The predicament that is West Ham

There’s a song at West Ham that goes “Same old West Ham taking the piss” – it refers to the fans and how they act up and down the country but it’s very apt for the management of the club. Seven games without a win and it looks like we are going to be in for another relegation battle this season.

The most frustrating part as a fan is that in my lifetime is that we have only employed one manager who had a plan for the club and that was Sam Allardyce. The plan was to play long ball football and bully other teams. Terrible to watch (except for the odd game such as Tottenham away or Fulham at home) but atleast it was a plan. Would I ever want Allardyce back at my club? Certainly not, I don’t think any West Ham fan wanted him there in the first place but you you have to appreciate that he knew exactly what he wanted at the club and achieved that.

All the best clubs in the world are based on a plan. Barcelona have been successful for decades based on the foundations that Johan Cruyff set at the club. AC Milan had a very successful period when they followed the traditions set by Arrigo Sacchi. Man Utd were successful under Ferguson because he had a plan of how he liked his teams to play. The sad thing is that this is glaringly obvious from the outside looking in but for some reason managers and football club owners do not seem to spot this. AC Milan and Man Utd have both suffered the same recent decline and both have coincided with moving away from the ideas that made them successful in the first place.

Ralf Rangnick recognises this. He has managed to build a series of ‘Red Bull’ football teams around the world based on his ideas. And all of them are thriving.

What we see at West Ham is the opposite. Every game we play with different players and different tactics. We have no identity so when we buy players we just buy somone without looking at how they would fit in to a system or whether their characteristics match what we need from a specific position. At the moment we have no plan and no identity but nearly every fan realised West Ham needed a big box to box midfielder to sit next to Rice. Instead the club bought Fornals who has been incredibly disappointing and who (at the moment) doesn’t look at all suited to English football. If the fans could see it, I have no idea why the management couldn’t?

It’s about time the club created their own identity, so this is my blueprint for how this would be done.

West Ham are overloaded with wingers but the problem we have is that these wingers don’t contribute much. Anderson has one good game in ten. Yarmalenko shoots (and scores a good number of goals) but he does little else. Antonio works hard but his lack of technique and selfishness when in possession means he doesn’t have a huge impact on most games. Lanzini’s best position is on the left, but his lack of pace means he will never be a true winger. So as it stands we have four wingers who look good on paper but in reality, are never going to propel this club up the league. Very good wingers win clubs league titles but they are incredibly expensive. They are flair players who ‘look good’ and who people want to watch. We can’t compete financially for these players and we are not a good enough club to attract the best ones anyway. This is why we always end up with substandard wingers no matter how much we pay. For this very reason I’d like us to play with a system that doesn’t employ wingers. A compact 42211. For this system to work we need very fast wing backs who have good work ethic. They have to be prepared and able to run up and down the wing all day because they have the job of two players – a winger and a defender. We need two defensive midfielders who sit there and protect the back four. The two central midfielders infront of the defensive midfielders need to be able to play and their job is to control the game by getting the ball to the striker and attacking midfielder. Unlike the 4222 we wouldn’t have two strikers. Instead you would have an attacking midfielder – adept at running with people, feeding the striker but also capable of scoring knockdowns and goals themselves. And then you would have a strong, fast striker upfront.

We would only sign talented players who fit the system, but we would also only sign players who we know have a strong work ethic. We want 11 players in every first team who go out there to win and don’t need to be motivated by a manager. Throughout my 31 years as a fan I’d say about 80% of the players who have played for West Ham have lacked motivation. Most have just strolled around the pitch. Those that stroll around often end up leading us to relegation.

We would stay away from star names – instead we will buy younger players who have something to prove and who we can improve as players. We can’t attract the best players so the only way to become a big club is to attract very good young players and train them up to become the best. This is how Ajax are successful, this is how Dortmund are successful and this is how the Red Bull teams are successful.

The spine of the team would need to be British. All the successful clubs in Europe have teams built on players from their own country. The successful Barcelona teams were full of Spanish players, the successful Ajax teams are based on Dutch players, the successful Man Utd teams were full of British players and the successful Bayern teams were full of German players.

We would play this system throughout all of our youth teams so that players come through the club and know their role exactly. And our youth scouts would be told to look for young players who have the best characteristics for each position. There’s no point in having a fantastic left winger in the youth team if we dont play a system featuring wingers.

The club needs a revolution. A huge turnover of players out and a huge turnover of players in is needed to fit the vision. We need not care about the value in our transfers, we need to care about the value that each transfer brings to the team. This goes against most people’s logic, but if I’m going to do a straight swap of a £20 million player with a £10 million player, but the £10 million player fits our system and makes us successful then it’s worth it. It may seem like another team got the better of the deal but that’s not the case. Worrying about the value of a player is a bugbear to success.

So this is what I’d like my team to look like:

Fabianski

Fredericks Ampadu White Hickey

Rice Downes

Bellingham Gallagher

Aouchiche

Haller

Our second 11 would be:

Farinez

Lamptey        Woolfenden                            Balbuena             Johnson / Creswell

Cifuentes       Jacek Goralski

Noble Snodgrass

Ince/ Beyaz / Luciano Acosta

Brown / Antonio / Yamalenko

All of these players are players that we could realistically sign, who would fit the system perfectly and who we could afford.

