The Blind Hammer Column

Financial Fair Play-A spanner in Pellegrini’s Works?

Blind Hammer looks at whether FFP will restrict Pellegrini’s Project.

The signings of Ryan Fredericks, Issa Diop and Fabianski indicate that West Ham are serious in at least starting a refresh of Pellegrini’s squad. It is likely that the most difficult and important business is still to come. As always the pot of money finally available will determine options. The spectre of Financial Fair Play is often invoked by PL club directors. The dark suspicion of many supporters is that FFP is rolled out to excuse a stingy reluctance to invest.

Yet FFP cannot be dismissed so easily. One of the few failure points of Pellegrini’s managerial CV was the financial meltdown during his latter days at Malaga. After hefty initial investment Malaga had to Fire sell their expensively acquired Stars. For a while the Malaga players, and indeed, Pellegrini himself, did not receive any wages. FFP was blame for this meltdown but in reality Malaga’s plight was probably just as much due to devolving their financial security to an Oil rich investor. This is a Case Study that those desperate for foreign investment would do well to ponder.

FFP is not a single set of rules but separate codes established at UEFA, Premier and Championship Level. The regulations attempt to restrict reckless spending of TV Money. Since FFP’s introduction the number of clubs entering Administration has diminished. This is all to the good. Administration has wider victims. The recovery of clubs like Leeds disguises those who never see any redress. It is the smaller fry rather than the Football Millionaires who suffer.

So what are FFP Rules? Surprisingly the Premier League Handbook makes no reference to Financial Fair Play anywhere. Despite this we can infer rules. Those who have, in recent weeks, quoted the available TV Monies as the “war chest” available to Pellegrini, are wide of the mark.

The Handbook lays out spending restrictions. The first is what is described as the Profitability and Sustainability Rules. Under these rules West Ham and other clubs are not allowed to make a loss of more than £105m over a three-year period. In theory the PL are cracking down on Real Madrid creative accounting ruses such as sponsoring the training ground for enormous sums to get around this.

Probably more relevantly is the Short Term Cost Control rules (STCC). These rules are designed to restrict the arms race on player salaries, often considered the biggest threat to clubs financial stability.

In Sections E18, E19 and E20 rules for spending on wages and transfers are laid out.

These Sections specify that from a starting point of £67 million in 2016-20177, a club is only allowed to increase spending on their squad by £7 million a year. So for 2017-2018 the limit is £74 million. The limit for next season is £81 million. This includes both wages and transfers costs, though the cost of a transfer is spread across the life of a player’s contract.

These rules highlight why Clubs are eager to remove players from their wage bill, as much as they are eager to sign new recruits.

Of course we all know that clubs spend much more than this. The get out clause in the Handbook is section E20 which allows extra payments which are “funded only by Club Own Revenue Uplift and/or Averaged Three Year Player Trading Profit.”

So transfer revenues are boosted massively by profitable transfer income. I wrote last year about the myth of “selling and buying” clubs. In reality it is also the top 6 clubs who take in most from incoming transfer payments. This is especially the case at Chelsea who gather massive funds from hoovering up the world’s young talent, loaning them out, earning lucrative loan fees and eventually selling these players on for significant profit.

West Ham has massively underperformed in the Transfer Arms Race over the last 5 years. They have to raise their game in talent recruitment. Over the 3 years of his contract Pellegrini’s transfer options will be most affected by the quality of his recruitment and the sell on value of players enlisted rather than any massive cash input from the Board.

So will Pellegrini face any immediate shackling of his squad building project? To an important extent this will depend on the extent to which West ham can release value external to Television revenues. In theory at least West Ham should have a competitive advantage against teams such as Tottenham. Tottenham have a marvellous new Stadium but the latest estimates for the building costs now exceed £1 Billion and there is already speculation that optimism on Stadium naming rights etc. will not sufficiently redress the heavy weight of funding this massive infrastructural investment over the next 10-20 years will place on their squad development. In contrast West Ham paid £15 million for use of the London Stadium usage with average overhead costs of about £3 million a year moving forward.

