Opinion: West Ham must make move for Championship star who's reportedly desperate for PL football
With Lukasz Fabianski starting to show his age at 37, the rumour mill has started to go into overdrive about who the Hammers could be lining up to take his place.
The obvious choice would be Alphonse Areola who is currently on loan at West Ham. He has performed efficiently in the Europa League this season and has an £11 million option to buy in his loan agreement.
Another option, however, according to the Daily Mail, is ex-Man United and current England shot-stopper, Sam Johnstone. Available on a free transfer and desperate for ‘Premier League football’, he’d make far more sense than Areola.
What does Johnstone bring that Areola doesn’t?
Proven ability. While Areola has performed admirably when called upon for West Ham and even put in a few good performances at Fulham last season, he just hasn’t played as much football as Johnstone.
Johnstone knows how the English game works and at 29 he represents experience that will be very handy for West Ham with captain Mark Noble set to retire at the end of the season.
As a shot-stopper, he is exceptional as well. In the 2020/21 season, in which West Brom were relegated he made 161 saves with a save percentage of 70.6% according to fbref.
If you consider the lack of organisation that West Brom had in defence before the appointment of Sam Allardyce (appointed in January of 2021), the fact that Johnstone managed to save anywhere near 70% of shots is remarkable.
His form in 2020/21 resulted in an England call up and he has been in and around the squad ever since, having made the England squad for the Euros.
While he perhaps isn’t the most proficient keeper with his feet (Areola is known for his ball-playing skills), former Newcastle United footballer Steve Howey told Footballfancast he believes David Moyes could improve Johnstone’s footwork.
“I haven’t looked closely at what his footwork is like, but all goalkeepers are reasonably decent now with their feet.”
“And it’s certainly something David Moyes would work with him to get even better.”
Is the move likely?
That depends on the current goalkeeping staff. Lukasz Fabianski is 37 and reaching the twilight of his goalkeeping career. Mistakes have started to creep in and he will be starting to wonder about when he should hang up the gloves.
Areola meanwhile has been attracting interest from former club Fulham according to 90min and with game time assured there in a way it cannot be at West Ham, he will be keen.
If Fabianski does retire, a move for Johnstone should be the first thing West Ham do. If Areola wants to stay and earn his place despite the signing of Johnstone, all the better. Arsenal have shown recently that having two top-class keepers helps keep concentration high between the goalposts.
West Ham, however, are not alone in their pursuit of the West Brom goalie. According to the Daily Mail, Tottenham are also interested. With Antonio Conte at the helm in north London and Champions League qualification a very real possibility, they will be an attractive project.
With that in mind, it is likely that Johnstone will want assurances of playing time if he was to pick West Ham. He will want to stake a claim to the No.1 spot before the 2022 World Cup and without playtime that will be impossible.
If West Ham were to have their hand forced in this way, a move for Johnstone should be paramount, Areola is good but he cannot offer everything that Johnstone can, and with the added financial bonus of the lack of transfer fee, he makes more sense.
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