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Athletico Easthamico 11:33 Thu Jul 27
Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Jacob Steinberg . Guardian.

Wednesday 26 July 2017 17.21 BST
First published on Wednesday 26 July 2017 16.59 BST

West Ham United are feeling very pleased with themselves at the moment. Relieved, too. After making a spectacular show of themselves in the transfer market last summer, when they started out with hopes of luring Alexandre Lacazette to east London and ended up convincing themselves that Simone Zaza was the answer, this time they have been assertive.

In the past fortnight alone they have signed England’s No1 on loan, one of their rivals’ finest talents and a striker who scored 59 goals in 156 games for Manchester United.

“A great window,” David Gold tweeted after Javier Hernández’s arrival on Monday – and for once supporters did not rush to complain about broken promises. Last year David Sullivan said that signing a top striker was his biggest priority, before the man who fancies himself as West Ham’s director of football produced Zaza, Jonathan Calleri and Ashley Fletcher.

This time he can show off Hernández, an established poacher with international pedigree. The Mexican will be serviced by Marko Arnautovic, whose wing wizardry should get bums on seats at the London Stadium after his arrival from Stoke City, and at the other end Joe Hart will prove Manchester City were wrong to ditch him.

It looks like an excellent plan on paper. Last summer West Ham conspired against themselves by buying in bulk, opting for cheap quantity over quality. Now they appear to have strengthened by signing proven Premier League performers. With fees growing ever more exorbitant, paying Bayer Leverkusen £16m for Hernández is regarded as canny business, while spending £24m on Arnautovic is simply the kind of thing that happens in 2017. In the context of Everton’s willingness to offer £45m for Gylfi Sigurdsson, Arnautovic almost looks like a bargain.

Yet Stoke bought him for £2m four years ago. Now the Austrian is West Ham’s record signing. André Ayew previously held that mantle. The Ghanaian had been at Swansea for a year before they made a £20m profit on him.

Amid the excitement, it is also possible to have misgivings about the profile of West Ham’s recent signings. Arnautovic is 28, Hernández is 29 and Hart is 30. The window began with the arrival of the 32-year-old Pablo Zabaleta on a free from City, and an uncharitable way of framing this frenzy of activity is that West Ham are in danger of becoming a destination for players looking for their last big payday.

If there was one moment that encapsulated West Ham’s mediocrity last season, it was the sight of their players during the 4-0 home defeat to Liverpool in May. A flowing Liverpool counterattack culminated with an insultingly simple goal for Philippe Coutinho. Slaven Bilic knew that something had to change.

Aside from the obvious gulf in class, what really troubled Bilic was how leaden his team were in comparison to Jürgen Klopp’s flyers. While Liverpool boasted strength and speed, qualities that are indispensable in the modern era, West Ham looked ponderous, slow and old, and Bilic did not allow the absence of several key players to blind him to the fact that a lack of energy was a problem all season. It could not be right that Michail Antonio was his only pacy prominent attacker, which is why the manager spoke pointedly about wanting to inject more athleticism into his squad while discussing his summer plans in May.

When they signed the 33-year-old José Fonte and the 29-year-old Robert Snodgrass for a combined £18m in January, the outlay could be justified as retail therapy after Dimitri Payet’s return to Marseille. Bilic’s comments about the Premier League’s physicality hinted at an awareness of the need for more athleticism. Then West Ham signed Zabaleta.

“We had a policy up to now to buy players for tomorrow, not today,” Sullivan said this week. “We made a decision with the manager to buy players proven in the Premier League, who’ve been here before and who are of an age where they’re not being bought for tomorrow – but today. Long term it’s not a great strategy but short term it is. Hopefully we’ll buy one or two more players, investments in the future, while at the same time doing what’s best for the club.”

West Ham were desperate for a right‑back and the Argentinian was one of the best in England for many years. He is a good professional and they loved him at City. But he has not been the same since a serious knee injury; Jesús Navas was above him in the pecking order by the end of last season.