In theory the opportunities for Pellegrini and any competitive advantage for West ham will arise from the commercial growing of the club external to FFP controlled TV Revenues. There is a big caveat though. The effectiveness of any system of rules is in the end only determined by their enforcement. It seems that clubs are sailing very close to the wind with FFP compliance. However there seems little if any appetite from the PL to tackle these clubs and enforce sanctions. The game in the end for West Ham may involve pushing the envelope of FFP enough to make the difference for Pellegrini whilst not attracting any ire from the PL. Whatever the case it should be interesting to see how West Ham struggle for wriggle room against the shacckles of FFP in the weeks ahead.
David Griffith

The S J Chandos Column

A New Era? - It is looking that way!

Prior to last season’s conclusion, I raised the issue of the future of David Moyes in my column. At the time I had not come to a conclusion about whether the experienced Scot should be offered a new deal. but merely raised the issue because it seemed obvious to me that the club had to take a crucial (branching point) decision at the season’s end. If they were to attempt to carry on as they had for the past two seasons (signing free transfers, loans and long shots, mixed with the odd quality buy like Arnautovic, then Moyes was probably as good a managerial choice as they were likely to secure. If, on the other hand, the club wanted to start living up to their previous big statements, and promises, then we had to start showing ambition and push the boat out financially. That latter option would probably necessitate the recruitment of a top class manager to guarantee the success of the endeavour.

We now know that the Hammers board opted for a new course/direction and subsequently recruited Manuel Pellegrini to head it. A top manager like Pellegrini was always likely to insist on a substantial transfer budget and the signings to drastically improve the quality of the squad at his disposal. The Chilean manager is an advocate of an exciting, expansive, attacking style of play that Hammers fans will love. And it was obvious that major additions were necessary to enable him to play that way. That is not to say that the cardboard, that he inherited, was totally bare! The likes of Hernandez, Arnautovic, Antonio, Rice, Lanzini, Zabaletta, Byram (if he can get and stay fit), Mario (if he returns to the club) Cresswell, Masuaku and Ogbonna are all equipped to play in his system. Others such as Kouyate, Reid and Noble also have a possibility of adapting to it. While there is also the bonus of the potential that we have at U-21 level. in players such as Holland, Quina, Pask, Browne, Haksabanovic, Samuelson, Martinez and (even) Oxford that he will assess for first team readiness. Below them are youngsters of arguably even greater potential like Lewis and Johnson that could emerge as first team options over the next couple of seasons. It is significant that the new manager has put an embargo on the U-21s going out loan until he has assessed their potential and current stage of development. Finally, a decision needs to be urgently made on the futures of youngsters like Burke and Cullen that have been around the edges of the first team squad for some time. This needs to be done not only in the interests of the club, but equally importantly, the interests of the youngsters themselves.

At present there are lots of links and negotiations pertaining to flair players like Anderson (at Lazio), Pastore (PSG) and, the youngster, Diaz (Man City). These are presumably at various stages or, in Pastore’s case, proving abortive. Very sensibly, Pellegrini has began by augmenting West Ham’s leaky defence. We only managed to stem the flood of opposition goals, and gain some defensive cohesion, last season by perfecting a three at the back system. The new manager will presumably want to move away from that and play a far more flexible 4-2-2-2 system, with strong central defenders, who can play the ball out from the back and full-backs that get forward and offer width, to allow the wide players (like Anderson and Antonio) to cut insider and attack through more central positions and support the strikers.

To date, he has signed Fredericks (a player perfect for this system), Issa Diop (a strong, ball playing centre back, with huge potential to become a real star) and Fabianski, (the Polish international keeper). In addition, we have been linked with Marlon (of Barca), Mawson (of Swansea) and, another keeper, Jimenez (of Espanyol). It is possible that we could sign another centre-back and keeper to further revolutionise our defensive options next season. There has also been rumours that Rice will be primarily used as a defensive midfielder, rather than a centre-back, and Oxford will be very closely scrutinised before a decision is made on his future. It could be that Oxford exits to Germany (to raise additional funds) and we bring in another player like Anderlect’s Dendocker, who is apparently available for c.£16-18m.

