Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Man Utd 1 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. In Dubious Battle

Imagine getting sent off trying to defend this shithousery though.

"Of course this a foul" says Jose "Do you know how much he cost?"

2. The Wayward Bus

The first West Ham away game I ever attended was on March 17 1984 and we lost 4-1 to Leicester. The most recent was our 5-1 demolition of Blackburn in the FA Cup last season. Those two absurd bookends serve as a nice reminder of the riches and rewards as well as the pitfalls of following a football team around the country with any degree of regularity. 

I saw us lose 5-0 to Newcastle while allowing Leon Best to score a hat trick. This bordered on the impossible as Leon Best is a large, flat piece of wood and is not capable of kinetic movement. And yet it happened. 

I've seen us lose 3-0 to Notts County as the fans staged a sit down protest, blissfully unaware that we would one day lose 7-1 at Blackburn, making that day in Nottingham look like a right laugh.

I vividly recall the 4-2 midweek defeat under Roeder at Charlton that precipitated the legendary, and never successfully answered, chant demanding a new back four. 

But I also watched a 3-0 win at Bolton when Danny Williamson ran 80 yards to score a wonder goal and briefly made us dream of home grown talent again, before disappearing off the face of the earth and becoming a "Who remembers" contender on the KUMB podcast. There were soul nourishing wins at Arsenal, Spurs, Man United and that bananas 3-0 win at Wigan that made everyone dare to dream that the Great Escape might actually be possible, and had the added effect of making Neil Warnock cry.

The point is that West Ham have been pretty crap away from home for a long time, but there is always that small kernel of hope that drives us on. This game never really looked winnable, and yet we came within a James Collins aneurysm of nicking it. Those fans who braved the Arctic conditions, the terrible Old Trafford track record and Sunday train services deserve our unstinting admiration. 

The reality is that in the last thirty years, West Ham fans travelling to this fixture have seen almost as many six goal defeats as they have victories. To paraphrase Alan Pardew - and why wouldn't we given what he is currently giving to the football world at large - travelling away with West Ham has always been done Moore in hope than expectation.

Does this even need a caption?

3. East Of Eden

Let's be honest, points gained at Old Trafford don't carry quite the same cachet that they used to but when you've been as bad as West Ham have been this season you take what you can get. This was a workmanlike performance that owed much to Darren Randolph, some to good fortune and a lot to a disciplined defensive unit who rode their luck to the last. 

It helps, of course, when you have a forward who can score, and Diafra Sakho's 2nd minute bullet header should have been the platform for a stirring away performance. As it was, we seemed a little confused by how to approach the game at 1-0 up, and seemingly abandoned all pretence at going forward. It wasn't a huge surprise, therefore, that Pogba picked out Ibrahimovic twenty minutes later and dreams of an away win turned into seventy minutes of hiding behind the sofa in search of a point.

The big Swede was able to head his equaliser unopposed as James Collins was caught up discussing the new series of "The Affair" with Angelo Ogbonna and thus forgot to pay any attention to the man he was marking, but still, you can't have everything.

There were lots of good things today, however, and while we seem to have lost the counterthrusting ability that served us so well last year this can at least be partially explained by the fact that we've been operating without a striker for three months. Diafra Sakho has remedied that and his hard work and general physical presence was enough to put opposition defenders under the kind of pressure they haven't had to face all season. 

Randolph also built on a sort of good start last week by performing well here in the face of much pressure. There were fine saves from Lingard and Ibrahimovic and best of all from Rashford when he was clean through. I'm still not entirely convinced by either of our keepers, and suspect that Adrian probably remains the better of the two, but the Irishman has waited a long time and seem some genuinely postal fuck ups by the Spaniard so he deserves his run. 

Curiously, our best part of the game was the last five minutes when we had a couple of decent looking breaks, and Ashley Fletcher nearly stole the points in the last minute but was denied by a fine De Gea save. Rather like the Spurs game last week, had we found Payet on one of those breaks we'd have been going home with the points and this column would need to acknowledge some green shoots of recovery. 

As it is...Avram Watch!

2010/11 (Worst West Ham team in living memory) after 13 games: W1 D6 L6 (9 points)
2016/17 (This lot) after 13 games: W3 D3 L7 (12 points). 

Relax guys. Everything is fine. 

4. The Winter Of Our Discontent

Unrelenting Avram hatred aside, there actually were some green shoots today, and indeed last week. One thorny issue, however, is Mark Noble and whether the captain should remain the automatic selection he has been for so long. Last week, Lanzini dropped deeper and was a key influence on the game as his neat passing helped us pass out of trouble, and he did enough defensively to keep Spurs at bay for 88 minutes before....sobs uncontrollably.

The problem is that with Noble needing to be accommodated, Lanzini was pushed further forward here and reverted to flitting ineffectually in and out of the game as he had done for most of the season. Man United probably aren't as good as Spurs and yet we struggled to create too much today until those last few minutes, and our front players were horribly isolated. Interestingly, I thought we actually sparked into life when Andre Ayew came on, which is handy given that he cost £20m.

What the broader point highlights, however, is the slightly one dimensional nature of some of our players. You need central midfielders to be able to break up play, and then transition you from deep on the pitch into forward areas from which to launch attacks. Noble does the latter, and Lanzini the former and thus we need both of them on the pitch to make those things happen. If you're Manchester United or Chelsea you just buy Pogba or Kante and get them to do both, but without that sort of financial muscle or an actual scouting network, we need two players to do the work that can be done in better teams by just one.

We're hardly unique there though, and must say I consider myself a Noble fan. He has been undeniably less effective this season, however, and it's worth examining why. Maybe his legs have just caught up with his hairstyle, which has been the same since he was 19 and he has actually transformed into the 45 year old man that he has looked like since about 2004. I do wonder if the bigger pitch at the London Stadium is having an effect as there is more real estate to cover and no centre forward to pass to, and that's a recipe for putting miles on the clock.

His discipline and determination is important in keeping our defensive shape but the reality is that we've still been crap at the back. It took Obiang's belated introduction to give us the required ability to regain the ball in central areas, and despite that we have a goal difference worryingly close to Sunderland's - and they're not even a professional football team. It's just Jermain Defoe plus the first ten paying customers to arrive.

Whatever is ailing Noble needs fixing soon. Winning the ball back is not much help if your use of it is then so slow that it can't allow the team to break. And if you review the highlights from this game you'll see that the late Ibrahimovic chance, ultimately snuffed out by Kouyate, came as a result of Noble taking a truly godawful free kick which he floated on to Valencia's chest and then had to watch helplessly as Collins decided the best way to deal with the resulting threat was to have some kind of seizure.

I don't know the answer to this problem, but the beating heart of our team is out of sync. One for Bilic to focus on. 

5. The Pearl

I've seen mixed reactions to Payet's performance today. I liked his industry and willingness to do some pretty decent defensive work, all the while shouldering the burden of playing for a team whose tactics whiteboard has one sole entry, simply saying "I dunno - give it to Payet".

