At the moment we have three recognised first team strikers in Javier Hernandexz, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho. Most people would agree that we need four, even though in extremis Michail Antonio and Andre Ayew can both play in a central striking role if necessary. I don’t know how many of you saw Toni Martinez’s (pictired) well taken header against Werder Bremen on Saturday, but given the number of goals he was scoring for the Under 23s, you just wonder if rather than being sent out on loan again, he might now graduate to a first team role.
We are continually linked with a move for Andre Gray, who scored 9 goals in 32 games for Burnley last season. He certainly scored some cracking goals and has always had a good goals to games ratio in the lower leagues. A friend of mine who goes to every Burnley game, home and away thinks Gray is vastly overrated and is basically a championship player. He’d be delighted if we parted with £15 million for him and thinks Burnley would be robbing us. Wolves are now said to be trying to sign him.
Given that our outgoings in this transfer windown haven’t been massive, there is still money in the pot. I wonder whether we are going to be surprised by a marquee signing – one that would really make people sit up and take notice. I imagine Ross Barckley is out of our league, but what a signing he would be. Everton are quoting £50 million for him, but given he’s in his last year there, pundits reckon he would cost £30 million. Trouble is, it’s difficult to see where he would fit in. Lanzini is getting better with every game and has replaced Payet in the playmaker role. To me, they are too similar to play in the same team, but then again what do I know?
Slaven Bilic rarely plays with two strikers unless we are chasing the game so it’s difficult to see him blowing the rest of his transfer budget on a top class striker, but I just don’t see the point in buying a player like Andre Gray who would no doubt be very unhappy to warm the bench. However, we know that both Sakho and Carroll are injury prone, and we know that if either could be sold in this transfer window they would be. Sakho would bring in £7-10 million, while Carroll might get a bit more than that. Put that with what remains in the kitty and you’ve probably got enough for a top class striker.
I have no idea which of these scenarios come to pass, but whatever happens, I’d like to see Toni Martinez given a chance this season. He’s a great size for a central striker and really looks the part. He’s just turned twenty and is keen to make an impression. I hope he starts tomorrow’s friendly in Germany.
Tony Hanna's Musings
The bookies update series has proved to be a very reliable source this transfer window. All three of the major market moves paid off but it also identified potential deals that were unlikely to happen. Whilst you never say never, Batshuayi was always said to be one of our top striker targets but was never any shorter than a 6/1 (14%) chance. If we were ever a realistic chance of signing him the market never really showed it – the odds just reflecting that we probably did make enquiries. On the flip side Arnie was 20/1 (4.76%) into 9/4 (30%) in a week and then into 1/6 (85%) in one day. It was another two weeks before he signed but the money told the story.
The incoming money from transfers is not far short of the outgoing fees paid so far this window. I am led to believe the difference is only about 6m quid before taking into account other expenses including wages. Considering our transfer budget and extra TV money you would expect the club to make one or two more signings before the window closes. My guess is that providing Adrian stays we will make two more signings and one will be a striker. I just don’t believe the club would be so foolish to be relying solely on what we have now, but there again they were prepared to play square pegs in round holes for the right back position for how long? The other signing will probably be a midfielder.
The strikers that are currently on the radar are;
Andre Gray he has been short in the market for a month now which indicates a deal is certainly being considered. Over the past few days Wolves have entered the race and they are now favourites to sign him. He has drifted from 11/8 (42%) to 5/2 (28%) over the past 48 hours but that is due to Wolves strengthening in the market as a formal approach has been publicised.
Raul Jimenez his price has hardly moved in the past fortnight. Rated at 2/1 (33%) after a plunge on him at double figure odds in one day, it is odds on he will remain at Benfica. The odds suggest he is certainly being considered. I am an unforgiving supporter though and anyone who couldn’t get out of bed to catch a plane to sign for us on loan a few years back is never going to be warmly accepted by this old fuddy duddy!
If we are to bring in a midfielder it would seem at this stage that it will be either Jota or Wilshere. Both players have been in every one of my bookies updates so far which confirms that interest in them has not waned. One is a young player, untested and a gamble, the other is a proven player with an awful history of injuries. That’s settled then!
On the Adrian front I am pleased to say that all the money in recent days has been for him to stay. It is back to a flip of a coin odds with Palace being the likely destination if the big fella does decide he wants a move. Not sure about you but I really believe Adrian may have a part to play this season, so I do hope he stays a Hammer.
The only other players under double figure odds are;
Keita Balde Diao has again been in the past few of my bookies articles. He continually drifts out in the market and is now 9/2 (18%). Press reports suggest he wants to stay in Italy but the fact he has stayed in the market suggests we have at least made an approach for him.
