Player Analysis

Footballers' Contracts

There is an important word in English law and that is the word precedent. It is part of common law, where a decision in a case establishes a principle. Then, precedent will be used by judges to decide new cases.

Therefore, in hundreds of areas of the law, one can read about precedents. However, when it comes to footballers’ contracts, this area is like a desert, leading to the conclusion that, in the case of footballers, the contract is sometimes not worth the paper it is written on, since no one ends up in court.

West Ham may have set a new kind of precedent in the case of Payet. The player had signed a five year contract with the option of an extra year in 2015. In 2016, he signed a new contract paying him £125,000 per week. In January 2017, Payet refused to play and was subsequently transferred back to Marseilles.

West Ham, therefore, set the precedent that a player can get his way out of his contract by going on strike. Slaven Bilic confirmed that the problems with Payet were having a detrimental effect on the squad. This is something that has surely influenced Arnautovic in the way he has approached his desire to play football in China.
Judging by the way the players performed against Bournemouth compared to a terrific performance against Arsenal, there is the suspicion that the atmosphere in the dressing room had turned negative as a result.

So, are there other options for the club? Perhaps a player who refuses to play should be suspended without pay for a set period. This could even be added as a clause in the contract. The club may even threaten to sue the player for damages, say £15 million in the case of Arnautovic, as a percentage of his transfer fee from Stoke.

One might say that these types of incident are bound to occur when clubs rely on transferring players, who turn out to be journeymen, playing for the club who will pay them the most. One answer may be to invest more in the Academy, bringing through young players and perhaps looking worldwide for talent. One must bear in mind that Lionel Messi joined Barcelona when he was 14 with a contract that was apparently written on a paper napkin.

Barcelona have La Masia , the farmhouse, with 300 young players. Iniesta, Alves, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas and Pedro are also one of its graduates. Pep Guardiola commented that players who came through La Masia have something different to the rest, having worn a Barcelona shirt from when they were a child. Let’s remember Moore, Hurst and Peters. Mark Noble is the modern epitome of loyalty and integrity.

Hopefully, Pellegrini can work on Arnautovic and bring him back to his best. After all, it is in the player’s interests that he shows good form, if he wants to be transferred in the summer window. Arnautovic would be advised to bear in the mind the Chinese phrase that the person attempting to travel two roads will get nowhere.

Talking Point

Chinese Super League

I’ve got some bad news for you. If you think Brexit is bad, then contemplate what will happen when China goes into financial meltdown. Take one statistic. The UK’s debt, which we hear so much about, is 87% compared to GDP, whereas in China it is 299%. You don’t need to be a financial guru to understand where that is heading.

This is a preamble to some understanding about the Chinese Super League, which has come into focus with the debate regarding Arnautovic. This league comprises 16 teams with an average attendance of 24,000. The bid for Arnautovic comes from Shanghai SIPG, who are the current league champions. They paid £60 million for Oscar in 2017 Their annual revenue is about £30 million, compared to West Ham’s £175 million.

So, we can conclude the whole thing is nuts in financial terms. But, everyday we buy things from China and can’t work out how it is so cheap when you try to calculate how the manufacture, the transporter and retailer can make a profit. The answer is that Chinese companies take on huge amounts of debt and when companies can’t pay the loans back, they are called non-performing loans. Such loans increase at a rate of £20 billion per year and stand at about £1 trillion in total.

The owner of Shanghai SIPG is the Shanghai International Port Group, which has a monopoly on the ports in Shanghai and in turn, their majority share owner is the Shanghai Government.

So, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the money is coming from. Debt, debt and more debt.

President Xi Jinping has deemed that China is to become a major super power in world football and this is to be achieved at any cost. They want 50 million adults and kids to be playing football. We have 8 million. They want 20,000 training centres and 70,000 football pitches.

One problem may be that the average height of a male in China is 5 feet five inches, whereas in the UK , it is 5 feet nine inches. However, if they start feeding the population a massive amount of red meat, this could change. Or, if we are reduced to eating vegetable because of climate change, then the reverse may be possible. By the way, Chinese condoms are smaller, so Arnautovic better take a supply with him.

Shanghaiing used to mean kidnapping men by press gangs to serve in the navy. Now it means paying someone £300,000 per week. Times have changed.

Match Report

Money v Glory

There is one thing footballers crave more than money and that is glory. So, stories about Arnautovic moving to China have to be taken with a pinch of salt. There is no history of a player at the peak of his form moving to Asia. I suppose, his brother and agent, Danijel, has to be seen earning his crust. But his statements could end up badly misfiring.

I listened to a West Ham fan ranting and raving on You Tube, where every second word began with f. It is understandable when we have been through the debacle with Payet, where the player effectively went on strike and had no respect for the contract he had signed, the club or the fans. It demonstrated moral cowardice of the worst sort.

But, if the club receives a sensible offer for a player, then it is all part of the modern game. If, for example, Chelsea offered £50 million, we would have little to complain about, although it would be better if this was deferred until the end of the season. It is rumoured David Sullivan has set a target of £60 million.

So, as we face Arsenal, I felt the main point of interest was how Arnautovic would play. Could all this have kicked off because he came off against Birmingham? Surely not.

