Here’s the evidence for the prosecution in terms of West Ham’s failings in the transfer market over the past year or so (all stats from transfermarkt.co.uk).
Simone Zaza – £4.25m loan fee (11 appearances, 0 goals)
Jonathan Calleri – £4m loan fee (9 appearances, 0 goals)
Gokhan Tore – £2.55m loan fee (8 appearances, 0 goals, 1 assist)
Arthur Masuaku – £6m (8 appearances, 1 assist)
Sofiane Feghouli – free transfer (sizeable signing on fee/wages) (16 appearances, 2 goals, 1 assist)
Havard Nordtveit- free transfer (17 appearances)
Alvaro Arbeloa – free transfer ( 4 appearances)
From the above it is now clear to say that the summer was nothing short of pretty much a major disappointment for the Hammers with their acqisitions to say the least. That is even with omitting two of the club’s biggest outlays from the list. Andre Ayew (£20.5m) has been absent for too long a period due to injury and international duty to make a fair judgement on him but he has certainly shown flashes of why the manager was so keen to sign him so fans should retain some optimism as far as the former Swansea man is concerned while Edmilson Fernandes (£5.44m) is a young player and has shown some promising signs too.
When you have had such a number of disappointments in one window there has to be question marks about those making the decisions. Whether the owners, Slaven Bilic or anyone else involved, the lack of success in the market has no doubt contributed hugely to the club’s struggles this season and their failure to kick on from last season’s successful campaign.
It is important to not to get too carried away. The previous summer the club brought in the likes of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini but again there were failures. Pedro Obiang failed to live up to expectations during his first season at the club as he adapted to the country while Angelo Ogbonna has also come in for criticism.
You could say then that the club’s transfer policy is more miss than hit despite the obvious successes. So where does the club go from here? There are different ways to developing the right structure. Especially in England, it has always been frowned upon for anyone other than the manager to make decisions on transfers. The belief is the manager is the one coaching the players and therefore him alone should decide as he needs to trust the players he is working with.
In Europe, the prevailing wisdom is that Sporting Director decides on transfers, with some consultation with the head coach. The thinking is that the coach is selected by the Sporting Director to train the players brought in by the club and if he doesn’t get the best out of them, they move on to another coach.
Such a system is not necessarily suited to the Premier League. Managers historically generally have more power and say in decisions, but it doesn’t mean they should have the only opinion that matters.
Liverpool and Tottenham both have interesting recruitment models. Before the arrival of Jurgen Klopp, the Reds owners Fenway Sports Group implemented a “transfer committee” which had Liverpool’s chief scout, chief executive, manager and other staff who all would express an opinion on a transfer target. It was believed that more informed opinions could lead to a better informed decision.
It was a strategy that was criticised by Brendan Rodgers after he left the club, but it must be noted that Klopp still works in a similar system with Michael Edwards, a statistical analyst, as Sporting Director, the difference being that Klopp has the final say on transfers.
A similar issue with a transfer committee emerged under Daniel Levy at Spurs. Both Damien Comolli and Franco Baldini have departed Tottenham after failing to make headway in Sporting Director roles. What has emerged under Mauricio Pochettino though are names such as Paul Mitchell, head of recruitment and analysis, and formerly Rob Mackenzie, Head of Player Identification, who have played more prominent roles in selecting targets and offering Pochettino advice.
At West Ham it could be said that Tony Henry, Chief Scout and Head of Recruitment, plays a similar role. It is not known however how big a role he has in actually deciding which targets to go for, and how big a role Bilic plays in the entire process. Transfer Committees don’t have a particular good reputation but I think it is arguable to say that the more information a manager has, and the more informed opinions around the table, it is far less likely a club will make a wrong decision on a player.
It remains to be seen which system the Hammers opt for or if it will be a hybrid of the above systems but clearly their approach needs some fine-tuning after the number of disappointments from the summer acquisitions where if Andre Ayew and Edmilson Fernandes can develop into good West Ham players then the summer of 2016 will indeed end up having a couple of significant “silver” linings which would be a more than a good result looking at the current statistics where out of the 9 new players about half have really delivered anything worth talking about to the first team so far. Ayew and Fernandes can change the overall picture if they can get over their respective issues as both have the ability and skills to excel in the Premier League so lets be patient and give them a chance to show the Hammers fans that they are truly worth their fees and will go on to establish themselves as top Premier League players. It remains to be seen but Hammers fans have to remain positive based on the recent upturn in results plus the addition of the quality Jose Fonte and the possibility of adding another quality player or 2 not to mention the aforementioned Ayew and Fernandes all of which could make for a much more enjoyable and productive second half of the season.