Like Dorothy’s companions on the yellow brick road in search of a heart, brain or courage to make them complete there is a widely held belief that all of Slaven Bilic’s problems would be solved “If I only had a striker!” Although no-one could argue that a reliable regular goal scoring striker hasn’t been a problem for a good few years, it is not the only weakness that causes concern if the target is to create a team capable of a comfortable top eight finish. Insufficient pace in the centre of midfield and central defence and a general inability to retain possession must also be addressed.
The loan signing of Joe Hart to join former teammate Pablo Zabaleta at the London Stadium has now been confirmed and will surely add some additional security to the back line, at least on a temporary basis. I have stated before that I am not a fan of loan deals to resolve major shortcomings. Somehow it seems inappropriate for a club that is among the top twenty richest in the world. With the Hart deal apparently not having a buy option then I fear we will be left with an even bigger problem in twelve months’ time; particularly if Adrian stomps off with his gloves between his legs.
It would be unreasonable to suggest that Hart and Zabaleta do not improve the squad and both are likely to start the season as first choice. But transfers should be more than just finding players who are better than what you have; it should focus on the identification and pursuit of the best footballers that you can attract. A free transfer and a loan who are both over 30 does not yet get the juices flowing for me, although I appreciate that 30 is relatively young for keeper. Are these two counted as game-changers I wonder?
If reports by a ‘reliable journalist’ in the Evening Standard are to believed then Marko Arnautovic will also become a Hammer within the next day or two. Then again they also presented him as the answer to West Ham’s striker search. Now, I believe that if you had surveyed one hundred people to “Name a Proven Premier League Striker” then you would receive a resounding ‘Uh-Uh’ from the Family Fortunes computer if your answer was Arnautovic. It is encouraging that Stoke supporters seem sorry to see him leave but there is a suspicion that he needs to be thoroughly motivated in order to deliver his best. I wonder whether our backroom boys have the expertise to ensure this happens. Arnautovic would arrive as the club’s new record signing and will be happy to know that the bar is set very low in having to live up to that billing.
The name of Javier Hernandez continues to pervade transfer rumour discussion and he is alleged to be edging closer to a move to the east end, where edging is synonymous with the usual imperceptible movement of a West Ham transfer chase. On the face of it Hernandez is a clinical finisher who has averaged close to a creditable goal every other game during his time in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen. At first glance his Premier League record of a goal every third appearance is more of Carlton Cole proportions but, when looking at goals scored per minute on the pitch, Hernandez comes out fifth placed in the all-time Premier League standings; a result of being used more as an impact substitution than as a starter by Manchester United.
If we end up with Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Hernandez then it would represent a reasonable but safety first approach to the transfer window; focused more on survival than progression. It would deliver an outcome where our sights can be set at the top of mid-table rather than on the cusp of the relegation tussle. For the ‘glass half fullers’ we would have acquired a Premier League winner, England’s number one, a powerful play-maker and a lethal striker. The ‘glass half emptiers’ might dismiss them as an ageing full back, error prone keeper, moody winger and a striker who is best from off the bench.
As ever it is all about opinions.
The new link on the block over the last twenty four hours of Lazio’s Keita Balde Diao has the hallmarks of fantasy football league about it. It is nice to dream but this one just seems far too fanciful.
The pre-season friendlies got underway with a less than impressive scoreless draw against an Austrian third tier club. It is pointless to read too much into these early run-outs even if you might expect a Premier League outfit to have enough in their locker to stroll past such opposition. If/ when we don’t beat Fulham later in the week expect to hear how they are further ahead in their preparations. From the very brief highlights of the Sturm Graz II game that I saw I thought Nathan Holland looked lively; looks, moves and runs like a footballer which many of the young players don’t.