Moussa Dembele there are a few clubs ahead of us on this one but at 8/1 (11%) he rates a mention. I watched him a few times last season and for me he is overpriced if the current valuations being muted are correct – even in today’s bazaar transfer market.
Sami Nasri is one player who has slipped onto the radar in the past week and could possibly be an alternative to my Jota / Wilshere prediction. He is an outside shot at 10/1 (9%) but if anyone has been watching the International club friendlies over the past two weeks you could only be impressed. His past attitude at City has been questionable in my opinion, often looking quite disinterested but his recent form on their tour has been very good. He might just be putting himself in the shop window?
There is still a month to go before the window shuts and as we get closer to the 31st August many clubs will become more desperate to bring in players (and shop some out). Possible deals that have become too complicated or have stalled may be completely discarded and new targets will come onto the radar out of nowhere. So whilst the bookies update articles have been pretty accurate so far expect the whole transfer market to become less predictable and more volatile as the final days approach.
The HamburgHammer Column
Why does time always have to flash by when you’re enjoying yourself ? It seems like it was just a few hours ago that I got into my car to drive out to Schneverdingen to welcome my star guests BSB and The Original Russ to my country. Well, I say my country, but of course it was pretty much rural countryside, the backwaters of civilisation almost, like having a Londoner taking you to Norfolk for a game.
Mind you, the Lüneburg Heath is beautiful enough in its own kind of way and BSB was happy enough with the beautiful houses there and the compact and cosy town center.
Still I managed to take us down the wrong road on our way to the stadium (which seems to be a recurring theme now), but then again I am pretty much a stranger in that part of the country myself and we did alright in the end anyway.
To start off with the positives, it is always good to see the youngsters, the future of our club so to speak, playing in the flesh. We had to play a game of “Who is that youngster over there?” initially, but we managed to identify them all and I have to say while some of them impressed more than others, not a single one of them disappointed. Personally I was very happy indeed with Cullen, Rice, Holland and Martinez.
Another positive was the general atmosphere at both games. Not a sniff of trouble, it was basically a paid holiday for the police staff present at the game as they had so little to do. Certain sections of the travelling Hammers have been praising the stunning beauty of the female police officers to the hilt, comparing them to glamour models or girl groups like the Spice Girls. Not sure about that one, but maybe the stunners in uniform helped putting the Hammers fanbase in a relaxed and happy mood for the games which ain’t a bad thing in my book.
There was friendly banter with the Bremen fans too and while I can never truly support Werder being a proud Hamburger I can respect them and if West Ham were to play Bremen on a more regular basis in future preseason friendlies I wouldn’t mind that at all. One of the stewards in Lohne who was manning the entrance to the away seating section (when I say away seating section I mean the bit that had been cordoned off with simple barrier tape, so you basically had both sets of fans sitting right next to each other) was a former Lohne player and he was proudly showing us a picture on his mobile of a newspaper clipping covering a preseason friendly he had played against West Ham in 1983. They lost that game 1:4 on the day and apparently his direct opponent on the pitch got the better of him all afternoon, it was a certain Alvin Martin…
Another positive for me was seeing some glimpses of what Arnautovic could do for us. There obviously is a great footballer in there, when he is in the mood for applying himself for the full 90 minutes (which apparently was an issue at previous clubs), he can be an arrogant so and so, but he now is OUR arrogant so and so which means I shall gladly root for him despite his Austrian accent…:-))
He seems to love taking on three or four players at the same time which can be frustrating to watch if it doesn’t work, but when it does come off, boy, is it a beauty to behold!
Arnautovic is the kind of player that gets fans out of their seats, hopefully there will be plenty of that at London Stadium this season.
My favourite youngster now probably is Josh Cullen, not just because of his composed play but also because me and Ebi (a fellow German Hammer from near Bonn) bumped into Cullen and Reece Burke on Thursday afternoon in Rotenburg when the players had some time off and JC and RB were desperately looking for a pool table. We found out for them where they might find one nearby but I doubt they were successful as pubs and arcades in a small town like Rotenburg tend to open in the evenings only. So I will probably never know now if Cullen and Burke did get to play their game of pool in the end…but they were lovely to chat to and wonderful ambassadors for our club.
Pre-season games and friendlies in general don’t do a lot for me (I made an exception in West Ham’s case because it was close to home and because BSB and Russ were over), but you tend to come away from those games none the wiser really. The manager tends to mix and match lineups, players are busy trying not to get injured instead of getting stuck in (and rightfully so) and those friendlies therefore rarely deliver a proper indication as to how the actual season might turn out for your team.
