He Came In Through The Transfer Window: Can West Ham Steal A Point At St James’ Park

An underwhelming transfer window is followed by the long trip north to face high-flying Newcastle United. Do David Moyes ambitions stretch beyond the hope of a desperate goalless draw?

Another January transfer window has come and gone and once again supporters are left frustrated and disappointed at the lack of imagination and planning involved. Our high-flying bubbles had begun to fade and die at the same stage last year when the club failed to build from a position of strength. What will be our fate in this time of weakness? West Ham have fiddled as their relegation rivals splashed the cash for survival!

Once the dust had settled on the closing window, the only new signing was Danny Ings, an intelligent but injury-prone striker. A player who will provide additional options in attack even if his best days are behind him. But any opportunity that offers is offset by the departure of Craig Dawson, probably the Hammers most dependable central defender over the past couple of seasons – and one of the principle goal threats at the other end. Agreeing to Dawson’s request to return north for personal reasons was a reasonable one. But not bringing in a replacement is the latest in a long list of negligent and short-sighted decisions. Particularly considering the injury records of the remaining defenders.

Following Dawson out the door went three academy graduates – Harrison Ashby, Pierre Ekwah, and Emmanuel Longelo. Only time will tell how well these young players develop or whether some were motivated by money rather than opportunity. It would have been good to have given them an opportunity in claret blue – everybody loves an academy graduate – but that, it seems, is too risky for the cautious one. I saw a statistic that Divin Mubama’s four minutes against Arsenal is the only game time seen by an under-22 player for West Ham this season. Interestingly, the next ‘worst’ is Newcastle where Elliot Anderson is the only under-22 to have been given a run out – although he has played 100 minutes more than Mubama.

When West Ham last played Newcastle United in mid-February 2022, the Hammers sat 4th in the Premier League while the Magpies languished in 17th place. Today the positions are almost exactly reversed. Newcastle reaping the reward of ditching their own dinosaur manager, Steve Bruce, and bringing in the more progressive, Eddie Howe. Plus of course having access to large piles of grubby Saudi cash which has allowed them to invest £250 million in the squad over the last three windows.

With a League Cup final place already booked and an outstanding chance of Champions League qualification, it is shaping up to be a fantastic season for the Magpies. Howe has made astute signings and teased the best from the talented but underperforming players already at his disposal. It is impossible to begrudge the loyal and passionate Newcastle fans their whiff of glory but it still beggar’s belief that representatives of the brutal and murderous Saudi regime are considered to be fit and proper owners of a British football club.

There was a leak yesterday of what might become future government legislation for the regulation of football. Some way to go before we discover how that might turn out or what powers the independent regulator (surely, it has to be known as OFF-SIDE?) might be given. The leaked documents suggest that all clubs would need to reapply for a licence, but is that really going to happen without extended and costly legal challenge should a licence be revoked? The new rules will, no doubt, be introduced just in time to prevent a consortium of Dr Evil, Kim Jong-un and Prince Andrew taking over at the London Stadium.

Newcastle’s on-field success this season has been built around the most frugal defensive record in the league and a whole laundry full of clean sheets . They have conceded just 11 goals in total and none at all since a late Southampton consolation on November 6. It’s a record that offers scant hope for a misfiring West Ham attack. Especially where David Moyes primary target will be to add to the tally of six 0-0 draws that Newcastle fans have already witnessed this term.

Early reports are that West Ham will be without Kurt Zouma, Danny Ings, Gianluca Scamacca, and someone called Maxwell Cornet. It has proved fruitless to speculate in the past about Moyes baffling team selections but I’m guessing he will stick with three at the back and a massed defence for this one. It will largely be the same side that won at Derby but with Lukasz Fabianski back in goal (for some reason), Declan Rice replacing Flynn Downes and Lucas Paqueta in for Pablo Fornals.

As long as the game remains scoreless, West Ham incursions into the opposing third will be as sporadic and half-hearted as usual, with possession hovering around the 30% mark. If Newcastle score, it will be more of the same as the Hammers seek to keep their powder dry until the final ten minutes. At least, that is what experience suggests will happen. Unless, of course, this is the week that Moyes finally unleashes his brand-new possession-based football experiment.

The glimmer of hope is that the hosts will be without influential Bruno Guimarães following his midweek red card – interesting that Paqueta gets the nod ahead of him for the Brasil national team. And there’s no longer the possibility of Jonjo Shelvey being called up for a once in a blue moon stormer! That still leaves plenty of threats to the Hammers goal, however, in the form of Wilson, Almiron, Willock, and Saint-Maximin.

This weekend is the start of a tough run of games for West Ham. Newcastle is followed by Chelsea at home and Tottenham away. How many of the 20 points needed to survive are they likely to pick up from that lot? No better than zero to three is my guess. Would that be enough for Moyes to keep his job? Does he then get out of jail again by scraping a narrow win over Forest? It’s going to be a long hard slog. COYI! 

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