The West Ham Transfer Advent calendar has just two windows left to open but has already revealed an eclectic mix of expensive gifts that go way beyond my historic expectations. Could there be even more to come? Past performance suggests the chances of our crack negotiating team signing and sealing further deals inside a two day deadline is highly improbable, but these are not normal times at the high spending Hammers. David Moyes prayers have been answered and he has been given a whole new set of tools to play with. The pressure is now on him to show what he can build with them.
The interest in Lucas Paqueta came as something of a surprise to me, although Moyes claims to have been tracking him for some time. It really is the most mouth watering signing for some time if he delivers anywhere close to his Youtube showreels. The reported transfer fee is a huge one for a player signing from a Ligue 1 club – in fact, second only to the fee paid by Real Madrid to sign Tchouameni from Monaco. Will it be money well spent?
How heavy the burden of being the Hammer’s most expensive ever signing will sit on Paqueta’s shoulders will become apparent over time. Not only must he adapt to the pace of the Premier League, but others must be tuned into the same wavelength. Otherwise the flicks and tricks will look out of place. To the more flat-footed, workaday members of the squad, his speed of thought and movement must be like watching a timelapse video.
I took David Moyes comments on needing time to adapt as setting expectations that we might not see the best from Paqueta straight away. Not that it was his intention to bed him in as a 75th substitute for the initial ten game period. I hope I’ve got that right. His presence in the side will represent a very different dimension for opposing teams to counter, and as well as creating and scoring himself he will be freeing up spaces for others to fill and hoepfully exploit. Can I already hear the cries of “¡olé!” reverberating around the London Stadium?
It was a welcome win at the weekend courtesy of a first West Ham goal of the season in almost six hours of trying. True, the goal had a few slices of luck about it but deflected shots are more common these days with defences willing to encourage shots from distance. Always happy to take what comes our way!
The first half experiment of a back five failed miserably as might have been predicted. For it to work and not be a negative tactic, fast raiding wing-backs and a pacy, mobile front three are required – not obvious strengths of the eleven players taking the field. With Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek more concerned with what Coutinho was doing, attacking opportunities were non-existent, passing and movement were at a record low, and Villa were gifted an ever increasing level of possession as the game progressed. Thankfully, the hosts had few ideas of their own and the West Ham defence stood firm in an afternoon of heading-the-ball-away practice.
To his credit, Moyes acted with uncharacteristic decisiveness to change things around at half-time, leaving the bewildered Stevie G to persist with what hadn’t worked in the first period. The upshot was that suddenly it was the visitors who looked the most likely if there was to be an eventual winner. It was typical football irony that Pablo Fornals, who hadn’t put a foot right all afternoon, was the player to pop up with the deciding strike.
A goal and a win should provide a much needed boost to confidence but today’s opponents, Tottenham, will be nowhere near as obliging as the Villains were. Along with their north London neighbours, Spurs are among the early season Premier League front runners with three wins and a draw from four games played. They have also recruited heavily in the summer. Remarkably, four of the capital’s clubs (Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham, and Arsenal) are among the top ten spenders across Europe this window.
Despite the recruitment, Conte has largely put faith in the players who secured Champions League qualification last year. But the strength on the bench looks daunting. Talking of subs, with Richarlison coming off the bench to join Kane and Son, there may well be shouts of “Dive!, Dive!, Dive!” whenever the ball is played anywhere near the box. VAR must ensure it has its periscope up at all times.
At time of writing I haven’t heard whether Pacqueta has received HM Government work permit clearance to feature in tonight’s hostile environment. I fear the midweek game has come too early for him in any case. Maybe a place on the bench is the best we can expect. I would imagine Moyes starting eleven to be the same as the one that started the second half at Villa Park.
The home encounter with Tottenham is the Hammers premier London derby of the season. Arguably, the most eagerly anticipated clash of the season. Difficult to call a game between two sides who prefer to counter attack. On form, the visitors have the edge and they are faster and more clinical on the break. Still while there is Eric Dier, there is always a chance.
Losing three opening home league games on the bounce would be a huge blow for all concerned. Not sure when that last happened but no doubt we will be told. If Rice and Jarrod Bowen remember to get their socks pulled up, I’ve a feeling we can take something away from this game – even if it is a hard fought draw. COYI!