It would have been great to see Andy Carroll play of course, although the tooth fairy will probably play more games for West Ham next season than AC, but I won’t go further into that topic as I don’t intend to burst a blood vessel. I think it’s time to finally cut our losses, pay the guy off, save a bit of money that way and prepare for life without him. There are enough strikers still available out there who may not be world beaters but who at least will be able to play week in week out and convert some goalscoring opportunities when you create those chances for them.
So we didn’t win the Gooseberry Cup, excuse me, Betway Cup! (I’m using gooseberry here because there was some lovely gooseberry cream cake available before the game in Lohne and because the gooseberry pretty much describes the kind of area where those preseason games had been arranged to take place. I thought it was an odd choice, but ultimately it turned out not too bad a decision after all).
In order to see a proper top level football stadium I took BSB and Russ to the famous Weserstadion in Bremen, but not before we had enjoyed a Mexican style dinner at El Mariachi in the vicinity of the stadium (to celebrate Chicharito’s arrival at West Ham, BSB and Russ had steak). It was one of the rare times when I actually ordered too much food for us (I had never been to that place before and we had no idea how big the servings would be). At some point even I was full up, so I took a doggybag with the leftovers home for the next day as I learned from my war and hunger scarred parents all those years ago never to allow good food going to waste.
It was dark already when we arrived at the stadium and we obviously couldn’t get into the ground, so we took a wander around and caught glimpses of the inside through gaps and fences. My guests were suitably impressed and judged it to be a stadium fit for a big club which Bremen are, not necessarily in terms of trophies and star players as Bremen’s glory years mainly are in the past rather than the present, but the support is top notch and the stadium (which holds almost 40.000) is nearly always sold out.
It is also to my knowledge the only stadium in the Bundesliga where fans can travel in by boat shuttle as the stadium is located right alongside the river Weser where the stadium derives its name from.
Tomorrow I shall be welcoming another fellow Hammer to town who is coming over for the Altona game, so we will have a little Guided Walk around town, with an emphasis on the locations where the Beatles used to perform, drink, sleep (or spend time in a prison cell overnight once) to be followed by the game itself on Tuesday evening.
In contrast to the games in Schneverdingen and Lohne there will be strict segregation in effect between sets of fans for the Altona game and as the ground is right smack in the middle of a busy inner city working-class/alternative/left-wing community there could indeed be some trouble, especially later, on and around the notorious Reeperbahn what with St.Pauli playing a friendly against Stoke of all teams at the very same time in pretty much the same borough.
St.Pauli and Altona are favourite areas for eating out and drinking and there will be four sets of fans doing just that tomorrow evening all likely to bump into each other somewhere along the way: Altona, St.Pauli, West Ham and Stoke.
That’s two Hamburg teams which hate each other’s guts and two English teams that are not exactly friends for life either.
I really hope it will be just the same jolly and relaxed atmosphere on the night than it was out in the country, I wouldn’t bet on it though. What I would bet on is West Ham beating Altona fairly comfortably. Altona deserve a good thrashing too. They are the barstewards after all who got promotion instead of my beloved Concordia.
So, make it double digits please West Ham: Hattrick each for Snodgrass, Arnautovic and Ginger Pele please plus an own goal from Altona. Mission accomplished!
PS: I didn’t expect my column to go up on Sunday. So quick update on Concordia’s season opener which was won 3:1 this afternoon and was attended by 163 fans, 5% of which were travelling Palace fans, with one Man City and one Wolves supporter thrown in for good measure. Some of these guys have been going to Cordi games for 12 years now and I was glad to finally meet them. We all had a jolly good time, one of the guys is taking the plunge in a few weeks as well (Good luck with that Rob!) and I was impressed with their commitment to football. They must have watched three or four games of football at the lower league levels in Hamburg and Luebeck during this trip and all that because they do love their football so much. So next time you’re watching Match of the Day, look out for the Crystal Palace flag with the Concordia crest in the top left corner. Good lads! They invited me over for a Palace game actually (I know, wrong side of the river and all that), but maybe there is a weekend when it’ll be West Ham for me on Saturday and Palace on Sunday.
Yesterday’s first match against Werder Bremen did little to inspire confidence, but then again it was a very weird starting lineup. I didn’t see the match but I am told that the three standout performers were Adrian, Declan Rice and Nathan Holland. Indeed, the latter two have apparently really impressed everyone in preseason so far. Today’s second match should see Joe Hart make his debut and the team ahead of him will contain far more first team regulars, I imagine, than yesterday’s did.
Please do use this thread to comment on the match as it progresses. It kicks off at 2.30pm and is available to watch on PremierSports.
Sorry about the drunk cameraman…