SUCH was the ludicrous manner in which the Hammers contrived to lose at the Emirates, teams of Wiccan specialists are waving crystals, reciting spells and wafting smoke to reverse the curse that has quite clearly been placed on West Ham United Football Club. They needn’t bother – the cause of our malaise is much more prosaic – the collective failure of David Sullivan, Mario Husillos and Manuel Pellegrini to buy attacking players that can function in the Premier League.
The decision to get rid of strikers Javier Hernandez, Andy Carroll, Marko Arnautovic, Jordan Hugill and Lucas Perez last season can’t really in isolation be faulted. To replace them with only the moody Sebastien Haller and woeful Albian Ajeti is close to criminal. Michail Antonio strove manfully as a stand-in forward but as soon as presented with a goal scoring opportunity for himself or a colleague made the sort of enthusiastic mess of things you might expect when inviting your young kids to “help in the kitchen” at half-term. A brilliant off the cuff player, his lack of a football brain was cruelly exposed.
Behind the forwards Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez (all Pellegrini signings) have offered next to nothing. The first pair on the list are “almost good” players who like many “flair” players do little out of possession – but not nearly enough with the ball to justify their elevated status. Payet they are not. Best we don’t speak of the other two.
Returning to a favoured theme, under Sullivan there is no strategy for team building and players are bought haphazardly. Pellegrini’s monstrous wages paid in part for complicity in the arrangement as Husillos’ forays into the transfer market were most likely to line his own wallet (why else Roberto?) while Sullivan’s dabbles lack coherence and seem more about keeping fans quiet than future profit on or off the pitch.
This shambles of a policy includes managers -David Moyes’ ability to build a team is legendary and as a long-term appointment could be excellent – even if he would probably make a better Director of Football. So Sullivan twice appoints the former Everton and Manchester United boss to extinguish the fires lit by more favoured appointees. Moyes’ modest buys Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek (in this game Moyes can be criticised for bringing the Czech international on too late for the tiring Noble) appear to offer the side so much more than the glamour signings even if Pelle buy Pablo Fornals has developed a refreshing work ethic under the Scot.
A low press with Bowen and Antonio attacking with pace on the counter seems a decent gameplan given the players available. It’s certainly an improvement on Pellegrini’s lazy “go out and work some magic” tactics and might just pull the club out of the mire for one more season. Surely, however, it’s only a matter of time before the club’s almost annual flirtation with relegation turns into full sex and we er… go down.
The deciding factor in the Arsenal game was VAR, because of course it was. West Ham haven’t had a positive meaningful ruling from the system all season – and once again the most marginal of decisions went against the Hammers. As said before, the system should borrow from cricket on tight offside decisions and go with umpire’s (or in this case referee’s) call. That would make far too much sense – as would a joined-up West Ham recruitment policy.