaging. My fear with Zaza is the emergence of another classic West Ham cock-up (from the makers of Mannygate and Tevezgate) where we have mistranslated the Italian in the lone arrangement and by bringing him on as 85th substitute at Leicester on 31 December we mistakenly make the deal permanent.
My real hope for the next window is that we have identified some realistic targets who can hit the ground running to improve the first team options from day one and then go about our business quietly.