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How do you solve a problem like Hernandez?


Filed: Tuesday, 19th March 2019
By: Paul Walker


So there you have it, the enigma that is Javier Hernandez; the striker who, when he scores this season, West Ham win.

The player we are all constantly being told will be gone this summer to get his £150,000 a week pay packet off the wage bill.

But he has been something of a lucky charm this term, scoring against Wimbledon (League Cup), Burnley, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Fulham and HuddersfieldÖ all won. What would we do without him?

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But the real question is surely, can we afford to let him go and who on earth could we sign to replace him? Forget all the statistics that say he has played 25 games and scored eight goals this term - making him our second top scorer. Equally ignore that overall stat of 16 goals in 58 games for the club.

Chicharito has to be judged under different rules. He has completed 90 minutes only four times this term. And of his 25 appearance this season, 11 have been for 45 minutes or less. Add it up.

The only way to really assess the little Mexican is by minutes on the pitch. Thatís 1,508. To you and me, if you divide 90 into that figure, it is 16.7 matches. So he has scored eight goals in 16 and a bit matches, and that gives him as near as damn it, a one goal in two games ratio. Most strikers would give their right leg for that figure.

So I ask again. If we dispense with his services, just how much will it cost to replace him with a like-for-like striker who has a one-in-two scoring record? He has league titles and Champions League medals. How much wages will that cost us? Where does a team not competing in Europe, find a player who scores with that regularity?

Felipe Anderson, with nine in 35 games, is our top scorer. Chicharito with eight from 25 (10 as substitute) is next. Marko Arnautovic with seven in 22 comes next.

Chicharitoís late double to defeat Huddersfield on Saturday means he has scored 52 Premier League goals in his career, all from inside the penalty area. He is the third best goalscoring substitute in the Premier League era, thatís since 1992 to you and me. Only Jermain Defoe and Olivier Giroud have better records as goalscoring substitutes.

I ask all these questions in the wake of an entertaining exchange I had on Saturday with a kid behind me with his dad, in the BML. Born in this century I think. Too clever for his own good!

I have often been heard to slag off Hernandez for being lazy and selfish. Yes, I know all about his goalscoring record, but I want my strikers to track back and tackle. Some hopes here.

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Anyway, I had finished my usual rant about Chicharito after he came on at half-time, to general agreement from the old hands around me, when young upstart chipped in with: "Heís the best striker out there". Now my wife is the only person who backchats me! So young lad got a bit of well-meaning abuse.

Twenty minutes later all I could hear from behind me was laughter. Cheeky blighter. But to be fair, he was right, In such circumstances, only Hernandez can come up with that sort of response. And it has made me re-consider my view on the player, maybe I was missing something.

So it needed a calm check on the statistics. And maybe I was a touch harsh (shut up, the lad behind me). I saw a lot of Chicharito when he was at Manchester United, and used by Alex Ferguson as a flat track bully to throw into the fray against tiring defences who were under the cosh at Old Trafford. He hit 59 goals there, with 72 substitute appearances to his name.

In fact everywhere he has been, Deportivo Guadalajara, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid and now West Ham, the managers have decided he is a supersub; of 387 career games, 155 have been as a substitute. But in that time he has hit 150 goals. Plus 50 in 105 internationals.

So, the question is again. If we let him go, and you see £5m to Valencia being mentioned, for a player who cost us £15m, where do we find someone to replicate his goals for us?

That £150,000 a week does not seem so much a bad deal in this day and age, when Andy Carroll can score 34 in 142 games for West Ham, costing £90,000 a week, and they claim, around £28m in wages when he finally gets freed at the end of the season.

What I like about Hernandez is that, yes, he fancied a move away in the last window, with his relatives/agent paying scant regard to little things like contracts and talking to West Ham first. But he has thrown himself into matches since. No sulking, no strolling about looking disinterested.

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With Marko and his China Crisis taking his eye off the ball, Manuel Pellegrini has used Hernandez as his main striker. By the time Marko felt his mind was right to play again, Chico was doing OK in the side and the manager stuck with him. Quite right.

So our Austrian front man did not waltz straight back into the side. What a blow that was to his ego. Until Saturday he has had to sit and watch. And Saturdayís display from him was somewhat lacking.

Now I feel he has lost his drive a bit, he is deflated. Last season he was the main man, he kept us up. He needs to be made to feel important, and he was. But his strength is just that. Power and aggression and the ability to bully defenders. We have seen precious little of that since January.

He is a mood player, he needs to play all the time, he needs to get into a groove, to be the main man, to feel important like last season. But that has not been possible.

He is not helped by the fact that Hernandez has made a career out of coming off the bench cold and being straight into the action. And, I feel, he also fits into the style and system Pellegrini wants.

Accepting that Cardiff had been a disaster and Hernandez had been as responsible for that as anyone else, Saturdayís first-half had been slow and predictable. Arnautovic has never had that quick, no close range pace. He has quality, but sharpness in close encounters is not one of them.

When Chica came on the pace increased immediately. He is sharp, clever and with a great first touch. He plays neat, first time passes and the whole mood of the side change in particular the last 20 minutes.

Now I reckon that Pellegrini has a dream side of Anderson, Samir Nasri, Manuel Lanzini, Hernandez and Jack Wilshere (when he can get fit) in his mind. All pace and movement, quick thinking and good technique.

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It may be an ideological dream which pays little respect to defending, but it is the way our manager wants. And Arnautovic is not quick enough for that, he slows things up. Good player I accept, but not quite what the manager wants.

Now I know this has not always worked when tried, Itís a work in progress, but I defy anyone not to like the idea.

So I ask one more time. With Carroll and Lucas Perez on their way, and maybe Arnautovic brother finding him some obscure Chinese club, would you not want Hernandez to stick around? I know what the smart Alec kid behind me would say...


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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