Aaron Hickey – only 17 but plays like an old pro. He has that positional awareness that Rice possesses which seems to come naturally to some players. He likes to get down the line. Being at Hearts it’s reported he would be available for £3 million but with the hype surrounding him I’d expect us to pay £5 million

Ampadu – loaned out by Chelsea who are playing a young squad this year but he can’t even get in the Red Bull team. He’s quite far away from the Chelsea starting line up so they could be tempted to sell him. He’s young, talented and has the aggressiveness that I like one of the two central defenders in the team to have. You tend to find the best central defending partnerships are one aggressive player and one cultured defender. Think Vidic and Ferdinand or Terry and Caravlho.

Ben White – the best defender outside the Premier League. He was great last season but since going on loan to Leeds he has come on even more. He is the cultured defender of the defensive line. Think Rio Ferdinand. Luckily Brighton are stacked with centre backs to the point that both White and Matt Clarke are out on loan. Having so many talented centre backs Brighton would be tempted to sell White, especially if they got a big name in exchange such as Anderson. Like I mentioned earlier Anderson is a big name and we paid a lot of money for him but if him going to Brighton would tempt them to give us White in exchange then it would be worth it. White would be far more important to West Ham than Anderson is / was.

Flynn Downes – had a good end to the season in the Championship and is having a fantastic season in League One. He has come on leaps and bounds in the past 8 or 9 months and is starting to look like a Scott Parker clone. His fighting spirit would really help protect our back four. Ipswich are chasing promotion so they are not going to easily sell their best player. They could though be tempted if we swapped Conor Coventry, who would be a like for like replacement for them. Whilst also giving them our other special talent from the academy Holland. So they would get two good players in exchange for one player. We may also have to throw in a million or two to seal the deal.

Bellingham – he will go on to become the best English central midfielder since Lampard and Gerrard and has the potential to be even better than them. An absolute superstar who is doing great things in the Championship. Not only is he talented but he works incredibly hard to win the ball and is aggressive. Both traits that would serve him well in our midfield. Birmingham wouldn’t want to part with Bellingham but we could offer Fornals in exchange which would be a like for like swap and I’d also put Ajeti in the deal as Birmingham desperately need a striker if they are to get promotion. Finally to seal the deal I’d put Diangana in the swap because they will have seen how well he has done at West Brom and they would be getting a young English player in place of a young English player.

Gallagher – looking a better player than Mount did last season in the Championship. Works hard and has the skills. If he makes the right career moves he will be in the England squad in a season or two. Chelsea are absolutely stacked in central midfield, they still have Loftus-Cheek to come in and also they love Gilmour who will be the next big academy player there, so Gallagher could get moved on.

Aouchiche – still on a youth contract at PSG and that runs out in 2020. Although he played for PSG when they were hit with lots of injuries he is very far away from their first team and PSG have a habit of getting rid of their youth players because they only trust experienced players. I believe Aouchiche is the best young talent in the world. At the same age he is far superior to Reinier Jesus who is being linked with £70 million transfers. If we could steal Aouchiche whilst he’s still on a youth contract, that could turn out to be one of our best purchases ever.

Wuilker Farinez – in my opinion the best goalkeeper playing in South America right now. He’s a fantastic keeper who would be cheap. He likes to punch the ball rather than catch it which is a habit I don’t like in a goalkeeper but he can be coached out of that and he would make a good back up keeper.

Lamptey – has two right backs infront of him at Chelsea – one of them being the young Reece James, so he will struggle for opportunities. Chelsea also have a fantastic youth right back in Livramento so they can afford to sell Lamptey. Lamptey is rapid and good in both attack and defence. He fits the characteristics that we are looking for.

Woolfenden – plays like a young John Terry. Very courageous and doesn’t lose out on anything in the air. The only thing he is lacking is experience. Another player we could tempt Ipswich to part with if we were prepared to offer a replacement such as Cardoso on loan for the next 18 months along with a £4 million fee. This would also help our young defender get experience that he needs.

Cifuentes – other than Guimaraes who would be out of our price range, the best young defensive midfielder still playing in South America. He is strong, can tackle well and can pass. He’s the player West Ham fans have been crying out for. He was apparently available for around £3 million in the summer and Man City were interested in him.

Jacek Goralski – still playing in Poland at 27 so his value should be low. He is making 8 tackles per game, which is a mental stat. As a fourth choice defensive midfielder he would be perfect.

Luciano Acosta – on a bosman in December. PSG made bids for him in the past. He’s a very skillful player that West Ham fans would fall in love with.

Burak Ince – only 15 but playing in Turkey. Great technique and has freekicks like Payet. He will go on to have a great career. Available for a rumoured £2 million. He would come in to our youth team but he would be available for the first team should we have injuries.

Omer Beyaz – only 16 but one of the most talented youngsters I’ve ever seen. He is one player I wouldn’t want us to miss out on. He will be worth £30 million by the time he’s 19.

Charlie Brown – doesn’t seem to get a look in at Chelsea. They like their strikers to go out on loan for years like Abraham did so he is quite a few years away from the first team. A very good goalscorer who would provide good competition for Haller.

For Brown, Ampadu, Gallagher and Lamptey I would swap Diop. We wanted £80 million for Diop in the summer so for Chelsea to sell 4 players who are nowhere near their first team and in areas they are stacked up in, in exchange for a young player, who is highly experienced (in the Premier League too) in a position they want a signing in would be great business for them. For us it would be great business because it would give us four players that we need and as I mentioned earlier, it’s not about monetary value, it’s about how important the players are to our system and our team. We will get far superior value from the transfer than £80 million would ordinarily buy us.

That team would get us a solid top 10 finish but with experience and high quality coaching, after 2 seasons it would be a top four team.

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