Until a few weeks ago, West Ham were seen to be standing still. They’d struck out on a few transfer targets and with Slaven Bilic under pressure to take the Hammers up the Premier League table this season. Then there was a flurry of activity and all was well again.
Indeed, in the space of a week West Ham completed the signing of Joe Hart on loan from Manchester City, Marko Arnautovic from Stoke City and Javier Hernandez from Bayer Leverkusen. Those three give the Hammers real pedigree ahead of the 2017/18 campaign, with the addition of Hernandez in particular something of a coup.
However, while much of the focus over the past few weeks has been on the incoming players at the London Stadium, there is one who might be outgoing. Reports over the weekend raised the possibility of an Everton bid for Winston Reid, with suggestions the Hammers will look to redress their summer spending by selling on the cheap, for as little as £9million.
After taking a step forward with the signings of Hart, Arnautovic and Hernandez, though, this would be a step backwards. While Bilic has filled some problem areas this summer, selling Reid would only create another problem area at the back. The progress they have made would be hindered.
Injuries have been an issue for Reid, with the defender currently recovering from a shin injury, but he is still one of the best in his position in the Premier League when fully fit. The temptation to cash in on a player who is approaching his 30th birthday is understandable, but if West Ham are to break into the top six, as is their aim, they will need players like Reid.
Of course, this presumes there is some sort of holistic strategy in the transfer market at West Ham. While Hart, Arnautovic and Hernandez will undoubtedly improve the options available to Bilic, there is no common thread that links them. What will be the Hammers’ style of play be this season? What is Bilic’s ideology? Increasingly, it’s becoming apparent there may not be one.
“I said at the end of last season that we don’t need squad players, but we need top players, the players who are going to improve the first 11,” Bilic explained after the signing of Hernandez earlier in the week. “I wanted quality players who will make a difference if everyone is fit. It’s a massive achievement, it’s not easy, but we have done it.
“You never know how it is going to click, but we have done well. It is important that we have done it early enough in the transfer window. The majority of that is done, so congratulations to the chairman, to the board. They have done brilliantly and people from other clubs have recognised it.”
Only towards the second half of last season did West Ham start to settle into themselves in defence, with January signing Jose Fonte forming a central partnership with Reid. Sell Reid this summer and the Hammers would be required to bring another defender in before the close of the transfer window.
Would they really find a better option for less than £9million, as has been the mooted fee for Reid? In this current over-inflated market, it seems highly unlikely, so why would West Ham even entertain the notion of selling a key first team figure for such a paltry amount?
As already mentioned, the only reason West Ham would spell for such a small amount would be to help level up the books having spent over £40million in the market this summer. This would lend itself to the idea that, at the London Stadium, there is a limit to the ambition at the club. They want to break through, but only if it keeps the board happy.
It’s difficult to tell who is directing things in the transfer market at West Ham. Are these the players Bilic really wanted or were they foisted upon him by a boardroom and hierarchy desperate to get recognisable names in the door to help shift tickets for their new London Stadium?
This is where a director football would come in handy. The Hammers have needed such a figure for quite some time, with the club often lacking guidance from the top down. That would only be accentuated if Reid was allowed to leave the club just weeks after some impressive signings were made.