Talking Point

Blind Hammer looks at the fragile state of West Ham’s Confidence and argues recruitment is the key.

A recurrent theme in analysing our performances this season is the lack of confidence running through the team. Bilic has spoken openly about the problem, describing us as playing with the “cramps”. David Gold has on several occasions addressed the issue in his Twitter account.

The confidence of the owners in Bilic is draining fast if we are to believe the leaks coming out of the club. Apparently Bilic has the Palace and Middlesbrough games to save his job. Quite how these leaks are supposed to help Bilic or the team mystifies me. I suspect Bilic, a highly intelligent and analytical man, does not need to be told his job is under threat, and leaks of this kind will only increase the level of fear in the squad and reduce any personal confidence Bilic retains. What I do hope is that these leaks about shipping Bilic out are backed by a realistic managerial backup strategy. Suggestions that Benitez will dump Newcastle now to move to us are as much fantasy now as the suggestion we would realistically recruit Klopp. As far as I can see the only realistic emergency Bilic replacement would be Pardew which would be ironic from all sorts of standpoints. I certainly do not think they should be taking a punt on an unproven foreign or Championship manager without Premiership experience. Whether Pardew would organise the squad any more than Bilic is a moot point. If they are genuinely looking at Pardew at an option then he needs to be consulted now about recruitment.

However the owners need to also take a look at themselves in their approval of transfer policy. Recruitment has to be the key now for boosting confidence in the squad. There are all sorts of other strategies for boosting confidence but by far the quickest and most immediate fix is to ship out players with confidence shorn, and bring in more resilient players. In this context releasing players is as important as recruiting appropriate replacements.

There is a complex nest of tangle reasons which may underlie our under-performance this season but it is through the transfer window that we can start to address confidence. Although Bilic is under tactical pressure that he is not responding to, it is fundamentally the deficiencies of the current squad which underlies our current difficulties.

At root our recruitment has failed to keep up with the increased competitiveness of the rest of the Premiership. Many, myself included, tended to assumed that the standard of the Premiership would remain at a similar level. Over the summer we approvingly compared our squad with previous West Ham squads, what we should have done was compare ourselves to other squads developing around the rest of the league. We underestimated the impact of the explosion of TV money.

Having said that, I was very unhappy about the Summer Transfer strategy. I am an ignoramus in terms of scouting football talent but in the Summer, simply based on blind observations of players performing against us I wanted to club to recruit 5 players. For Better or worse these are the players I nominated at the time. Christian Benteke, Loïc Remy, Robbie Brady, and Andros Townsend. I obviously knew we needed a right back, as we still do, but did not have sufficient knowledge of the players available and suitable.

I am convinced that within the West Ham Squad all these players would have been able to thrive, and have been mystified as to how Palace have managed to hoover up most of this talent whilst we have been left struggling with expensive unproven gambles with no Premiership credentials. At the time of writing it appears that Allardyce is moving in for Brady also.

Palace in fact, despite struggling have done much better transfer business, especially as they have realistically bid for and got Remy on loan from Chelsea, whilst we have been making speculative bids for Defoe which is highly unlikely to materialise.

I am now convinced that last summer we should have paid the money for Benteke rather than saving £5 million to take a punt on Zaza, who would have cost £25 million anyway if he had worked out. My backup choice if we really could not afford was Boni.

Now I am not saying any of these players would have set the Premiership alight, but I am reasonably confident that they would have been better than the gambles we invested in and I am sure we would have been in a better position because what all these players would have brought with them was premiership experience and confidence rather than attempting to find their way in an unfamiliar country /league.
So in this Window we, the Board as well as Bilic, need to redress these shortcomings. Unfortunately our stinker of a record over the summer appears to be repeating already. We have already missed out on Remy who has gone to Palace. We are in direct competition with Palace for Premiership survival but appear to be floundering in their wake in achieving the necessary recruitment. The club have apparently identified Snodgrass as recruitment to boost the squad, which is fair enough. He ticks the boxes of a confident experienced player with premiership experience which may enhance the resilience of our squad. However whilst we have place a joke bid for Snodgrass at £3 million, which Hull will obviously ignore, Palace, according to a report I have read have already placed an initial bid of £9million.

Palace appear to be identifying key targets early and bidding realistically whilst we are messing around trying to grad a player on the cheap.

Talking about identifying players early, I am astonished that we are nearly half way through the transfer window and we have failed to bring in a proper right back. The fact that we have conceded numerous points this season because we have not had proper cover at right back is not a recent revelation. We have known this for months. More importantly we are squandering he talents of our most potent attacking player in Antonio. However I am alarmed that we are apparently, according to some reports, looking to re-recruit Jenkinson. We need another player low on confidence like we need a hole in the head.

I am also worried about us allegedly chasing Hogan from Brenford. Again I hope that they know what they are doing but I am reminded that Carlton Cole and even Sam Baldock could effectively score goals in the Championship, but the Premiership is a completely different proposition. If Hogan was being bought for the future to develop and bring into the team then fair enough but they need a proven forward now rather than one for the future. Hogan smacks of half-hearted desperation; he is a gamble at a time when we should not be gambling.

If you are going to panic buy in January it should be a proper panic. I would be banging on Watford’s door for Troy Deaney and putting a serious bid of £30 million in which would tempt them rather than compete with Watford for Hogan’s signature. Deaney may be a poor man’s Andy Carroll but at
Least he would have proven talents to bring to the table.

This is potentially the most important transfer window in the Club’s history. Relegation in the context of the new Stadium would be a crippling blow, and we must not be under any illusions, relegation is likely to be a threat well into the later stages of the season.

So solid, experienced, if unspectacular recruitment needs to be the key in the next 2 weeks. The players we bring in must be evaluated for the content of their character and personality as much as their ability. The emotional and psychological resilience of the squad has to be increased. We cannot keep collapsing like a disappointed toddler every time we go behind in a game.

Reid clearly has to take over the Captain’s responsibilities from Noble, given his apparent inability to hack it now as a premiership midfielder, but more leaders need to be recruited. Arbeloa in a recent interview in the Guardian complained that the atmosphere in the West Ham dressing room was “too nice”. The struggles ahead need experienced, hardnosed hard guys who have been there and done it before.

This window is too important for gambles like Hogan, go for proven premiership experience. We may have to return to keeping it tight and winning ugly. Needs must for this season, it will not be before next season that the full fruits of a confidence recovery and free flowing football will return.

So the pressure is as much, as far as I am concerned, on the Board, for this transfer window. We have to perform the trick of buying in the confidence we need.

David Griffith