Others seem to think he looked uninterested and shirked his duties, but I can't say I really saw that. Having the ball is an underrated aspect of defensive play, and there has been a season long trend of us giving away possession way too easily. Payet remains our best asset in this regard, added to the fact that he can put in crosses that lead to things like this.

At least one thing we all now know - Zlatan cannot defend

It was a bit odd that Mourinho dared to Zlatan there, but dare he did and Sakho capitalised brilliantly.

There is even a mad rumour going round today that Mourinho wants to buy Payet himself in January. There might be a germ of truth in this as United have only spent £400m on attacking players in the last year or two and still can't defend, but nothing they do is surprising anymore.

I'd sell if we can get Martial and Rashford back in the deal but I doubt that's likely. Still, any football executive not ringing up Manchester United and seeing if they'll do something stupid isn't doing their job properly.

6. Once There Was A War

Not to belabour the point, but take a look at our bench today and see if you can spot the common link between the outfield players:

Adrian, Nordtveit, Feghouli, Zaza, Ayew, Fletcher, Fernandes.

When you don't improve your first team at all in a £40m summer spending spree that's terrible business. And make no mistake, this was the worst shopping trip since John Terry's mum said to her mate "Don't worry - I'll take care of this". 

7. To A God Unknown

The absence of Winston Reid could have been damaging today, but our back three generally stood up pretty well except for the couple of times they channelled the lost spirit of Aston Villa.

That said, I think we may be seeing the decline phase of James Collins as a Premier League player. Ibrahimovic simply ran past him for the goal, and whilst there were a couple of typically heroic last ditch interventions, it wasn't a shock to see him then nearly scuttle the whole thing with a terrible late back pass, and it's fair to say that he may have been more successful than Pope Francis in getting East Londoners to pray this Sunday.

It's a shame that Reece Oxford is injured as he could probably have got some playing time this week, which is apparently a sticking point with his new contract. That said, picking up a poorly timed injury suggests an understanding of the Club's history that bodes well for him sticking around a while.

Collins, meanwhile, has been a great servant but with Kouyate, Reid and Ogbonna looking semi decent in the new formation, I don't expect him to play too much for us in the future. Like Noble, it's the glaring lack of pace that causes consternation.

8. The Grapes Of Wrath

No sooner does Diafra Sakho return to the team and provide us with our first goal from a forward all year than he injures himself and is out for two weeks, per David Gold.

Gold also tweeted that Andy Carroll wasn't risked yesterday and will instead be subject to a week of "high intensity training" ahead of the Arsenal game, which doesn't sound like it should be an issue for a guy who once injured himself getting off a barstool.

This means he'll be rushed back half fit for Arsenal, and thus increases the future risk of injury fairly substantially. It's really difficult to see why West Ham struggle so much with injuries.

But, returning briefly to Sakho, his (latest) injury is a killer as we had been so utterly awful in attack this year. Take a look at this:

This graphic is taken from Experimental361, a great website run by Ben Mayhew, who was gracious enough to allow me to use this chart, which highlights the truly pathetic state of our attacking threat. 

In fact, I haven't seen anything this tragic since someone at the BBC's flagship political programme Question Time searched through their email address book for a guest to help us make sense of Brexit, Trump, the rise of far right nationalism and the attendant economic uncertainty, and settled upon Huey from the Fun Lovin' Criminals. 

What Ben's graphic tell us, in broad terms, is how frequently our players are scoring, and how often we might expect them to be scoring based upon the Expected Goals value of their shots. This last concept may be alien to some, but it's a widely used statistic in the analytics community that looks at a huge range of historic data and then tries to quantify how likely a player is to score based upon how often a player in his position, taking that shot, has historically scored. I might be slightly off in that description as there are some moving parts, but that's essentially it. 

For Michail Antonio, he is scoring about 0.5/per game but his XG would suggest that he should have a rate of around 0.35/per game. So he is actually outperforming what we might expect from him. (It should be noted that Antonio is something of an analytical darling due to his tendency to perform exactly as we might expect with great frequency. And also possibly the Simpsons celebration, I don't know). What you should take from this is that Antonio is probably the real deal, and that playing him at right back is absolutely insane

Elsewhere though - it's a disaster. It's Mariah Carey's acting career. It's that time London decided to celebrate the Millennium by setting the River Thames on fire. It's Southern Rail. It's Eurovision.

We actually don't have any forwards who have either played enough minutes or taken enough shots to make this chart other than Zaza. It also probably highlights that we are not taking enough shots from decent areas which probably isn't too much of a surprise if you consider that Lanzini alone has twice tried to score with a Rabona from outside the area.

That's what makes Sakho getting injured again so frustrating. Now we'll be back to Zaza huffing and puffing, Ayew out of position and Fletcher, the boy being asked to do a mans job. It would be great to get Sakho back for Liverpool, but at this stage it's hard not to wonder about this back/hamstring injury he has and quite why the Club have yet to successfully fix it.

To put all of this in context, Toby Alderweireld is on the Spurs chart. Repeat after me; Our centre forwards are less threatening than Spurs centre backs.

9. Burning Bright

On the subject of Ashley Fletcher, I thought he looked alright yesterday. There has been a bit of a clamour for him to be playing more frequently, which might be more of a reflection of the performances of his fellow strikers than anything specific that he has done.

That said, if Zaza is now persona non grata due to his stupid transfer clause, and Ayew is clearly better suited to a support striker role, then it's possible he may be a stop gap until one of Carroll or Sakho are fit enough to play regularly.

I can't help but feel he might be better served by more regular game time in the Championship, but the sad fact is that we probably need him until the Club can overspend hugely on someone in January. 

10. Cup Of Gold

Wednesday sees us return to Manchester for yet another Cup meeting with the Red Devils. With our league position so precarious and our form improving, I wouldn't be tempted to risk anyone important. So no Payet, no Lanzini, and therefore I accept, no hope.

I know plenty of fans who have said to me that they would take relegation if we could win a cup. I've always found this false equivalency as this is a binary choice that doesn't exist, but if there comes a time when Cup games could potentially negatively impact on the league then the latter takes precedence in my eyes.

I know that honours are unforgettable and stay with you forever, but trust me - so do league trips to Rotherham.

Let's face it, our league status is non-negotiable given the stadium situation and the riches on offer for Premiership football. Liverpool and Arsenal will remain in the EFL Cup after Wednesday, so whatever chance we have can't exactly be characterised as more than "average". If this were a more open competition I could see us throwing a bit more at Wednesday but I'd rather play it safe and see how the reserves get on.

Those terrible summer signings were brought in for nights like this and we should live or die by that. The idea of Payet getting injured on Wednesday and missing any time is terrifying. Oh, and I'm sure you're all aware that Kouyate, Ayew, Feghouli and whatever remains of Sakho's body after medical science have picked him apart, are all off to the African Cup of Nations in January.

