The January transfer window has always been notoriously difficult to pick up signings because of where it sits in the season. Clubs don’t want to risk losing a player midway through a campaign and it means that the players that are available are either performing poorly or are overpriced as clubs know that their prized assets will be in demand.
West Ham in particular have a well-known issue, the striker with the highest number of goals is Andy Carroll with three; a striker who only returned from injury in November. As we all know, forwards are a prized commodity in the modern game, and Slaven Bilic was even more specific about the type of player he was looking for this month. They had to be cheap, young, “handsome,” and could adapt quickly to the Premier League.
With such a list of requirements, it inevitably led to West Ham’s options being restricted to a limited pool of players, nearly all whom were playing either in the Premier League or the Championship. With that knowledge, and with their own unwillingness to sell, clubs like Sunderland, Brentford and (if you believe ESPN) Leeds have all responded to West Ham’s advances by upping their asking prices.
David Gold explained they had been priced out for Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe while Brentford and Leeds have been holding out for £15m for Scott Hogan and Chris Wood respectively. So are these players really worth spending the money on?
Well, it all comes down to supply and demand. The Hammers, Crystal Palace and others know goals will ensure their Premier League status for next season. Championship sides such as Brentford are also aware of the stakes. It is simple mathematics, the amount of money lost through relegation is a huge number compared to the relatively small outlay that they are demanding for their key players.
Yet, if you take the money out of the equation for the moment, you have to consider whether a player such as Hogan is really worth it. He may have scored 14 goals in the Championship this season, but he was also sidelined with a serious knee injury last campaign. This is his first full season playing in the second tier of English football, who is to say that his form will continue over the long term?
Like most January signings, a £15million transfer would be a gamble. The question remains over whether it is a gamble worth taking. West Ham are currently on 25 points in twelfth place, nine points above the relegation places. Could the amount of money they will spend on Hogan be put to better use when they are greater options available?
Long term thinking is certainly not something which football owners, managers or fans seem to care much for these days. They see a problem: a lack of strikers scoring goals, and they want a solution straight away. You can’t blame people, owners are worried that a drop in form could see them go dangerously near the bottom placing all that TV money at risk. The manager has to keep his job and if he can spend some money to keep it for longer, he will do it, while fans will always want a new player.
You have to ask yourself though, is a player who played for Rochdale just 2 and half years ago, has scored only 21 goals in total in the Championship worth £15m? No, is probably the right answer. He could prove to be a bargain as he does have undoubted quality, but more than that is needed to succeed in the Premier League. It may be wiser to save the cash for the summer market where there are greater options available, at better prices.
Certainly it can be said that there have been great signings made by clubs in January windows, and in the same breath, there have been bad summer transfer window signings. West Ham will know a thing or two about the latter. Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri’s zero goals in a West Ham shirt between them is a testament to that, but a word of caution I think is wise. If you need a striker by all means find one, but let’s make sure it is the right one this time.