West Ham’s One Piece At A Time Striker Search

Is there any plan beyond just sign a a proven striker. Do they need to fit into a certain style of play?

Transfer Specualtion

Imagine that you have been traipsing around Westfield at Christmas for over three hours and the only present you have bought so far is a box of bath salts for your Auntie Ivy.  By now you regret not writing a list beforehand and have realised that a mental note to not screw up like last year by visiting different shops is not really a plan.

If there a wish list for West Ham’s transfer shopping activity does actually exist it would appear to go no further than stating ‘buy a proven Premier League striker’.  The rationale being that the club are well served in the midfield and defensive departments despite having the sixth worst goals against record last season.  All that is required, apparently, to mount a sustained assault on the top six is that missing person to tuck away the steady stream of chances that the team creates each weekend.

It would be comforting to believe that when Sullivan, Bilic and Henry get together in the Chairman’s hot tub to discuss the latest transfer targets, over a bottle of crème de menthe and a packet of Hamlet cigars, that there is a detailed specification as to exactly the type of player required to complete the tactical jigsaw master plan.  If the list of players linked in the media is anywhere near accurate then this seems rather unlikely.  That the extent of the plan is to find someone, anyone, who has scored goals at some point in their career and then find a way of shoehorning them into the starting eleven.  Perhaps beggars can’t be choosers but it would be encouraging to know that the search went beyond just finding another target man.  What is needed in the modern game are players that offer pace, mobility, athleticism and intelligence; someone who can score goals but is also able to hold the ball up, bring others into play and contribute to a more fluid playing style.

With the July 1st player contract milestone now passed and pre-season training underway several new names have been added to the list of potential targets over the past few days.  Striker speculation stalwarts such as Giroud, Sturridge, Iheanacho and Batshuayi have not yet gone elsewhere but are now allegedly joined on the West Ham radar by the likes of Javier Hernandez, Anthony Modeste, Cedric Bakambu, Andre Gray and Raul Jimenez.  Refreshingly, most of these are under thirty and a few are even in their mid-twenties.  Of the names mentioned, however, only Giroud, Sturridge and, maybe, Hernandez can be said to be the proven Premier League striker that the club has spoken so frequently about.

The other scenario, of course, is that there will be more than one striker arrival at the London Stadium.  Previous experience would suggest that the chances of completing not one but two striker deals would be slim but it could serve to reduce the predictability of our attacking play, particularly against teams more committed to defence.  On the other hand the prospect of playing two strikers, while nostalgically appealing, would ask many questions of a defensively flimsy and out-numbered midfield.  If only we knew what style of football our manager liked to play!

One player crossed off the list in the last week was Henry Onyekuru who chose Everton over a move to the London Stadium and only time will tell whether this was an opportunity missed or a dodged bullet.  Everton are also reportedly in for Giroud, a move that would appear to go against their largely forward looking transfer strategy of buying players with potential sell-on value rather than those searching for a final pay-day, and who would be equally happy with a move to the Chinese Super League.

A potential alternative to Onyekuru to emerge in the week was José Izquierdo, a Columbian also currently playing in the Belgian league.  As with many other targets he looks great on Youtube, where he demonstrates delightful skills as a speedy goal-scoring winger who actually takes a look up before crossing and who has a range of goal celebrations to rival Michail Antonio.  Certainly looks interesting but I imagine that work permit could be an issue with his limited international record.

The transfer news hasn’t all been about strikers, however.  In midfield there has been talk of interest in another Manchester City outcast, Fabian Delph, who I believe would be good value, plus a move for Vicente Iborra from Sevilla.  As we are reportedly battling it out with Watford and West Brom for Iborra I think that is one that is best ignored.

A rumour from last winter’s transfer window has also resurfaced in respect of  Saint Etienne defender Kevin Malcuit .  Malcuit translates to badly cooked in English and, having already signed ourselves a new right back, this has the whiff of a half-baked idea to it, with the player more likely to join Marcelo Bielsa at Lille.

The one done deal of the West Ham week was a new five year contract for 29 year old Angelo Ogbonna.  I am somewhat ambivalent about Ogbonna.  He currently gets my vote ahead of veterans Fonte and Collins but I still feel he is prone to switching off and allowing opponents too much room in dangerous positions.  I can’t see him performing at the top level beyond another two years, making a five year deal worrying, but maybe he gets the benefit of the doubt as a result of last season’s injury.  It is a shame, in my opinion, that West Ham did not pursue an interest in Nathan Ake who has since moved to Bournemouth.