For all that, we bent but we did not break here, and that's important. We've been to Spurs and Man Utd, scored three times and trailed for a total of one minute. In some regards it's almost impossible to only get a point from that combination but here we are. This is the key part of our season, where we can push away from the bottom three and off up to the promised land of mid table mediocrity, or slide down with the dead men and prepare for a relegation fight.

So yes, I want us to prioritise Saturday over Wednesday, and I duly apologise to the dreamers amongst you. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tottenham Hotspur 3 - 2 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. Say No Go

Going to the cinema when you're married is a delicate business. You've got to at least make a nod towards compromise, but if you get too agreeable then there's a reasonable chance you'll end up watching a film with Katherine Heigl in it where absolutely nothing explodes.

Sadly, back in 2004 I made the mistake of suggesting to Mrs Shark that we go to watch the newly released Van Helsing. I think I'd been seduced by the fact it had the delectable Kate Beckinsale in it, and there were a couple of trailer friendly set pieces and thus it was that we ended up watching one of the worst things committed to film since someone once said to George Clooney "Yes mate, you'd be great as Batman".

There are no bad pictures of Kate Beckinsale. But this is the best.

Since then I've been carrying that particular monkey on my back for a dozen long years. Every new viewing suggestion has to be clearly weighed up against the threat that it might become the new Van Helsing and haunt me until my dying day by having a denouement featuring three CGI characters and a plot that was concocted during an acid trip. 

I also have to exercise similar restraint with 5.30pm Saturday football games. With three daughters anxious to watch Strictly, there's no room for error when commandeering the TV for oneself. It had better be worth it if you're going to play the Dad card, because you're going to be hearing about it forever.

This was not worth it.

2. 3 Feet High And Rising

So just how bad is it? Well, after 12 games our record reads W3 D2 L7 (11 points), putting us a point clear of Hull City who only have 8 professionals and are allowing three fans to play for them every week, and level with Crystal Palace, who are Crystal Palace. 

I'll offer up a quick comparison to our two relegation seasons and The Great Escape of 06/07:

2002/03 (Roeder) - P12 W3 D2 L7 (11 points)
2006/07 (Pardew) - P12 W3 D2 L7 (11 points)
2011/12 (Grant) - P12 W1 D5 L6 (8 points)

Big shout out to Avram then for comprehensively owning the "shittiest start ever" award. He actually wouldn't win his third game until Boxing Day, which was a heroically awful performance, although Bilic is nicely imitating Roeder by smuggling in a late 3-2 defeat at Spurs.

Of course, there isn't an awful lot of hope on the horizon. Our next three games, as everybody knows, are away to Man Utd, home to Arsenal and away to Liverpool. Without being too Spursy, this was our most winnable game of that run, and we somehow messed it up and it seems reasonable to assume that our record after our Merseyside trip will read P15 W3 D2 L10 (11 points). And that compares thusly:

2002/03 (Roeder) P15 W3 D3 L9 (12 points)
2006/07 (Pardew) P15 W3 D2 L10 (11 points)
2011/12 (Grant) P15 W2 D6 L7 (12 points)

So all hope is not lost, but if you're still labouring under the misapprehension that West Ham aren't in a relegation scrap then you should disabuse yourself of that notion. When you're nearly halfway through the season and behind Avram Grant it's safe to say that someone somewhere has fucked up royally. 

3. Dave Has A Problem...Seriously

Not to revisit those summer signings all over again, but they really are the gift that keeps on taking. HÃ¥vard Nordtveit is going to take a lot of blame for this defeat, which is remarkable considering he was only on for 8 minutes, but if you're going to turn up for work without your cerebrum then I suppose you always run the risk of that happening. 

He has pretty decent pedigree having started at Arsenal, then played 150 times for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga and the Champions League as well as turning out 29 times internationally for Norway. He is not a bad player, but he's been bought along with a few duffers, hasn't had a great start and has now conceded a last minute penalty in a big local derby. So far, so bad.

I'm sure that all of that was preying on his mind as he was brought on and it was probably a determination to make a positive impact that led him to make such a brainless challenge on Heung Min Son and invite the Korean to take a tumble. It was all very reminiscent of Alex Song a couple of years ago - although Harry Kane dived then - when an experienced player did something brainless and cost us dearly. 

The summer shopping spree from hell also reared it's head a few minutes earlier when Simone Zaza had a great chance to play in Dimitri Payet during a three on one breakaway with the score still at 2-1. Sadly he went full Transport for London on the pass, delayed it for no obvious reason and pushed Payet wide. He still actually had a chance to make an impact when the ball was laid back to him, but he hit a powderpuff shot straight at Lloris and the chance was lost. 

As I've written previously I expect all the loan signings to be moved on in January, at which point David Sullivan is going to do something batshit crazy because there is no way he's going to stand idly by and let the players fuck it up all on their own.

4. Keepin' The Faith

The especially galling thing about this result is that for 88 minutes we'd played pretty well. I can't say that we'd been brilliant, but Spurs are very decent at home, and it's clear that we're playing with a few round pegs in pentagon shaped holes. 

One obvious plus was Manuel Lanzini, who dropped deep into Noble's position and was outstanding. His quick feet and slick passing was especially helpful in bypassing the incessant Spurs pressing game, and he combined well with Obiang to break up play regularly. 

We sat men behind the ball here and allowed Spurs to have possession, which they largely squandered. Vincent Janssen was heavily pursued by West Ham in the summer, which really should have been a warning to Spurs but they bought him anyway, and he duly doesn't look up to much. With he and Kane anonymous, there wasn't much to fear and we snatched a goal when Antonio popped up like an out of position salmon at a corner and gave us a lead that we sort of deserved. 

Spurs improved after half time and they got their equaliser when Angelo Ogbonna decided to go for a leisurely evening stroll on the edge of his box, lost possession and then promptly went to sleep. 

Vincent Janssen controls the ball for the Spurs opener

Antonio then sold himself like an ex Prime Minister in allowing Rose to run past him and cross for Janssen, who caught it, span it on the end of his finger, and took the three point attempt. Mike Dean saw no issue with this, and despite Randolph making an excellent save, the ball rebounded fortuitously to Harry Winks who tapped in the rebound.

After that it didn't look promising, but we picked up a penalty when Janssen (him again) put both arms around Reid at a corner and then looked shocked, shocked I tell you when Dean pointed to the spot. Lanzini continued his Noble impression by duly tucking it away and with that everything went just swimmingly until it didn't. 

I'll be interested to see if Noble gets his place back next week. Our central midfield was a strength today, and there's not much doubt that Lanzini moves the ball quicker than the skipper, without offering the same ability to win it back. I suspect that Andre Ayew might be jettisoned as I still have no idea what position he's supposed to be playing, which is pretty good going for our record signing.