In terms of attacking midfield/wide options, the injury to Lanzini (our most creative player) is a huge blow. And it is a blow that the club has had to adapt its transfer strategy to ameliorate. The seemingly endless haggling with Lazio is nearly at a conclusion. The latest reports suggest that we have offered 30m euros and add on clauses and a 10% sell on that meets Lazio’s demand for a overall fee of 42m euros. If this offer is rejected then the club is likely to reluctantly walk away and pursue other targets. As such, Lazio have a major decision to make. At the time of writing, the Pastore deal looks dead in the water, with the player preferring a returm to Serie A with Roma. While rumours persist that Pellegrini might seek a season long loan for Man City’s young play-maker, Diaz and there is the possibility of Wilshire signing on a free transfer from Arsenal. Plus, there is the outstanding question of Mario’s future and Spurs’ supposed alternative interest in the player, which could derail the prospect of his return to the club next season. The picture was further complicated yesterday by news that we are being linked to a number of other exciting midfield targets.

In terms of strikers, there seems to be an assumption that Pellegrini will continue with the existing striking triumvirate of Arnautovic, Hernandez and Carroll. In practice, that could see a arnautovic-Hernandez partnership up front, with Carroll (injuries allowing) adding something a bit different/more direct from the bench. That, of course, supposes that both Arnautovic and Hernandez remain at the club? As yet the much mooted interest from Man Utd in Arnautovic has not materialised (although there is now another link to Inter-Milan) and one can only hope that Pellegrini can talk Hernandez out of his Moyes induced strop of last season! It is a reasonable question to pose whether the manager will stick with Carroll? is he really Pelligrini’s type of striker and does he fit in to his preferred system of play? In terms of links with new strikers, we have been connected with a number, including Senegal’s Konate, Argentina’s Pavon and Celtic and France’s Moussa Dembele. Whether we move on these or any other striking targets remains to be seen.

In all honesty, I have tried to map some of the key links/negotiations in which we we are involved, but it is a frantic, frenetic process that is chucking up new names each day. Sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’’ of rumours is difficult and, of course, who we line up/recruit is likely to have an undoubted influence on the players that we put up for sale. And there is always the unexpected developments coming out of left field, like yesterday evening’s reports that agents were ‘offering’ Arnautovic to Inter-Milan. Stories like that are likely baseless, but until they are officially discounted they are a factor for consideration!

There appears to be a consensus that Pellegrini has been handed a c.£75m transfer budget. However, with three players signed and, according to reports yesterday evening, another 3-5 new signings on the way, then it is likely that this will need to be supplemented by generating some funds from players sales. So, who are the main candidates for a departure. Well, Adrian’s future at the club needs to be confirmed. It could be that he will compete with Fabianski next season for the keeper’s jersey. However, if Adrian is not happy with that or the club pursue their interest in Jimenez then he could exit, most likely back to former club Real Betis. Both Byram and Reid would probably be on most people’s list of possible exits, but I hope that they are retained, Reid to provide strength in depth at the back and Byram to be given another chance to get over his injuries and fulfil his potential, especially in Pellegrin’s new system of play. One player that could exit is Pedro Obiang, if we commit to playing Rice in that position and we secure a better alternative like Dendocker. There is interest in Obiang from Italian and Spanish clubs and he could raise a significant transfer fee. If Pellegrini gives the green light, the club could sell the youngsters Burke, Cullen and Oxford. A Crystal Palace bid for Antonio has been much anticipated, but again, he could be a good player to have in Pellegrini’s system. Yes, he was injured for much of last season and, when he did play, his standards slipped in comparison with the previous two seasons, but hopefully he can regain his former fitness and form. One player almost certain to be sold is Snodgrass, who is currently interesting Cardiff City. Although there has been the interesting suggestion on social media sites that we could try to trade him in a part-exchange deal for Celtic’s Moussa Dembele. Then there is Jordan Hugill and, the Swiss international, Emilison Fernandes who could both be off-loaded. And finally, might the club be tempted to accept a £8-10m bid for Carroll, if it came in, from a club like Newcastle Utd? The club will want to raise additional funds and they will need to assess who we can sell, for what fee, based on which players are incoming. At the end of the day Pellegrini has to significantly raise both the quality and the depth of the squad. That necessarily requires a careful balancing act.