There is a sense that West Ham are locked in a spiral of almost making the right decision with their money. They want to make it to the next level, but are unsure of the clearest route. Hart is a glamorous signing, a star name. At his best, he is an outstanding goalkeeper, yet his form has been worryingly indifferent for a while. He struggled at Torino last season and he might only be at West Ham for a year, at which point they will have to contend with an unhappy Adrián, who has paid a heavy price for a poor patch last autumn.

Hernández, meanwhile, is a lethal finisher who excelled in his first year at Leverkusen, but the former United forward had less joy in Germany last season, and it remains to be seen whether he possesses the physical attributes to lead the line every week for a mid-table Premier League side.

Perhaps the strategy of targeting established talent will enable West Ham to consolidate themselves as a top-half club before aiming higher. Yet it is worth pausing to consider that Snodgrass, signed as Payet’s replacement six months ago, has been replaced by Arnautovic after half a season.

That is the price of short-termism: it exposes the lack of a plan. Identity disappears. It is why West Ham have signed 33 strikers in the past seven years. Bilic wanted them to think and act faster, but they run the risk of always playing catch-up.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Darby_ 6:10 Sat Jul 29
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
I haven't got a problem with the purchase of any of those players, including Zabaleta. In fact I would have preferred an older rightback so that Byram doesn't think he has no future at the club.

But when you buy older players at their peak, or near it, then you raise expectations among the fans that we'll be successful THIS season. So that if we come out of the gates slowly, the fans quickly get disappointed and the mood turns sour. They start thinking "here we go again. same old West Ham" and the negativity of last season carries over to this season.

When you invest in younger players with potential, there's less pressure to succeed this season, and the fans will be more patient if we come out of the gates slowly. Even if the season is mediocre, West Ham fans will enjoying watching younger players that seem to have a lot of potential.

I don't want to see us buying fewer experienced players. I just want to see more of a balance between younger and more experienced players.

threesixty 8:08 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Lukaku is probably the wrong example. He is not "unproven" , just like Kane etc.. that is a buy based on value to the team for x amount of years as you say. He has quantifiable value.

What I was originally talking about is West Ham going for older players rather than younger player who have not fulfilled their potential and the business pro's and cons.

I think what Sullivan is doing is the right now (looking at older players who have a proven record) is the best way to be, given the stakes at place and trying to make sure that our club has a successful product, i.e. a good, successful team. Because the value of an older pro is actually more quantifiable than a younger unproven player.

I'm just saying "unproven" youth is a better buy as an asset for the club but not as a way of actually improving the team on the pitch. And for the pitch is paramount. So i kind of disagree with the articles premise.

Alex V 8:00 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
threesixty 7:42 Fri Jul 28

Well now you're talking about youth and development players, which is a different category again. I think Lukaku has a bit more than just potential, don't you? Obviously players who haven't proven themselves will be valued more on potential than on guaranteed performance, because there is literally no other way to value them.

Lukaku will not be worth more as a 30 year old than a 24 year old. For entirely obvious reasons imo. If you think different then to your perspective the valuations in the market would seem entirely topsy-turvy (and there'd be an enormous opportunity to exploit them). But it ain't so, sad to say.

threesixty 7:42 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Alex
"An under-25 player gives the most return over a contract. A 30 year old gives a very uncertain return even over one season"

I think what you detail is not quite what is happening out there.
Paradoxically, a 30 yr old gives a far more certain return over a season compared to and under 25 who by definition is still learning or not learning.

That's why paying for a Defoe or a Zlatan is actually easier to price in terms of perfomance and return, the only issue is whether an injury happens and the severity / recovery aspect of that injury. But injuries can happen to anyone at any age, look at Danny Ings at liverpool or us with Ashton.

What is actually happening is the same as the startup culture in Silicon Valley. Age indicates "potential". And clubs are trading on that potential rather than any other variable. Because an asset or a business that doesnt have a real value assigned to it pretty much a blank cheque. It could "potentially" have lots of value.

So clubs dont mind holding these young players, even if they dont play them because they dont actually devalue so long as they are young and you cant tell if they really are shit or not.

For example Kane was doing nothing and was techincally worth nothing, got his break and in 3yrs he is a 100m player in todays market. You could now find a similar 18/19yr old on loan in some second division club and argue that he could be the next Kane. How does any one really know he wont be? its that weird, unrealised "potential" that is creating this weird asset price for these under 25 players.