5. The Art Of Getting Jumped

Of all the bad habits to pick up, conceding late goals to Spurs seems to be a fairly sub optimal one. Pochettino has actually been outwitted a couple of times against us in the past - once when Pep Guardiola's tactical inspiration Sam Allardyce played with no strikers and beat him 3-0, and then more recently last season when Bilic deployed a 3-5-2 at Upton Park and ended their title hopes. 

I'm not sure if he was expecting us to abandon the 3-4-3 variant here, but Spurs didn't really get to grips with the game until after their equaliser, which contained more than a hint of good luck. Thereafter, they were clearly the ascendant side but our defending was resilient enough to keep them out until the worst 160 seconds I've experienced since someone agreed to let Pierce Brosnan sing solo during Mamma Mia!.

What didn't help was Bilic taking off Dimiti Payet with 5 minutes to go. Payet was our only outlet at that point, as Zaza was holding it up about as well as an imaginary scaffold, and once he was gone there was nothing to stop Spurs bombing on freely. I wasn't averse to solidifying things with another defensive player but surely Lanzini made the most sense in that situation. 

I wouldn't say we lost because we stopped trying to win, but inviting any team to spend the last ten minutes in your half with no respite doesn't seem like a great idea to me. 

He probably supports Spurs too, the smug prick.

6. All Good?

"It ain't all good, and that's the truth
Things ain't going like you think they should"
- De La Soul "All Good"

Talking of Payet, I may be overreacting wildly, but I can't help feeling this is the beginning of the end. They won't let him go in January - not even West Ham would be that bonkers - but if this season ends up as expected with a relegation struggle and a narrow escape, then that won't be enough to keep him. Sullivan can talk all he wants (and let's face it - he wants to talk) but he didn't surround him with good enough players and thus he'll demand the opportunity to play on the platform his skills (and agent) demand. 

This leaves us with the terrifying prospect of no Payet and David Sullivan on a £50m pound spending spree. If we had a proper scouting network in place we might dream of Julian Draxler or Iker Muniain or Yannick Carrasco in replacement, but instead it will be whoever the agent of the week brings in, which will presumably lead to us wasting it all on Wesley Sneijder. 

Anyway, enjoy him while you can. That's all I'm saying. 

7. Potholes In My Lawn

Not to continue to state the eye bleedingly obvious, but the lack of a right back is destroying us. Whilst Nordtveit is taking all the blame it shouldn't be ignored that the first and second Spurs goals came as a result of defensive lapses on our right side. I am past blaming Antonio - he's not a defensive player and to continue to shoehorn him into the side there is a dereliction of duty by all concerned. 

Alvaro Arbeloa is apparently on his way out having fallen out with Bilic, which is becoming a bit of a recurring theme. I have no issue with a bit of discipline but between Amalfitano, Sakho and Arbeloa there seems to be a bit of a pattern. 

I also wonder, with no basis for this other than my own opinion, whether that ongoing investigation into Caroll and Randolph being on the piss in Shoreditch at 5am is a factor here too. You'll remember that the Club were determined to get to the bottom of that and then apparently appointed Sir John Chilcott to lead the inquiry as we've heard nothing since. 

I doubt it's a great look when some lads can get pissed without it being career limiting, and others have to face up to being transferred to West Brom. As I say, all guesswork, but it doesn't feel quite right.

A little bit like having to consistently play Michail Antonio as a wing back. 

8. Vocabulary Spills

Getting angry about Man of the Match awards is a monumental waste of time. It was slightly bizarre though, even by the standards of modern journalism, that Owen Hargreaves gave the award to Harry Kane, whilst admitting in the same breath that Winston Reid was the best player on the pitch. Stranger still was that Kane wasn't even the best player named Harry on his own side, as Harry Winks turned in an irritatingly decent performance to highlight once again the paucity of young talent being developed at West Ham currently. 

Reid, was exceptional however, and after watching the game and reading every match report I can get my hands on I'm still none the wiser as to why he was sent off. 

Kane, meanwhile, at least had the good grace to be as peripheral as he is when he plays for England before popping up with a tap in and a penalty and taking home the champagne. Whilst I admire their dedication to participating in social media trends, I just feel our defence could have picked a better time than the 88th minute of a London derby before joining in with the Mannequin challenge.

9. Stakes Is High

I was pretty surprised to see Darren Randolph get the nod ahead of Adrian, but with the latter having followed the centuries old West Ham tradition of losing his form as soon as he got called up by the national team, I guess it wasn't too shocking. 

He has a tough run of games now in which to cement his place, although some may argue he's likely to get plenty of opportunity to show off his skills. We have kept just three clean sheets all season and have won each of those games. We have yet to pick up a win in any league game where we have conceded a goal. 

Stick with me, I've got an idea, it's on the tip of my tongue. 

10. Change In Speak

Hate is a strong word. 

Nobody comes here to listen to my politics so I don't generally indulge that. I average about 800 visitors for each post and possibly a few multiples of that when the column is carried at KUMB. So I'm not kidding myself that I speak for anyone other than myself, or that I'm speaking to anything other than a tiny majority of West Ham fans. 

I have no doubt that some of you think me self important, and you'd be quite right. I write a column that no one pays me for, and then ask people I don't know to read it. You'd have to have a certain level of self importance to do that, especially in an age when people are not even remotely reluctant to tell you they think your writing is "fucking awful". 

But I'm going to say this anyway. A lot of West Ham fans have convinced themselves that they hate Spurs fans. It might be true for some, but I suspect it's not really. I have some close friends who are Spurs fans and we all accept the enmity and have generally lapsed into not ever talking about the football at all. I certainly don't hate them or anyone else who supports them. It's like these things that I say I hate but I am really just mildly irritated by:

- people who have long, inane, wittering phone conversations on quiet 7.30am trains
- people who queue for planes at the gate an hour before departure time
- people who get to Underground ticket barriers and then begin the search for their Oyster cards
(I am a dream to travel with, as you can see)
- ads before songs on YouTube
- Robbie Williams
- Anton du Beke
- Robbie Williams performing on Strictly whilst Anton du Beke dances; and so on.....

And so even though Spurs fans are annoying when they win, and the whole "Spammers Cup Final" thing is irritating it's worth remembering that you're not 14, and it's supposed to be irritating because that's what football fans do. 

Hate is a strong word.

If you really feel you want to respond to that, why not just point out that Spurs could have gone top of the league for the first time in March since 1964 when they visited the Boleyn earlier this year. Not just their Cup Final, but their biggest domestic game in 50 years and they shat themselves and didn't manage even an attempt on goal in the first half. We deservedly won and ended their league title hopes. 

Why mention this?

Because at no point did that require the use of the word "Yid", "Yiddo", "Jew", "Fucking Jew" or a hissing sound. 

