Monday, July 31, 2023

The Curious Case of West Ham

West Ham remains the only Premier League club yet to sign a player in this summer’s transfer window. Supposedly internal disagreement over potential targets has been sand in the gears of the Hammers’ summer process. David Moyes has a well renowned reputation for stubbornness and control, often reflected in conservative, unimaginative play from his team. It is thus less than surprising that there should be conflict with a newly hired technical director who wants to scour exciting, young talent from across Europe’s other leagues to identify transfer opportunities for the Hammers. A cautious Moyes prefers tried and true Brits with Premier League experience.

New Technical Director Tim Steidten and Moyes have thus been at purported loggerheads on how to spend the largesse received from the sale of Declan Rice to Arsenal. Rice’s departure had been known for a long time before the deal closed and one would have thought a clear strategy for reinvestment would have been developed. Not in East London, however. Whatever early plans might have been in place were apparently blown up when Steidten joined from Bayer Leverkusen effective July 1. West Ham had already made the unorthodox move of elevating club playing legend Mark Noble to the position of Sporting Director before bringing in Steidten with responsibility for “overarching player recruitment strategy.” Talks which had begun with Leicester for winger Harvey Barnes were tabled on the new technical director’s arrival. Barnes eventually moved to Newcastle to play under another British manager, Eddie Howe. Steidten’ s subsequent suggestions have since failed to gain traction while Moyes has targeted other British players such as Scott McTominay, Conor Gallagher and James Ward-Prowse to replenish the Hammers’ midfield. A bid for Manchester United defender Harry Maguire, a reported favorite of Moyes, was recently rejected by the Red Devils.

With Maguire seemingly off the table, Steidten is now pushing for the Hammers to acquire center back Jonathan Tah who the German is familiar with from his time at Bayer Leverkusen. Unclear is whether Moyes would support the Tah move. The one player with whom there seems to be little disagreement is Manchester City’s Calros Borges. The Hammers are supposedly close to making the Premier League 2 winger their first signing of the summer. While Borges seems a player with much potential, the left-wing position is currently occupied by Said Benrahma and is not necessarily among the club’s greatest needs right now.

West Ham’s confusing window follows a season of contradiction. While battling relegation all season long, the Hammers also secured their first European title in 58 years. Moyes’s hoisting of the Europa Conference League trophy probably saved his job after the club’s poor performance in the Premier League. The Hammers narrowly avoided descending to the English second tier while, at the same time, they will be playing in Europe for a third consecutive year. The club is somewhat of a head scratcher. The transfer window could get dicier as well should strikers Gianlucca Scamacca and Michail Antonio depart. Scamacca is a target of some of the Italian clubs in Serie A where Scamacca thrived before coming to London. Antonio is one of the many Premier League players being connected with Saudi Arabia this summer.

The Hammers are already enfeebled up top with no player having scored more than six league goals last season. With their best player in defensive midfielder Declan Rice now departed, West Ham’s leadership needs to quickly determine the way forward or the Hammers could fall through the relegation trap door this coming season. 

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