Talking about glory, we who attended today can say and will always remember when Declan Rice scored his first goal. His performance was absolutely brilliant and he is now the glue that holds the West Ham defence together.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

These words from Henry V seem appropriate today. It seems like a watershed moment when we transformed ourselves into a band of brothers, who were able to neutralise Arsenal for most of the game.

We have five brilliant players – Fabianski, Diop, Rice, Anderson and Arnautovic. But the others who played today cannot be faulted for effort. Antonio also seemed to discover his correct position and if he could actually get a ball on target when he cuts inside, he too would join the list.

So, from now on, it is onwards and upwards. Finally, I can write these words without keeping my fingers crossed behind my back.

Match Report

Wing Backs or Wingers?

As the New Year dawns, we should all be happy, given our dreadful start to the season, at where we stand today. We have risen up the league and four of our signings have turned out to be tremendous – Fabianski, Diop, Balbuena and Anderson. And we can still look forward to players coming back from injury. I still dream about the perfect partnership between Lanzini and Arnautovic when we beat Huddersfield 4-1 away.

So, what questions can there be for discussion? We cannot take anything away from the achievement of Pellegrini, who has persevered with his formation through thick and thin. But, it remains to be seen whether he is too one dimensional. Should we, for example, have adjusted our formation when we played Manchester City at home? Or is it a good thing that when replacements and substitutions are made, players can easily slot into a system?

There seems to be a modern obsession with playing wing backs. As the name suggests, they are supposed to be both wingers and full backs. So, they need to be super fit, charging up and down the pitch. The danger is if they don’t have quite what it takes to be a defender. Antonio and Masuaku fit into that category. Cresswell is not the player he was two years ago and Zabaleta is in the twilight years of his career.

In the old days, you had wingers and then you had full backs. The winger would be a speedy guy who would make a dash for the byline and make a cross to a sturdy centre forward, who would head the ball into the net. Against Birmingham, we did have two players on the pitch who could fulfil that winger requirement – Antonio and Diangana. And of course, for most of the game we had a sturdy centre forward.

I’m asking this question for two reasons, because I think the game against Birmingham highlighted the problem. Individually, it was obvious we were far superior but overall, as a team, we didn’t seem to be able to break Birmingham down for 89 minutes of the game. It may have been because we were not using the full width of the pitch.

Andy Carroll comes in for a good deal of criticism these days, even though he is just coming back from injury. But what he needs is the type of service I describe above. Players getting to the byline and crossing the ball. Too often, they cut inside and we have seen Andy Carroll come on and not been given any service at all. Finally, yesterday, he received a cross from Antonio and showed his quality with his head.

Alongside the use of wingers, you must also ask whether having two players in defence e.g. Ogbonna/Balbuena and Diop is sufficient. Wouldn’t it be better to have three plus the wingbacks? Anyone watching the Birmingham game has to admit that Birmingham created some terrific chances, which a better team would have taken advantage of. And three at the back gives you the opportunity to attack with more freedom.

It was a surprise to see Arnautovic start. It is a risk to play such an important player and chance injury, but, perhaps he felt he needed a workout to reach match fitness after his recent injury. My impression was that he was surprised to be taken off, so hopefully he will start against Arsenal.

We should congratulate Nasri and Silva on the first starts for the club. And amusing to see that Adrian hasn’t lost his old habit of dribbling around the opposition. Declan Rice once again proved what a talent he is.

Saturday’s game against Arsenal will be a stiff test, especially for our defence. Let’s hope we can summon up the energy and intensity that will be required to win.


West Ham Publish Financial Results

The results have just been published for the year ending 31st May 2018.

Turnover was down for the year at £175m, a reduction of £8m. The majority of this was from broadcasting rights at £118m (slightly less than the previous year as our position dropped to 13th from 11th) and match receipts were £24m. The operational profit has dropped to £35m from £56m

Average league attendances (or let’s say tickets bought) were 57,000, as opposed to 35,000 at the Boleyn.

The accounts are littered with references that the figures are based on the company as a going concern (which is a negative in accounting terms), due to uncertainties about income, the principal risk being that of being relegated. At one point it is stated, ‘The retention of our standing in 2018/9 is an absolute necessity.’

Employment costs rose to £106m from £95m. Karren Brady received £898,000 and a further £438,00 as a consultancy fee for negotiating the 10% sale of shares to Albert ‘Tripp’ Smith, who also provided a £10m interest-free loan.

The shareholders did not receive a dividend, but did receive interest payments amounting to £4.5m on their £45m loan, although it would appear that included unpaid interest from previous years, as the loan rate is 4-4.5%.

There is still an ongoing investigation by HMRC regarding payments made to agents.

The club took further short-term loans of £23m from Rights and Media Ltd to finance the cost of new players. Rights and Media Ltd have made loans over the years to West Ham and other clubs such as Everton, Southampton, Fulham and Reading. Their director used to be an Irish jig dancer, but the loans actually come from a company called Vibrac Corporation, based in the British Virgin Islands. Nobody knows who finances that company.

So, I think we can say that the owners take a considerable risk, as everything can start falling apart if the club is relegated. So, when we lost our first four games, they must have been extremely worried.

Also, they have not tried to stiff the fans and the income from the 57,000 is relatively the same as it was at The Boleyn. We know there are many concessions.

Bearing in mind the risks involved and the fact that after the summer of 2021, a sale would not trigger an additional payment to the owners of the stadium, this may be a target date for a sale.

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