This was the first game we've played at White Hart Lane in 3 years where there haven't been media reports about our fans signing anti-Semitic songs. I sort of feel like saying thank you to the fans that went, except that not singing Nazi songs shouldn't really be considered a success. 

Post match Twitter, by contrast, was awful with plenty of West Ham fans seemingly throwing around anti-Semitic barbs with furious abandon and then retreating behind the mealy mouthed "it's just banter" excuse because yeah, wasn't Dachau funny. LOL. Megabantz. I wonder if these people have ever considered even briefly what it must be like to be a Jewish West Ham fan and have to stand next to people hissing. That's rhetorical. They haven't. 

Twitter isn't real life, and I am well aware that a tiny number of twats posting anonymously on a social media site doesn't mean a great deal, but you know it's not like we don't have previous for this. 

I'm not even sure I really have an acceptable pay off to this point other than to say we should all be aiming to eradicate this bullshit completely. Call them out on social media, block them from our forums, report them to the Police. Anti semitism is a disgrace. 

I've written and deleted and then re-written this a couple of times. No one comes here for this, I know, and people being abhorrent on Twitter isn't really news but this is a "thing" that people now associate with our club. I wondered if any other club had a similar label and stuck in "Sunderland anti Semitism" as a test and the only thing that came up was loads of articles calling Paolo di Canio a Fascist. So, yeah, it's a bit of a West Ham thing. 

It's only football, folks. 

Hate is a strong word. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

West Ham And The Art Of The Deal

1. Helpless

January is nearly upon us, and with it comes the impending sense of dread that West Ham are about to do something stupid. And also that with a Trump presidency we might not make the end of January, but mostly that we might be about to spend £20m on Cesc Fabregas.

No, no, I'm sure everything is going to be just fine

You see, since the implementation of the January transfer window, and the takeover of West Ham by David(s) Sullivan and Gold, we have not been terribly good in the transfer market post Christmas. In fact, you could argue that our general transfer activity has been a bit iffy, with all sorts of money poured away on new signings of vastly varying success, and barely anything recouped through transfer sales. 

Now some might argue that not selling players is a good thing. We all remember the West Ham of Terry Brown where we seemed to do little else other than sell on good players for profit, while investing small fractions of that money back into the team. 

Sullivan and Gold have stopped that. When was the last time a first team player left and you were sad about it? I'd wager if such a sale occurred, it was during the last season or two when we have finally started to get some proper fees for players. 

It is also true, however, that part of the reason we stopped being a selling club is because for a while there, we had nobody worth selling. And that's not a great position to be in either. If you look at the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and, most relevantly, Southampton, a huge part of their improvement has come as a result of player sales generating income to put back into the team. That path hasn't been open to us because we haven't had the same class of players to sell. 

2. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

So before the world goes full "Walking Dead" and we all start trading cigarettes for food as Donald tries out his nukes, I decided to take a look back at our transfer activity under Messrs Sullivan and Gold since their arrival at West Ham in January 2010.

At the time of the takeover, the Club was being run by Scott Duxbury and having sold off everything of any value and borrowed lots of money from Wonga and Ocean Finance and held a cake sale, we just about had enough money to keep the electricity on.

Scott Duxbury. Just like a regular human being

But the immediately pressing matter was that the team were floundering under Gianfranco Zola, lay in 16th and had played Frank Nouble alone up front in the game immediately prior to the takeover. Next time we bemoan our lack of striking options, it might be worth remembering that at least we're not in that particular Kansas anymore. 

With only a few days left of the transfer window, Sullivan announced that he was desperately trying to land Ruud van Nistelrooy to spearhead our relegation fight. Sadly, he fell just short and signed Mido and Benni McCarthy instead, but it was a nice insight into the "talk first, think later" mindset of the new owners.

So I decided to put together a breakdown of our arrivals over the past seven years, and classified them as a "Hit", "Miss" or "Maybe". This is entirely arbitrary, and is nothing more scientific than my opinion on the value of that particular signing. I tried to take into account their initial cost price, any resale value and actual performance, but most of it is just me giving a gut reaction because you wouldn't want me to put too much effort in to this, I know. To clarify, those shown as "Maybe" are players who I couldn't make my mind up about either way.

You are probably going to disagree with lots of the classifications, but in some respects that doesn't really matter as there are certain things going on which are pretty interesting either way. For instance:

Firstly, I found 87 major transfers into the Club during that time, of players whom I considered significant. Essentially, this was determined by whether the player was a first team squad member who ever actually pulled on a shirt. So Wellington Paulista and Paul McCallum don't make it but Emmanuel Pogatetz does. The number of actual incoming players was up over a hundred, but we make so many insignificant additions of young players that it would have become impossible to track them all.

Secondly, we have only sold 9 players at a profit in that time;

Zavon Hines (£255k profit)
Junior Stanislas (£1.1m profit)
Nicky Maynard (£800k profit)
Rob Hall (£640k profit)
Mohamed Diame (£3.5m profit)
Stewart Downing (£1.7m profit)
Mauro Zarate (£1.6m profit)
Nikica Jelavic (£1.1m profit)
James Tomkins (£10m profit)

Four of the players are youth team graduates, leaving just five that we have bought and then sold on for a profit. The short termism of our transfer policy is laid bare here, albeit there is also a heavy sense of pragmatism that shines through as we look year on year. We have noticeably taken a horses for courses policy, particularly in our post relegation season, which is how you end up with Joey O'Brien and Dimitri Payet in the same team, I suppose.

And lastly, we have also utilised the loan system heavily during Sullivan's reign, to no great effect. Of the 27 loans we've brought in, by my reckoning only the following 6 could be deemed "hits" and even then it's a bit dicey:

Ilan (10/11)
George McCartney (11/12)
Carl Jenkinson (14/15)
Alex Song (14/15)
Victor Moses (15/16)
Manuel Lanzini (15/16)

An awful lot of work has gone into this futility.

3. Harvest - 2009/10

So what exactly happened in January 2010? Well, Ilan scored 4 vital goals to keep us up, whilst Benni McCarthy and Mido put together the basic idea for their hit cable TV show "Man vs Food", whilst eating a KFC family bucket, presumably. So he's a "Hit" and they're a "Miss" and now you get the general gist of it.

2009/10January onwards
InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Benni McCarthyBlackburnJan-10£2.2m2 (9)0Miss
MidoMiddlesbroughJan-10Loan5 (4)0Miss
IlanSt EtienneJan-10Loan6 (5)4Hit

Ilan is actually a rarity as he is a January signing that contributed something. As you'll see when we go through the next few windows, getting players in during January is mostly the same as buying quinoa. Everyone's doing it, you feel like you should be doing it, so you do it. And it serves absolutely no purpose.

4. After The Goldrush - 2010/11

With relegation avoided, Sullivan and Gold decided to dispense with Gianfranco Zola and replace him with Avram Grant. This worked roughly about as well as if they'd replaced the Head Physio with a washing machine.

