Jul 19, 2017

Why West Ham’s recruitment policy is lacking from a tactical perspective

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Summer recruitment at West Ham is beginning to ramp up and there is excitement among supporters regarding the players being targeted. According to Sky Sports, they have agreed on a fee for Marko Arnautovic, believed to be in the region of £24 million.

Meanwhile, they are keen to add Javier Hernandez to their striking options and are growing confident that a deal can be completed for the Mexican international, as the Standard reports. If the pair are both signed, they will join Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart as new signings at the London Stadium.

All four are distinguished internationals, who already have a proven pedigree in the Premier League. Between them, they have won a lot of trophies and they will bring a winning mentality to the dressing room. The positives are clear, but the process of squad building being carried out by West Ham needs to be questioned.

Individuals do bring excitement to a fan-base, but the team is more important to earning success. Currently, it does look like West Ham are building a squad of individuals rather than a team.

For the last two seasons, West Ham have targeted proven quantities on the whole as was clear last season with the additions of Andre Ayew, Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass. They all had big reputations from what they had produced for their previous Premier League clubs, but none of the three have managed to repeat those exploits for the Hammers to date.

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There appears to be a lack of tactical planning when it comes to transfers, as their new signings often fail to fit into the system that Slaven Bilic wants to play. It can even be argued that the Hammers don’t have a clear style, as they ended up switching systems frequently during the previous campaign.

They were expected to challenge the top six after the move to the London Stadium, but they ended up regressing massively and finished in 11th place. Neither their attack nor defence was particularly impressive and that is mainly due to the lack of an identity. Their signings and rumoured targets suggest that a similar theme could emerge this season.

Pablo Zabaleta has a lot of experience and is a good character to have around the dressing room. However, his best days are behind him and it is a transfer that is very similar to the one of Alvaro Arbeloa last summer, which didn’t go well. Joe Hart makes sense, but his wages are huge and he will be expecting to play every week. It is difficult to see West Ham dropping the England international if he plays poorly, which means he could quickly become a problem for the club.

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The pursuit of Arnautovic makes little sense based on his lack of consistency and work rate. He is an exciting player on his day, but he isn’t going to turn up every week and that makes it difficult to build a consistent attacking unit. Stoke City have had similar problems to West Ham, as they lack an identity and bring in players based on name value. The Austrian international has been central to those problems and it is hard to see him being any better at the London Stadium.

West Ham have wanted to bring in a striker with name value for a while and it does appear that Hernandez could join the club this summer. His wages will be significant and he hasn’t been as good during the last 12 months. At the age of 29, he is likely to be on a downwards trajectory.

There is no doubting his goal-scoring record, but it is another move that lacks tactical sense. He differs completely from Andy Carroll and, unless they play together, the team will have to change their approach based on their striker.

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It will be interesting to see how West Ham do this season as their transfer business lacks sense for the second summer in a row. Most Premier League clubs have become smarter in the transfer market, as they pinpoint what type of player they need for their system before targeting somebody that fits that criteria.

However, West Ham appear to be targeting individuals, before trying to fit them into a system. That is the wrong way to recruit and makes Bilic’s job even harder. On paper, their business may look exciting, but in reality, the Croatian head coach faces a huge test to make it work.

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West Ham United
Jake Jackman

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

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