I dont think buying young has as much to do with bang for buck and better guarantee of performance over the 4/5yrs as it has to do with an easy way to make money (or a way to definitely not lose money) by inflating this asset class.

Fletcher just went for 7 times his initial value, a year later after scoring zero goals, and to a lower division. From Man U > West ham > Middlesborough for more money each time.
Its got nothing to do with guaranteed performance.

Alex V 7:11 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
>>> Also, lukaku's age means he has sell on, not neccessarily that he will perform better than a striker who is 5 yrs older.

Again I feel that is entirely missing the point. Hardly any club buys a player only for sell on, as you rightly say they buy primarily for results. They want Lukaku's quality on the pitch, but not just for a potential year or two but over a long contract, and not with a built-in promise of decline. Lukaku could improve further. Giroud almost certainly won't. That's the difference. If you're investing in a player, you simply want the most return. An under-25 player gives the most return over a contract. A 30 year old gives a very uncertain return even over one season (but you often have to commit to more even though you might not want to).

threesixty 6:46 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
I think you oversimplify Lukaku's fee.

Its a combination of simply just more money in the system, just like more credit inflates house prices. You have 5 or 6 clubs in the world with literally access to hundreds of millions (in City & PSG's case, billions). Coupled with record TV fees meaning that the seller doesnt actually need 40m, or 50m, but if you say 75 they say... well ok then.

Obviously todays prices a still relative, so why is arnie 25m and lukaku 75m.
Well there is actual performance and positon. Strikers are the only players that actually determine whether you win a trophy. Everyone else may stop you from losing but strikers make you win (or whoever is putting the ball in the net regularly).

Also, lukaku's age means he has sell on, not neccessarily that he will perform better than a striker who is 5 yrs older.

For example, Zlatan is still a better player than Lukaku and I would wager to say that zlatan could do another 2 seasons in the top flight (when he's back fit). He could get a better goal return than Lukaku for 3yrs of his contract but his age dictates no sell on. Not his performance during his contract.

Football is divided into two businesses right now. Assets and performance. Assets are a great business but they must support the perfomance part of the business otherwise the whole thing will die. Look at Villa.

Far Cough 6:45 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Hahaha, does anyone really think Lukaku is only 24?

Alex V 6:36 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
threesixty 6:16 Fri Jul 28

Well I agree in as much as it's all about the return on the pitch, but that doesn't count in veterans' favour either. Why is Lukaku worth that amount? - the clue's mostly in his age. They aren't buying one season, they're hoping for 5 or 6 or more (of course there are no guarantees). Why is Hernandez worth so much less? - a big reason is because nobody knows where his effectiveness will be in one year's time let alone 5, but they can be damned sure it will rarely ever be greater.

Would you rather Arnautovic at age 24 for £2m quid and probably much less than half the wages he's on now and his footballing prime ahead of him, knowing that 4 years later he'll pull his strop and you'll get your 1000% profit on the sale? Or would you rather him now at up to £24m on 100k wages and his prime behind him? Who would be more likely to produce the 'hits' on the field?

I think the difference between the two choices is so marked it is almost indefensible as a serious question. Of course you could say Arnautovic was unproven at 24, but that's where the expertise of technical and real-world scouting comes in (where we are light years behind the competition imo).

threesixty 6:16 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Alex V

"So the question really becomes 'Is a football club more than good business decisions', ie is it a special case? I think the clear answer is no, it isn't a special case. If West Ham invest poorly in bad investments it will suffer on the field and off it relative to other clubs that invest more wisely. It's as simple as that."


mmm.. not sure I agree.

This is the entertainment business essentially and that makes this type of business slightly different. The reason being that in entertainment, the recipe for success is not obvious. Its not like making widget x for y price etc...

But the success of any business is directly proportional to the success of the products you make. Therefore getting the team to actually work is paramount. It's more important than any other business decision at a club. Especially because we have relegation in Europe which crystallizes your losses and makes the chances of you improving your business prospects harder and harder.