So, all the indications are that we are looking at brave new era for the club. There is still a lot of business to transact, but it would seem that the squad will have a major refit prior to the commencement of the new season. Certainly pre-season will be fascinating to follow this season, as Pellegrini finalises his squad and gets down to the business of building team spirit, embedding his tactics and style of play and moulding them in to an effective and cohesive unit.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we have turned a corner and significantly better times lie ahead for the club and its supporters? We can but live in hope – as always! Only this time the hope appears to have some ambition, top-level management, hard cash and quality recruitment behind it.

SJ. Chandos.

Guest Post

Blowing Bubbles’ massive Summer Annual will help you beat the post-season blues!

Blowing Bubbles Magazine are producing a monster Summer Annual which comes out next week. This will be a must have for all West Ham fans this summer to fend off the post-season blues, and it will be one of the biggest editions the team at Blowing Bubbles has ever pulled together!

Editor David Blackmore with a previous copy of Blowing Bubbles Monthly

There is some brilliant exclusive content as well as the best articles from the past season. There are interviews with Pele, Julian Dicks, Kieron Dyer, David Gold, Dean Ashton, Don Hutchison, Lou Macari, David Cross, comedian Adam Hills, and many more.

This extraordinary issue – the fourth annual they’ve pulled together – will cost £10 for UK residents (including postage and packing) and is out on Friday 29 June.

David Blackmore, editor of Blowing Bubbles Monthly, said: "It’s not been the best season for West Ham on the pitch but it’s been another incredible season for Blowing Bubbles Monthly off it. As West Ham stuttered and stumbled our way through the season, we’ve gained significantly more readers, and more subscribers than we’ve ever had before.

“The response to some of our issues this season has been absolutely extraordinary. To be honest, the feedback we’ve received all season has been incredibly pleasing – people like what we do and it’s given us the confidence to keep doing it.

“Every year we’ve looked to make our Summer Annual the biggest and best issue we’ve ever had and our team are excited about pulling together this massive edition.”

Following the huge demand from overseas Hammers for last year’s summer annual, they are once again making this issue available for people living in Europe and around the world to purchase.

Orders MUST be placed before 11pm on Sunday 24 June. Secure your Summer Annual here

You can also secure a season-long subscription for our 2017/18 campaign by clicking here.

For those without PayPal, email to arrange alternative payment.

Talking Point

Who Is Issa Diop?

With Issa Diop signing for West Ham United yesterday, here is an introduction to our new centre-half.

Issa Diop was born in Toulouse on 9th January 1997; his grandfather, former Bordeaux player Labysse Diop, was the first Senegalese footballer in Ligue 1. Issa began at his local side Balma before Toulouse scouts picked up the defender aged just nine years old; he came through the ranks with his hometown club and made four appearances for France Under-16s, five for the Under-17s and two for the Under-18s before being named on the bench for Toulouse’s 2-0 Ligue 1 defeat at Guingamp in November 2015. He made his senior debut the following week in a 2-0 home win over Nice, helping his side to a clean sheet and three points. He scored his first goal for the club four days later on 2nd December 2015 in a 3-0 win at Troyes. He kept his place, making 21 league starts and two more in the cups, including a 2-1 extra-time win over Marseille in the Coupe de la Ligue. Diop picked up five yellow cards and two red cards in 2015/16 and helped his team to nine clean sheets from his 23 appearances as Toulouse finished 17th, avoiding relegation by one point.

