Filed: Sunday, 4th September 2016
By: Paul Walker
West Ham’s owners are entitled to be happy with their biggest transfer window bonanza, more players, more money spent and all the hype they can muster - even if only a handful were through the door before the Europa League bolted.
This has been the craziest, greediest, window that our owner/director of football David Sullivan has ever worked in, but we all know that he just loves the buzz of it all and the limelight. The little fella just lives for these few months of cut and thrust, gambling, ducking, diving, dealing. A transfer window junkie.
We have 13 new players--if you include Manuel Lanzini’s loan option converted to a permanent deal for around £10.2m.
But deep down, I wonder if Sullivan, Gold and Lady K have a nagging feeling that they still haven’t cracked that glass ceiling. The one that gets them access to the world’s greatest talents. I know it gnaws away at me.
However hard they have tried, however much money they have thrown at the problem, you sense that they have not really changed the perception of our club in the European market place. I wonder just how many of our new arrivals were their first choice targets.
Because time and again we have heard that players won’t come because we are not in the Champions League. And the real problem is that they cannot be convinced that we will achieve that goal any time soon, despite all the big talk and naked ambition to reach the next stage of our development.
We left the Boleyn to aspire to be a true, great club. But the barriers stopping us, in terms of credibility, status and financial, are immense.
Players, the “show me the money” kind, look at our position, and then at the fierce competition in the Premier League for just four spots in the Champions League, and they don’t believe we can crack it.
The introduction of FFP has created a situation that whatever money your owners have personally, they are not allowed to throw bundles of cash at players without any restrictions.
It’s all changed since Manchester City were the most recent new face at the top table. When they acquired new owners, vast wealth and a new stadium, they had to throw obscene amounts of cash at players to encourage them to turn their backs on the Champions League and drop down in status.
Money was the only reasons Yaya Toure left Barcelona for City. But the real deal clincher there was that Toure could look at the vast wealth coming City’s way from Abu Dhabi and be prepared to accept the promise that the club would be in the Champions League very, very soon.
City knew FFP was arriving, and they had to make the jump in class quickly or not at all. Now when players look at us, they see Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all spending well over £100m each this summer--with three of the world’s top managers newly on the job--to make sure the likes of Leicester and, to a lesser extend our good selves--do not make monkeys out of them again.
Arsenal and Liverpool are not far behind in that approach. And Spurs. Last season’s miracle of Leicester will not happen again, and we will--I fear-- do amazingly well to repeat our seventh spot from last term. The big boys have been stung once, and they didn’t like it.
We have already seen the sign of things to come. Man Utd are a force again, City were amazing for 45 minutes against us last weekend, while Chelsea have no intention of being out of the Champions League for more than one season.
Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool have all spent vastly more than us. And potential big time targets of ours can see this all for themselves. They don’t believe we can match these clubs.
These days players are so rich, their only currency is status and medals. That status means staying at the very top, and that’s inside the Champions League bubble. And they cannot be convinced that by dropping down a level to us, they will only be out of the top bracket for a season.
Now we as fans, no doubt, feel differently. We did it last season, and but for a couple of horrible Diafra Sakho misses in that last game at Stoke, we would have avoided the lesser qualifying stages of the Europa League. And had a few referees not been blinded by the light that comes from the big clubs, we may well have sneaked fourth spot.
Slav put it clearly when he said, on arrival back from the US/Austria/Europa League grand tour, that players will not drop out of the Champions League to come to us unless you pay big, big money. Certainly if they are regulars in their current club sides.
Ad what really bothers me is that I cannot see that situation changing, unless, that is, Bilic and the boys produce miracles to grab fourth spot…a place that from now on gets English clubs straight into the Champions League group stages.
Our glorious leaders tried hard, oh how they tried, to get players to take a drop in status. It, frankly, took all their efforts to persuade Simone Zaza to move to the London Stadium from Juventus. But then, he had not been a regular in the Turin club’s first team, and looking at this week’s internationals, he was not in the Italy squad either. He has something to prove, and we can give him the platform - and double his wages.
I feel we have paid way over the odds for Andre Ayew, while Havard Nordtveit looks worryingly one-paced to me. We have hardly seen Sofiane Feghouli, although he scored a decent goal on his debut against Domzale. Then he picks up an injury against Juventus, seemingly trained the following week and then it is discovered to be a hamstring problem. I do hope that version of events that has been doing the rounds, is not the case. How do you train with a hamstring problem?
Anyway, Gokhan Tore, Slav’s mate, has had a decent game against Bournemouth, producing a fine cross for Michail Antonio to score the winner. Apart from that he has been a nightmare.
Youngsters like the impressive Ashley Fletcher, Jonathan Calleri, Toni Martinez and Domingos Quina all look like players for the future. Mind you, Martinez, only 19 I believe, seems to have that scoring knack and if he keeps finding the net he will force his was into the side.
Arthur Masuaku had a dodgy first half hour at Chelsea, but has done pretty well ever since, although how he stayed on the pitch at the Etihad escapes me. No-one has seen Edimilson Fernandes yet, so it’s wait and see there.
And then, of course, we have acquired probably the most decorated player ever to wear our shirt in 33 year-old Alvaro Arbeloa. I had the good fortune to see him a lot while he was at Liverpool, and he is a class act. No frills, knows the job, top quality defender.
Last season he was playing in the Champions League at Real Madrid, and was a legend there. I just hope he has still got it in him. But he’s a World Cup winner, Champions League winner and European Championship winner. Plus La Liga. Don’t anyone ask him to show them his medals, it could take all day.
He arrived on the last day of the window, and it is suggested he paid his own air fare and his agent took a lesser cut. Read that last bit again everyone, you won’t see that again any time soon.
But even then it seems we tried for Leicester’s Danny Simpson first. This is the same Danny Simpson with a recent conviction for trying to “throttle” his girl friend, turning up for his community service in a Lamborghini and then wonders why someone takes his picture! You cannot make it up.
He seems to be another graduate from the Ravel Morrison/Manchester United school for not knowing how to treat women properly!
Maybe Sam Byram has dodged a bullet there. Slav seemingly wanted someone to mentor him as he learns how to play in the Premier League without getting booked. I feel young Sam will learn more from Arbeloa than another Mancunian toe-rag.
The Spaniard is a consummate professional, nothing flash but has been one of the best right backs in Europe over the past decade. OK, so I have given him the big build-up, I just pray he has still got it!
So, including loan fees and not the £17m it will cost to turn Zaza’s loan into a permanent deal, we have spent around £53m, and offset that with £10m from the James Tomkins deal, and £1.5m loan fee for Enner Valencia’s move to Everton. Whether we ever seen the £14.5m it will cost Everton to make that a permanent deal remains to be seen.
I am pleased that Pedro Obiang is still here, he did ’t get much of a chance last term but is a solid cover right through midfield. All in all, this window is as good, realistically, as the Davids could expect.
They shot for the moon last summer and got Dimi Payet, but it took a while for Lanzini and Angelo Ogbonna to find their feet and it will be the same with this summer’s new recruits.
I reckon around 18 players have left, if you include the Academy culling, and what we have acquired since looks an overall improvement.
But that glass ceiling is still there. Slav and the boys have to finish fourth or above to give Sullivan the chance next summer to offer players Champions League football and know he can deliver. So, for now, it seems time for our owner to take a break, have a lie down (not in a hospital bed again) and pray things work out the way he, and all of us, hope.
One final point. There has been a lot of moaning and groaning about the new stadium and the teething troubles. All that will end if the side start winning, and winning well. Over to you, Slav.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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