Sullivan, having loudly decried the need for a Director of Football, announced that he would spearhead recruitment using his extensive network of agents called Barry Silkman and by purchasing players who played well at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. A foolproof plan, I'm sure we can all agree.

His first signing was Thomas Hitzlsperger, the classy German midfielder who promptly got injured before the season started and didn't play until January because of course he fucking did. He is rated as a "Maybe" below but there is little doubt in my mind that had he stayed fit he would have been an excellent buy. Elsewhere, it was mostly crap, and the one that turned out to be good - Winston Reid - wasn't actually useful until two seasons later.

By January, Grant was doing so well that the chairmen tried to replace him with Martin O'Neill but they fucked that up too and so Avram had to plough a lonely furrow right the way through until relegation, ultimately being fired in a kit room in Wigan. Almost like the end of a Richard Curtis movie.

InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Thomas HitzlspergerLazioJun-10Free112Maybe
Pablo BarreraPumas (Mex)Jul-10£4m6 (9)0Miss
Frederic PiquionneLyonJul-10£1m34 (20)8Maybe
Winston ReidMidtjyllandAug-10£3.5m146 (10)8Hit
Lars JacobsenBlackburnAug-10Free22 (2)0Maybe
Tal Ben HaimPortsmouthAug-10Loan80Miss
Victor ObinnaInter MilanAug-10Loan17 (8)3Miss
Gary O'NeilMiddlesbroughJan-11£2.5m33 (15)3Hit
Demba BaHoffenheim Jan-11£650k10 (2)7Hit
Wayne BridgeManchester CityJan-11Loan150Miss
Robbie KeaneSpursJan-11Loan5 (4)2Miss

January actually wasn't bad, by our standards, as Sullivan rustled up Demba Ba and Gary O'Neil who both worked out in different ways. Ba scored lots of goals, but due to the weird nature of his deal was able to leave on a free at the end of the season. O'Neil eventually hung around for a couple of seasons and was a reasonable buy at that price. Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge were the January loanees, and if this article teaches you anything, let it be this - loan signings are generally a waste of time and in particular, loan signings in January should be illegal.

Not very good, stunningly.

5. Southern Man - 2011/12

By the time the 2011/12 season rolled around, we were into Sam Allardyce country. Only now was it possible to see someone other than Sullivan calling the shots in the transfer market as a plethora of experienced heads arrived.

I don't know how many pints of wine it took, but between them Allardyce and Sullivan assembled a fairly cheap, but able, squad who achieved promotion at the first time of asking.

The best buy was certainly Kevin Nolan, who captained the team and helped referees up and down the land understand exactly what they were getting wrong each week. Other gems included Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Taylor and Joey O'Brien, who all ended up as useful parts in the Premier League as well.

Elsewhere, David Bentley and Henri Lansbury arrived from North London and were both about as useful as a vote for Jill Stein. Lansbury's main contribution was to go in goal during a game at Blackpool, which duly caught Big Sam's attention as he abandoned having a sub goalkeeper for much of the rest of the year, deciding he could rely on Lansbury instead.

This wasn't even close to being the maddest thing that anybody at the Club did, however, as Ravel Morrison arrived during January and set about making Gazza look like Michael Owen.

InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Abdoulaye FayeStokeJun-11Free25 (4)0Hit
Kevin NolanNewcastleJun-11£3m130 (11)30Hit
Matthew TaylorBoltonJul-11£2.2m56 (20)2Hit
John CarewAston VillaAug-11Free7 (12)2Miss
Sam BaldockMK DonsAug-11£2.5m10 (13) 5Miss
Papa Bouba DiopAEK AthensAug-11£250k14 (2)1Maybe
Guy DemelHamburgAug-11Free68 (8)1Hit
Joey O'BrienBoltonAug-11Free78 (13)3Hit
George McCartneySunderlandAug-11Loan36 (2)1Hit
Henri LansburyArsenalAug-11Loan13 (9)1Miss
David BentleySpursAug-11Loan2 (3)0Miss
Ricardo Vaz TeBarnsleyJan-12£510k37 (14)15Hit
Nicky MaynardBristol CityJan-12£1.7m9 (5)2Miss
Ravel MorrisonMan UtdJan-12£650k12 (6)3Miss

This season was also noticeable as it marked the first time we sold any players for a profit under Sullivan and Gold. Academy graduates Zavon Hines and Junior Stanislas were sent to Burnley, possibly as punishment, for a combined £1.4m.

That this was the first revenue generating sale for the new owners perhaps rather highlighted the crappiness of the squad they inherited. That said, they even sold England international and Player of the Year, Scott Parker, for a loss to Spurs, so it could also be that they're just not very good at negotiating.

6. Don't Let It Bring You Down - 2012/13

With promotion came a boatload more cash to spend, and it's here that we begin to see Sullivan's predilection for an expensive loan signing. In came Andy Carroll with a hefty loan fee, and by December he was getting to know all of our medical staff pretty well as he was ruled out for two months with a significant knee injury.

Elsewhere, Matt Jarvis arrived having been identified as being better with crosses than Jesus, and thus thoroughly appealing to Allardyce's Carroll-led attack. Sadly, it turned out that Jarvis wasn't actually adept at crossing the ball for anyone, and after a couple of fairly futile seasons he was packed of to Norwich. We spent £8m on him and received just £2.5m when he left, despite Norwich spending £9m on Stephen Naismith in the same transfer window.

I mean, fucking hell.

InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Jussi JaaskelainenBoltonJun-12Free56 (1)0Hit
Mohamed DiameWiganJun-12Free60 (11)7Hit
George McCartneySunderlandJul-12Free29 (5)0Hit
Modibo MaigaSochauxJul-12£5.1m13 (21)4Miss
Raphael SpiegelGrasshoppersJul-12£340k00Miss
James CollinsAston VillaJul-12£2.7m95 (11)2Hit
Alou DiarraMarseilleAug-12£2.1m2 (4)0Miss
Andy CarrollLiverpoolAug-12Loan22 (2)7Maybe
Matt JarvisWolvesAug-12£8m56 (22)4Miss
Yossi BenayounChelseaAug-12Loan4 (2)0Miss
Joe ColeLiverpoolJan-13Free13 (18)5Miss
Emmanuel PogatetzWolfsburgJan-13Loan1 (5)0Miss
Marouane ChamakhArsenalJan-13Loan2 (1)0Miss

Where we did do well in this return season to the Premier League was to pick up experienced free transfers who would serve the team well for the next couple of years. Jussi Jaaskelainen was steady in goal despite being 56 years old, and Mo Diame and George McCartney were very decent players to tide us over until we were an established top flight team again, and therefore had enough TV money to piss up the wall signing the likes of Nikica Jelavic for a laugh.