In the summer of 2016, Diop starred in the Under-19 European Championships. France lost their opening game 2-1 to England, with Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke scoring what turned out to be the winner, but would go on to win the tournament in Germany, beating Croatia 2-0 and the Netherlands 5-1 in their other group games. Inspired by Kylian Mbappe, they defeated Portugal 3-1 in the semi-finals before trouncing Italy 4-0 in the Final, with Diop rounding off the victory and the tournament with the fourth and final goal in the 92nd minute. Diop was named in the Team of the Tournament. He is pictured below celebrating his goal in the Under-19 European Championship Final (second from left, wearing number 5).

Embed from Getty Images

Diop returned to Toulouse for the 2016/17 season and made 30 league starts and one cup appearance, registering two goals, two assists and nine yellow cards. He missed seven matches with a back problem. Toulouse finished 13th, conceding 41 goals, the joint-fourth best defensive record in Ligue 1 that season, behind only Paris Saint-Germain, champions Monaco and Nice, and level with Marseille. Diop helped the club to nine clean sheets in his 31 matches, with his goals coming in a 4-1 home win over Bordeaux in August 2016 and a 4-1 home win over Bastia in February 2017. Diop led the back line superbly as Toulouse denied Paris Saint-Germain from scoring in both their outings against the French giants. Diop led both games for interceptions, made no fouls and made four blocks over the course of the two fixtures – no mean feat considering he was up against Lucas Moura, Julian Draxler, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria. Diop was given the captain’s armband for the first time at the age of 20 in a 3-1 defeat at Monaco in April 2017.

Diop made 34 appearances in Ligue 1 for Toulouse last season (2017/18) and also played in five cup games and both legs of the relegation play-off. He scored three goals, made one assist and collected eight yellow cards, helping his side to 14 clean sheets. He scored his first goal of the season in a 3-2 home win over Rennes in August 2017 and was given the captain’s armband two months later. His second goal of the campaign came in a 1-0 win at Angers in October 2017 with his final goal for the club arriving in a 4-2 defeat at Bordeaux in May 2018. Toulouse finished 18th but secured their survival by beating Ajaccio in the relegation play-off, Diop’s defence keeping a clean sheet in both legs with Toulouse winning 4-0 on aggregate. Diop is pictured below, challenging Di Maria and Cavani of PSG.

Embed from Getty Images

Diop, still only 21, has made 95 appearances for Toulouse, registering six goals, three assists, 22 yellow cards and two red cards. Alongside his success with France at Under-19 level, he has also represented his country three times at Under-20 level and has played five matches for the Under-21s, and has also captained the side. He is also eligible to play for Senegal and Morocco. Standing at 6’4, Diop is tall, broad and imposing – strong in the air, he is a threat in the opposition penalty area from set-pieces too. His positioning is a strength and he has great covering speed – he also prefers to play on the right side of a central pair or three. He made an average of 2.2 interceptions per game last season, placing him alongside the Premier League’s Chris Smalling and Laurent Koscielny, and behind only James Tomkins for the equivalent statistic last season in his position at centre-half. His disciplinary record was a concern in his first couple of seasons but, unlike that of Ryan Fredericks, is improving. Diop was sent off twice in his first season but has not been dismissed in the two seasons since and his number of yellow cards last season was down on the previous campaign, even though he played more games last term.

Speaking personally, I have to say that I am delighted with the signing of Issa Diop. He was first linked with the club two weekends ago by the Sunday Mirror and I’m delighted we’ve got the deal over the line – full credit to all involved.

I’m sure all WHTID readers will join me in welcoming Issa to West Ham United. I’m certainly excited by the prospect of seeing him develop and progress in the claret and blue.

Transfer Gossip

Issa Diop: The Video

Issa Diop is likely to be announced as our latest signing tomorrow. The fee is rumoured to be £22 million and he will be on £67k a week. We’re also likely to announce the signing of Lucasz Fabianski as well tomorrow.

UPDATE: Issa Diop has signed…. More on

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