Just like the music biz, it's about hits. However you get them, there isnt a hard and fast rule, things on paper dont always make sense in practice. So whatever you can do to make sure you get a good team going is more important than any "investment" you can make on a player.

Finally, I must add that the reason you can normally sell someone like Lukaku for 75m is because they dont grow on trees. In a world of 7b people you cannot find a replacement for that guy for 75m. thats why he's worth 75m. And if not having him means you get relegated or dont make CL or whatever and that loses you 200m of income (sponsorship etc..) over the next 4yrs what is the point in selling him?

Basically, performance first, always, business will follow. That is the entertainment industry in a nutshell (at least for successful businesses).



Furthermore because of tv money, staying in the top division is paramount because the economy in the PL is magnitudes different to any other league. So you cant really afford to not be there, which again means success on the pitch is paramount.

Lee Trundle 6:09 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
I reckon Alex V would empty his bowels if we were ever bought out by a mad Arab or Chinaman with their spending sprees, even though it's probably most likely our best chance of success.

Gavros 6:08 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
that's been their business model for donkeys years.

roltrader 6:06 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
i think the porno twins are trying to stabilise the club, getting it knocking on the European places to window dress the club for the mad Arab or Chinaman that they are grooming up as we speak.

Alex V 5:59 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
threesixty 5:37 Fri Jul 28

That's a good description of why younger players are generally always better from a business perspective.

So the question really becomes 'Is a football club more than good business decisions', ie is it a special case? I think the clear answer is no, it isn't a special case. If West Ham invest poorly in bad investments it will suffer on the field and off it relative to other clubs that invest more wisely. It's as simple as that.

Pee Wee 5:44 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
I think the sycophants and this article prove that you can look at our situation as a positive or a negative - the truth as usual is probably somewhere in between.


If only we had someone who could do a well thought out thread giving both sides, both positive and negative.

I would, but I'd have no idea what to title it...

Lee Trundle 5:40 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
"As I say, just look at the signings of major clubs as evidence"

Yes, lets. 2 clubs that have managed to break into the top tier of the league in recent times (Man City and Chelsea) and stay there originally bought their fair share of players who we over 27 years of age as they were short term fixes who could go straight into their first XI.

Didn't turn out too badly for either of them, did it?

threesixty 5:38 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
sorry "known quantity"

threesixty 5:37 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
There just needs to be a balance.
It's a bit like the stock market with silicon valley companies.

Startups have "potential" just like young players and there is an age group where its any guess whether they will be world beaters (16-25). So business wise it makes sense to invest in these players regardless of whether they do the business or not because you can always mug them off to someone else. The reality of their potential hasn't been crystallized into fact yet.

beyond 26/27 they aren't going to improve. But footballing wise they are a none quantity. So investment in these players makes sense from a footballing perspective (i.e. winning things, staying in the league etc..) but from an investment perspective, probably not.

Fans are in love with the "he might be amazing in the future" thing because they feel they are part of something great. its exciting. Clubs like the money side of it as well. But from a footballing perspective, its actually a bad idea. Especially for clubs like us.

Which is why the best clubs in the world have a lot of late 20's/30's players in them. They are the best footballers on balance and get you the best results.

Injury and pace is the only downside to older players. Injuries happen to young and old and pace is just 1 tactic in football. Its not everything.

Alex V 5:27 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
>>> Not every player aged 23-24 reaches their potential, do they?

That's why it's called potential.

But every player aged 28 will decline. And may already be in decline. The only question is how serious or impending that decline is.

As I say, just look at the signings of major clubs as evidence.

Trevor B 5:23 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Alex V is the fat geeky prick in Moneyball.

chim chim cha boo 5:21 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
Alex V

'But if I trusted that the club was using some sort of advanced sports science or analytics to measure this I'd maybe be more confident in their approach'

= playing Championship Manager like Alex V.

Lee Trundle 5:01 Fri Jul 28
Re: Guardian article on our transfers and transfer policy.
"You're right that not every 28-29 year old is going to give you nothing, just less over the future"

Not necessarily. Not every player aged 23-24 reaches their potential, do they?

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