There was also a very significant deal here in January, as prodigal son Joe Cole returned home and thrillingly led us to a pulsating 2-2 draw against Man Utd in the FA Cup on his debut. Sadly, he succumbed to injury and he signalled his intention to give up playing professionally by moving to Aston Villa in 2015.

Still, with Premier League status secured, and the Olympic Stadium granted to us in March 2013, the stage seemed set for us to make a huge splash in the summer as we strengthened for our brave new future.

7. Fuckin' Up - 2013/14

And then reality set in.

The summer of 2013/14 saw quite possibly the worst transfer performance ever conducted by a professional football team, and I'm saying that with full recollection of that time Graeme Souness was manager of Southampton and got conned into signing a bloke pretending to be George Weah's cousin.

InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Razvan RatShakhtar DonetskMay-13Free11 (4)0Miss
AdrianReal BetisJun-13Free1010Hit
Andy CarrollLiverpoolJun-13£15m38 (19)16Miss
Stewart DowningLiverpoolAug-13£5m66 (3)3Hit
Mladen PetricFulhamSep-13Free0 (3)0Miss
Carlton ColeFFSOct-13Free17 (32)8Maybe
Marco Borriello RomaJan-14Loan0 (2)0Miss
Roger Johnson WolvesJan-14Loan2 (2)0Miss
Antonio NocerinoAC MilanJan-14Loan2 (8)0Miss
Pablo ArmeroSSC NapoliJan-14Loan3 (2)0Miss

Romania captain Razvan Rat arrived, and was gone by January, maybe due to vexing Allardyce by insisting on wearing the number 8 shirt despite playing at left back. Carroll joined permanently for £15m and promptly got injured again during the signing of the contract and wouldn't play again until January, in the process demonstrating a hitherto hidden understanding of what happens to West Ham record signings.

Adrian and Stewart Downing were both successful signings, although the former wouldn't establish himself until the following season when Jaaskelainen's two year long wait on the NHS for a hip replacement finally came to an end.

January was notable for being a complete waste of time, even by our standards. Sullivan brought in three players from Italy, suggesting that his extensive scouting network now reached as far as watching Rai Uno, and also Roger "The Relegator" Johnson, who performed memorably as we lost 6-0 at Man City in a not at all embarrassing League Cup semi final defeat.

Carlton Cole also left and then re-signed within a three month span because why the fuck not - we'd only just spent £15m on a striker. Let's face it, we'll probably sign him again next month.

Coming to an Olympic Stadium near you. January 2017

8. Transformer Man - 2014/15

Even David Sullivan, despite not requiring the services of a Director of Football or indeed anyone knowing anything about the game, felt that this was a fairly poor return for his investment. As a result of this remarkable display of self awareness, Tony Henry arrived at the Club as Head of Recruitment, and lo and behold if things didn't suddenly perk up for the 2014/15 season.

The Sullivan staples were still there. Two unconvincing South Americans arrived, in the form of Mauro Zarate and Enner Valencia, although the latter would at least prove his innate suitability for playing for West Ham by getting involved in a low speed vehicle chase away from an Ecuadorian national match relating to unpaid child support. He is currently on loan to Everton, where his main job is to presumably injure Romelu Lukaku in training, and he didn't even manage that.

InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Mauro Zarate Velez SarsfieldMay-14Free14 (8)5Miss
Cheikou KouyateAnderlechtJun-14£7m75 (1)9Hit
Aaron CresswellIpswichJul-14£4m784Hit
Diego Poyet CharltonJul-14Free1 (2)0Miss
Enner ValenciaPachucaJul-14£12.75m38 (16)8Miss
Alex SongBarcelonaJul-14Loan25 (3)0Hit
Carl JenkinsonArsenalJul-14Loan29 (3)0Hit
Diafra SakhoMetzAug-14£4.25m38 (6)15Hit
Morgan AmalfitanoMarseilleSep-14£1m14 (10)3Maybe
Doneil Henry FC TorontoJan-15£1.75m00Miss
NeneAl GharafaFeb-15Free0 (8)0Miss

But elsewhere, we were suddenly finding success, and not just with free transfers. Aaron Cresswell and Cheikou Kouyate were not only good additions, but they actually have a resale value too. Diafra Sakho was an under the radar Sullivan signing who hit big initially, before falling out with everyone, driving his car into a wall in Hornchurch and then sustaining the longest running back injury since Dolly Parton. Which is a fairly standard night out in Hornchurch, but not ideal for Premier League strikers.

He was actually due to be sold to West Brom for £16m, which would have marked the biggest sale of the Sullivan era, but wasn't deemed fit enough by Tony Pulis who probably reasoned that a bad back wouldn't be helped by playing for a team who only ever put it in the air.

Alex Song and Carl Jenkinson were both excellent loan signings, although interestingly both were hopeless when they returned the following season. Jenkinson went back to Arsenal with a serious knee injury sustained during the worst twelve minute performance in history, and Song gradually disappeared from view as rumours circulated that he was a malign influence on the impressionable Sakho. Although, I'm not sure I believe a man with this kind of sartorial elegance could really be a bad influence on anyone.

I don't care what you think. I like it

Doneil Henry and Nene also arrived in the most pointless pair of January deals ever. And just consider the competition.

There is a theme here.

9. Like A Hurricane - 2015/16

Despite being in the top four at Christmas 2014, we had nosedived like post Brexit sterling, and Sam Allardyce was duly ushered into the footballing afterlife commonly known as "Sunderland". After a summer of being told to be careful what we wished for, we all wished really hard for some decent signings and a good manager, and were rewarded with Dimitri Payet and Slaven Bilic.

These two, augmented by fine support signings like Angelo Ogbonna, Michail Antonio and Pedro Obiang, led the team up the league and into the promised land of Champions League contention. We ultimately fell short, but there was no doubt that this was a huge step forward in our recruitment process. Even those signings that didn't work were not terribly problematic as Jelavic was sold to a Chinese team for a profit, and Sam Byram may yet prove to be a valuable addition if we can only convince him he doesn't still play for Leeds.

InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Darren RandolphBirminghamMay-15Free60Hit
Dimitri PayetMarseilleJun-15£12.75m37 (2)10Hit
Stephen HendrieHamilton AcademicalsJun-15£1m00Miss
Pedro ObiangSampdoriaJul-15£5.1m16 (14)0Hit
Angelo OgbonnaJuventusJul-15£9.35m35 (1)0Hit
Carl JenkinsonArsenalJul-15Loan13 (7)2Miss
Alex SongBarcelonaAug-15Loan8 (4)0Miss
Manuel LanziniAl -JaziraAug-15Loan23 (3)6Hit
Victor MosesChelseaAug-15Loan13 (8)1Hit
Nikica JelavicHullSep-15£3.5m1 (12)1Miss
Michail AntonioNottingham ForestSep-15£8m34 (3)13Hit
Sam Byram LeedsJan-15£4m5 (4)0Maybe
Emmanuel EmenikeFenerbahceJan-15Loan5 (8)0Miss

Emmanuel Emenike arrived in January and, shockingly, was terrible. Bear this in mind for the inevitable panic buying this time around.

