At 11pm on Thursday 31st January, the transfer window slammed shut. Following the deadline, clubs up and down the country can do no more in terms of buying and selling and are left to battle it out with what they’ve got from now until the end of the season.
This window, arguably the quietest it’s been in terms of big money signings since its inception in 2012, saw Sam Allardyce strengthen his squad with four new additions, while releasing two on loan. Joe Cole, Marouane Chamakh, Wellington Paulista and Emanuel Pogatetz (as well as three youngsters who are highly unlikely to feature this season) all arrived through the front door at Upton Park this month, with Alou Diarra and Stephen Henderson heading for the exit. Yossi Benayoun, who had re-joined at the start of the season on loan, had his spell bizarrely cut short as he returned to his parent club Chelsea.
The general consensus among West Ham fans, as regards to the club’s January transfer activity was one of disappointment. Perhaps this was down to the worrying fact that we had won just one of our last nine Premiership encounters and continue to slide towards the relegation trapdoor. Even more alarming is that performances did not seem to be improving, in fact going in they were going in the other direction.
Perhaps it’s the activity or lack of it from the club on deadline day that has disheartened fans. You always expect one or two being drafted in as the clock ticks closer to 11pm and let’s face it; we have never been a club to shy away from a deadline day marquee signing or two, look no further than Mr Tevez and Mr Mascherano.
It was undoubtedly two positions which Allardyce failed to strengthen that angered the fans the most, a goalkeeper and most importantly a left-back. With George McCartney out for the foreseeable future, it leaves us with the inexperienced Danny Potts, midfielder Matty Taylor and the predominantly right sided Joey O’Brien. Owner David Sullivan admitted: “I’m not satisfied. We desperately needed a left back and we didn’t get one.”
And as for the man between the sticks, Jussi Jaaskelainen, perhaps overly criticised by some West Ham supporters for recent performances, has made a couple of errors of late and his confidence appears very low. Plus if he was to get injured, there is very little back up.
In fairness to the owners and Big Sam, it wasn’t for the want of trying. Reports suggested they attempted to be active on deadline day with the likes of Paul Robinson, Reto Ziegler and Martin Olsson being strongly linked with a move to the Boleyn ground but alas it didn’t happen. Left back Stephen Warnock also opted for Championship side Leeds over West Ham due to a more secure contract.Following the closure of the January transfer window on Thursday the win, and performance at home to Swansea was huge. It moved us nine points away from the bottom three and brought about a real solid, resolute display, something we associated with the Hammers at the start of the season.
I think the fans were just after a bit of a boost as regards to the transfer window. Before the Swansea game a string of below par performances and the knowledge that we were now firmly involved in a relegation dogfight, a signing or two would have at least given the claret and blue faithful a lift, if nothing else.
Okay that lift didn’t come, but looking back at the transfer window as a whole, and the entire situation currently, I strongly believe there is no reason why we can’t get out of this sticky patch and comfortably stay in the Premier League. Allardyce has been in this situation countless times before and I don’t doubt that he has every confidence in this group of players he has at his disposal to get the club out of this situation.
Firstly and arguably our best piece of business in the transfer window was maintaining the services of Momo Diame. The midfielder has been immense for us all season and it’s no surprise that our poor run of form has coincided with him being on the sidelines through injury. There was also little shock that the Senegalese international has attracted the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal, especially given the reported low release clause, however thankfully no substantial bids came in and he is a West ham player until the summer, at least. His drive and his power is exceptional and there has been many a game this season which he has almost single-handedly turned around for us.
In fairness to Allardyce and the side, we really have been down to the bare bones over recent weeks as the injury curse has seemed to hit us once again. Diame, James Collins, Andy Carroll and even Mark Noble have spent large periods of time on the sidelines, four key players for us. In particularly Andy Carroll, who I believe offers us so much more up top than the other attackers, as he showed against Swansea. Add to these, the likes of George McCartney, Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te and the squad is very thin on the ground, it was never going to be easy to pick up points. However it would seem we are now well over the injury crisis and head into the last 13 games with close to a full strength squad, now when have we last been able to say that.
As for the signings we have made, the players at least deserve a chance. I think everyone was happy with the return of Joey Cole, and he showed on his second debut for the club against Manchester United that he’s still got it. Okay he is not the boy wonder he was when he was last at Upton Park, but he still has that spark, that class and perhaps most importantly his heart will be in it at West Ham.The other signings have perhaps been less welcomed. Marouane Chamakh has struggled immensely for games, let alone goals at Arsenal. The Moroccan looked the part when he first joined the Gunners in 2010 but has since fell horribly out of favour. We undoubtedly had to bring in a striker or two over the window but whether Chamakh is the right one remains to be seen. Perhaps a quick striker with an eye for a goal would have been preferred.
Emanuel Pogatetz arrived through the door a couple of days before the window slammed shut to offer some much needed defensive cover. Again the reaction from fans wasn’t the best but in fairness; Pogatetz has a wealth of experience and knows the league after his time with Middlesbrough. A friend I know who covers German football explained to me the Wolfsburg man was ‘an accident waiting to happen’ which isn’t the ideal thing to hear about a new signing. I replied to him ‘it will be fine; we’ve seen plenty of them in our time at West Ham.’ Again despite negative reports from Germany, Pogatetz deserves a chance to show us what he can do. He is certainly a strong, hard hitting defender who will not shy away from the challenge.
Finally there was the wildcard loan signing of Wellington Paulista from Cruzeiro. I, like many, had never heard of the player, but he’s Brazilian, he must be half decent right? By the looks of things one thing Paulista is, is a goalscorer. He managed 28 goals in 40 appearances for Cruzeiro since returning there in 2012 which is a fantastic return. Okay the Brazilian league isn’t quite the Premiership but he clearly knows where the net is. It will be interesting to see how much game time Paulista gets from now until the end of the season but as it is only a short term loan deal, you expect Big Sam certainly intends to have him involved. The striker scored for the West Ham development squad against Arsenal last week and fans will hope he can impress and work his way into the first team squad.
As far as departures go, I don’t think there was a huge deal of disappointment. It was a shame to see Alou Diarra leave on loan after never really seeing the best of the Frenchman. Injuries certainly did not help as he managed just 3 games for the club. There is no doubting the man’s ability, who made 44 appearances for France but at 31 he is not getting any younger. Plus getting into our central midfield was always going to be difficult following the performances of Noble and Diame in particular.
So there we have it, we now know the group of players who have the duty to maintain West Ham United’s Premiership status and perhaps even push us on to a top 12 finish. Let’s be fair, the vast majority of Hammers fans would have taken 30 points from 25 games at the start of the season so we should be happy. The returns of Andy Carroll and Momo Diame in my opinion are absolutely key for the remainder of the season and if they stay fit and perform there is no reason why we can’t reach and surpass that 40 point mark (although I expect teams will probably only need around 37 points to survive). Following the January transfer window, the squad certainly hasn’t weakened and with many returning from injury and a few fresh faces coming in, optimism around the club should be higher than it is.There are bound to be a few more twists and turns between now and May, after all this is West Ham, we don’t do things the easy way.