The 2020-21 Summer transfer Window: The problems Moyes faces…
After a relatively successful 2019-20 window for Pellegrini with the exciting attacking additions of Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller, hopes of a decent placing among the fanbase were raised as we sat 5th after seven games, only to plummet over the back end of the year to 17th before being replaced by the highly underwhelming re-appointment of David Moyes.
Buoyed by a relatively upbeat end to another disappointing season at Stratford, you could forgive David Moyes going into his first close season at West Ham (he didn’t make the last one as we know) and entering it with some optimism. The performances on the pitch towards the end of the season suggested he could potentially get the best out of the existing squad with a few reinforcements. Moyes also spoke buoyantly about bringing in some younger players and how he liked the Red Bull model. Could this be the dawn of a brave new era we dreamed…. but not for long as in typical West Ham style this hope quickly evaporated.
Firstly, the assumption that the club would be prepared to introduce the much talked about Red Bull model. This is not much more than a buzz word being thrown around from within the club to create a rare feel-good factor within the fanbase. Most laughed it off and with justification. Yes, David Moyes went to Leipzig and was impressed by the way they worked granted. Yes, he wants to recruit younger players through choice but that is where the similarity ends.
After all, the Red Bull model or the approaches of the City Football Group or Lille, to name but a few, require a clear and consistent strategy, considerable investment and a detailed plan which remain in place regardless of any changes in senior footballing personnel….need I go on .. OK, you get the idea… that’s clearly not for us, is it? We don’t do that do we?
When you look at our squad now and over several seasons, we do literally just appear to buy a random selection of available players and hope they fit into whatever system the manager at the time is using don’t we? Many it has been argued are targeted because of the contacts of preferred scouts or agents rather than what is actually needed to improve the club and drag us away from the inevitable possibility of relegation.
The lack of a Director of Football with the exception of GianLuca Nani and Husillos, more recently, with the authority to lead and develop via a coaching network how we want West Ham to play through all levels within the club is concerning. This has led to a fractured scouting network uncertain of the type of players we need to recruit to allow us to do this. This has seriously impacted our progression as a club.
In contrast, most Premier League sides now have a clear footballing personnel hierarchy, strategies and styles of play and supplement this with detailed analysis and research. This appears to be lacking in the fabricated sheds at Rush Green and the suggestion remains that David Sullivan and his favoured agents have a big say in our incomings and never goes away.
So, our haphazard approach to player recruitment has unsurprisingly left us with a completely unbalanced senior squad cobbled together over recent underwhelming seasons at the London Stadium.
At last count, we have four ageing senior keepers (if we include Roberto as a keeper) four full-backs (the best of which has made a handful of appearances), three Centre backs, three central midfielders (we only had two until Super Tom arrived in January), two attacking midfielders (if we include Fornals who is frequently played out of position) and five wide midfielders/wingers oh and one central striker. We had two until last week when Albian Ajeti departed, another one who was rarely given a chance at West Ham before quickly being labelled a flop. Last season, in contrast, we had four senior strikers with different qualities but decided to sell them all and replace with one £45million unproven Premier League player and one who to all intense and purposes has gone into hiding before being sold to Celtic for as little as £5 million.
With Covid-19 also having a hit on football finances, the supposed targets and the positions we are after seem to vary weekly according to the plethora of transfer sites eager to impart the news. One thing that does seem certain is that we are told that this window will be very much a sell to buy one. This undoubtedly hampers Moyes moving quickly on his preferred targets.
So, we are told Anderson, Lanzini, Reid, Wilshere, Cresswell, Roberto, Hugill and Balbuena amongst others are all available in the West Ham summer sale to enable us to generate funds for Moyes. With the possible exception of Anderson, who splits the opinions of the fans, most are in agreement with the “deadwood” we need to shift. However, a combination of loss of form, lack of ability, poor injury records and massive contracts are and will prevent movement.
Take Jordan Hugill, at best an average Championship striker who is sat on a Contract until June 2022 earning upwards of £30,000 a week. Which Championship clubs are able or willing to meet his asking price with that salary? No surprise he has gone on hugely subsidised loans the last two seasons. Aaron Cresswell, our left-back has seriously declined over the last couple of seasons. Bizarrely last autumn, after two decent goalscoring performances, the then 29-year-old was offered a new four-year contract earning upwards of £50,000 a week. Yes, an ageing player struggling to find consistent form and establish himself in the team being given a new contract. Similarly, Lanzini was offered an extended contract to match some of the club’s highest earners while recovering from what could have been a career-ending injury. He’s failed to recover his form since the injury and yet still is contracted until June 2023.
Needless to say its difficult to see any of these players made available by Moyes creating a bidding war. The likelihood is that we will see heavily subsidised loan exits at best which while reducing the wage bill, do not create a substantial transfer kitty for Moyes to improve his squad with.
So what should he do next with little or no funds? Should he consider selling one of our prized assets as after all everyone has a price or “stick” and revert to free transfers and free agents…. The old tried and failed strategy which has led to the dysfunctional squad we have now.
Over the next few articles of "The Summer Window" series, we look in detail at the squad, potential, realistic targets, our style of play and how Moyes attempts to solve problems with the tools at his disposal on the pitch. Off the pitch… well that another’s story.