A. There. Is. Here. Theme.

10. Goin' Back - 2016/17

And suddenly, as swiftly as we were good at transfers, we just as quickly became not good. It is perhaps worth pointing out that the slow devaluation of the Pound against the Euro didn't help, but we were still routinely showing up in global financial leagues as being roughly on par with Inter Milan - a situation that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

We had used our TV money wisely in 2015/16 but following it up seems to have proved beyond us. I have written here plenty of times about this seasons efforts, but having announced to the world that we were going to spend "a lot" of money on a striker, we were then totally amazed to find that the likes of Lyon and AC Milan wanted plenty of wedge for Alexandre Lacazette and Carlos Bacca respectively.

With no Champions League football to offer, we weren't likely to attract those types of player cheaply, and we compounded that error by choosing to strengthen the squad rather than the first team. By going for understudies instead of replacements we set ourselves up nicely for a Europa League run that never came, and now a have a squad full of players who aren't good enough to break into a team that was at one stage 4-0 down to West Brom.


InFrom DateCostGamesGoalsOutcome
Sofiane FeghouliValenciaJun-15Free0 (5)0Maybe
Manuel LanziniAl-JaziraJul-15£10.2m7 (2)2Hit
Havard NordtveitBorussia M'gladbachJul-15Free4 (1)0Maybe
Ashley FletcherMan UtdJul-15Free1 (6)0Hit
Antonio MartinezValenciaJul-15£2.4m00Maybe
Gokhan ToreBesiktasJul-15Loan3 (2)0Miss
Arthur MasuakuOlympiacosAug-15£6m50Maybe
Andre AyewSwanseaAug-15£20.5m2 (1)0Maybe
Edimilson FernandesFC SionAug-15£5.5m2 (3)0Hit
Alvaro ArbeloaReal MadridAug-15Free1 (1)0Maybe
Jonathan CalleriDeportivo MaldonadoAug-15Loan0 (6)0Miss
Simone ZazaJuventusAug-15Loan5 (2)0Miss

It is, of course, way too early to write anybody off as a failure but Zaza, Calleri and Tore commanded around €10m in loan fees between them and haven't even achieved broken clock status. Zaza will be gone shortly because his deal means another couple of starts triggers an automatic buy clause at €20m, and you can bet your life that Sullivan wants to spend that money on a surer bet than the Italian.

Tore and Calleri equally look out of their depth, and I'm labelling them both as "misses" because so far they've both actually managed to look worse than Emmanuel Emenike which I didn't think was possible.

Andre Ayew at £20m still looks like an insane purchase to me, but I guess we have to accept that £20m might well be the new £7m, as evidenced by the fact that Man Utd have spent £30m on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, just so he can keep Jose Mourinho company by playing Hide and Seek with him in a Manchester hotel. 

I like the look of Fletcher and Fernandes, both of whom could already generate a profit if we were so inclined, and of all the names listed above it is the young Swiss who I think will go on to be our most significant signing. 

But what of January? We will have money to spend. For all that £45m looks a lot, we received £10m from Palace for James Tomkins in mitigation, and there is the unspent £20m that was budgeted for Zaza. 

Sullivan has previously spoken about the fact that there is little value available in January but given that we are liked to be rooted in the bottom three come December he will be under huge pressure to spend. Imagine that stadium half empty in the Championship. 

The names linked are frankly terrifying. Fabregas, Ivanovic and even Daniel Sturridge have been mentioned all of whom fit the bill as being either too old, in decline, too injured or having a goal celebration that no human being can stomach. 

This. Fucking. Celebration. 

More encouraging is the link to Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi, who has somehow managed to fall out with the Inter fans as a result of comments written in his autobiography. I feel I should point out that Mauro Icardi is 23 years old. 

So, they'll get someone. Maybe they'll get Giroud, or Icardi, or Gabbiadini or someone totally off the wall that we haven't even thought about. And I am fairly concerned that it will cost a fortune.

Paul Walker of KUMB recently calculated that each goal we have purchased through transfer dealings has cost us around £500,000. If you think of the sums involved in football these days that isn't a bad price to pay but I doubt we'll be getting that sort of value in January.

Sullivan will doubtless look for loans again which has so far proven to be an almost complete waste of time. Nobody is loaning out a player in January unless he's injured, fallen out of form or favour or is a fat waste of space (See: Mido). A better approach might be to evaluate how they got it so wrong this summer and try to fix it next year. 

The thorny problem that hangs over all of this is Dimiti Payet. At 29 he doesn't want to hang around and wait for the Club to surround him with players at his level. That's another reason why this years regression is so heartbreaking - we are wasting Payet's peak. 

Taking Southampton as a comparison, given that we were promoted together, it is telling that they have generated way more in transfer fees than us. They have sold Lallana, Lovren, Schneiderlin, Mane, Pelle and Lambert all for significant sums and just continued to replace them with no fuss at all. 

That business model doesn't look hugely sustainable but with a good youth system and shrewd scouting it's worked incredibly well for them. I don't want us to be a selling club but there's no doubt that if you have to sell then having players worth those types of fee makes the pain a lot easier to bear.

That said, if we come to sell Payet, hold on to your hats folks. Look at those transfer dealings above and have a think about whether you think we would be able to adequately replace him? Does lightning really strike twice?

The art of the deal seems to only work one way at West Ham. Buy high, sell low. So don't be surprised if they do something stupid in January.

If only they were all like him

My thoughts on our transfer activity here - please feel free to let me know where I've gone wrong in the comments.

West Ham since January 2010

Incoming Transfers - 87

Hit - 32 (37%)
Miss - 41 (47%)
Maybe - 14 (16%)

Best Purchases

1. Dimitri Payet - £12.75m (2015/16)
2. Aaron Cresswell - £4m (2014/15)
3. Winston Reid - £3.5m (2010/11)
4. Cheikou Kouyate - £7m (2014/15
5. Kevin Nolan - £3m (2011/12)

 Worst Purchases

1. Andy Carroll - £15m (2013/14)
2. Enner Valencia - £12.75m (2014/15)
3. Modibo Maiga - £5.1m (2012/13)
4. Matt Jarvis - £8m (2012/13)
5. Pablo Barrera - £4m (2010/11)

Left on a Free

1. Kieron Dyer (£10.2m loss)
2. Matthew Upson (£10.7m loss)
3. Luis Boa Morte (£5.7m loss)
4. Julien Faubert (£7.5m loss)
5. Demba Ba (£650k loss)

*All transfer figures taken from www.soccerbase.com or www.transfermarkt.com (Highest used in cases where there are duplicates. 

** Please note some figures look high, but this may be due to add ons or exchange rate movements

*** All performance statistics accurate as of 14.11.2016