Tag Archives: West Ham

Arsenal want want-away West Ham watchman—for £80m?

We’d need a talking stick for Eddie and Dec talk through their feelings.

Okay, I’ll admit I kind of got caught up in the alliteration and painted myself into a bit of a corner. I hope you’ll accept “watchman” as a variation on defensive midfielder. I tried warrior and wizard, but those seemed a bit overwrought. “Workman” felt a little too blue-collar. Let’s move on. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out  that we’re here to explore the possibility that we’ll go after Declan Rice. Numerous sources have reported that we’re after him as a prime summer target, and this is probably part of why we walked away (alliteration!) from Mudryk and were never really after Felix. Splashing cash on them might have hindered about ability to go after someone like Rice. But why wait ’til summer?

Legend has it that January transfer fees will always be higher than summer fees. The selling clubs are reluctatnt to part with a valued assed at a time when it’s difficult to re-invest on replacments or upgrades. However, as th Mudryk saga shows, that legend and that logic have gone by the wayside as transfer fees skyrocket regardless of the season. With big spenders like Boehly apparently printing their own money, the government of Saudi Arabia getting into the action, and rumours of new ownership at Man U, fees are only going to go up. The longer we wait, then, the pricier the player gets. 

Rice has signalled that he’s open to move to Arsenal, with the prospect of Champions League said to be a big draw (something that just might give us an advantage over Chelsea, who are (of course) interested in him). With West Ham swamped in the middle of a pack of a half-dozens staring relegation in the face, they might be reluctant to part with him now, hoping he stays to help the club stay up. Their situation comes as a bit of a surprise after having been in contention for a Europa League spot the last two seasons and making it to the Europa League semifinal just last year.  This doesn’t seem to have impressed Rice all that much.

If West Ham do get relegated, this would probably depress Rice’s fee as the club consider a drop in revenue and are forced to sell valuable assets. Even if they avoid relegation, there’s no guarantee Rice stays. I don’t run West Ham, obviously, but it does seem like selling now might make the most sense. Re-invest that fee in two, three, or even four players who can help stabilise the club. They need goals rather desperately, and that’s not really something Rice can provide playing as a #6. What he does excel at are areas like tackles, interceptions, and clearances (to be expected when your squad averages a meagre 42.8% possession). More to the point, Rice does excel at shielding the defense, is assured on the ball, and can carry the ball up the pitch like a freight train.

He’s versatile enough to play as a 6 to give us cover and rotation for Partey or as an 8 to give us cover for Xhaka. While Partey is superior to Rice in most if not all areas, the Rice-Xhaka comparison could go either way depending on the metric(s) we’d discuss. Heck, that’s an almost-ideal rotation. Rice, alternating shifts with Xhaka or Partey as opponents merit and fitness dictates, would give us depth as well as options. How does one put a price on that? He’s on something like £60k/wk, certainly not out of line with our current wage structure. What would it take to prise him away from West Ham in the next two weeks? I don’t see anyone we could throw in as a makeweight, so we’re looking at a fee of maybe £80m. Would that turn the heads of Moyes and West Ham’s owners? Possibly. 

If Chelsea continue to flounder, our odds of geting Rice look better. If we were willing to pay out a similar fee for the unproven Mudryk, it doesn’t seem ludicrous to pay slightly more on a Prem-proven homegrown player who can help to reinforce an area we sorely need to improve. Up top, we do have options, all the more so with Smith-Rowe making his way back from injury. Nketiah’s been showing signs that he can help us soldier on until Jesus gets back. If Partey goes down, though, we would take a tumble. 

I don’t know, though. What would it cost?  I feel comfortable with an £80 fee. If West Ham insist on £100m, though, is that worth it? Say he helps us win Europa League. Winning just the final match is worth about £7.5m. Winning the Prem is worth about £45m. It’s possible that we could do one or both without Rice. With Rice? That starts to look like money in the bank. I say do it, Edu. Get Vinai to pull out ye olde chequebook and fill it in. As for you, how much would you be willing to spend to get Rice?

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Player Ratings/MOTM Poll Results

Sure, these aren’t available as quickly as those at the BBC, Fotmob, or Whoscored, but few of them can boast of the beautiful graphic representation. Almost 600 (okay, 586) votes Gooners chimed in on this one, giving Martin Ødegaard MOTM honours along with a nearly-perfect 9.48 rating. Saliba, despite fouling Bowen to give West Ham a pen and brief lead, escaped with a tolerable 6.45. I’d suggest that Saliba was caught between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between challenging Antonio for the ball out wide or tracking Bowen’s unmarked run in behind. That’s another story for another day. We rallied and took the match by the scruff. One of these days, we’ll keep another clean sheet. For now, let us all bask the result’s warm glowing warming glow… 

Nketiah rated WORST on the pitch in romp over West Ham!

Fotmob, what are you on about?

Despite scoring the third goal to add some gloss to our win over the Hammers, Eddie Nketiah received the lowest rating of any other player on the pitch, once and for all proving his legions of critics, doubters, and haters correct: he’s not good enough to wear the shirt.

Okay, so “worst” overstates it, but he did receive Fotmob’s lowest rating of our XI—a sad 7.1, lower even than Tierney, who struggled; and Saliba, who fouled Bowen to gift West Ham a penalty. What gives? What did Nketiah do to earn such a sad rating? Maybe those critics, haters, and doubters have been right all along. He’d be lucky to start for a Championship side, and the fact that he’s now leading the line for the club that tops the Prem is a joke. The idea that he wears the hallowed #14 is a scandal. And so on.

The reality is probably somewhat more-nuanced (if you’ve come here for histrionic over-reactions, you’ve come to the wrong place). The reality is probably closer to Nketiah being an unproven player full of potential playing for a club whose fanbase’s expectations have reached a fever pitch and whose fears have ramped up even higher after Jesus went down injured. Nketiah is neither as bad as his detractors insist nor as good as his supporters claim.

In the early going of this match, Nketiah seemed to struggle. He was pressing too hard, looking only to score and passing up chances to, well, pass to a teammate in a better scoring position. It felt almost as if he was desperate to score, forcing the issue rather than finding the flow and the rhythm of the match. That’s to be expected to some degree from a young player thrust into this position, all the more so when we consider that it’s been several weeks of overwrought worry and speculation about whether or not he’d answer the call. 

He did put in a decent performance, and his goal, coming more as insurance than anything else, was the sort of stuff we’ve come to expect from the lad. A clever turn inside the box freed him from Thilo Kehrer after which he slipped the ball past Fabianski from a tight angle. He did well to stay onside as the ball was played back and forth before the turn, and he found the narrow slot beyond Fabianski’s reach but still inside the far post. Inch-perfect. 

Speaking of what we’ve come to expect from the lad, it’s worth pointing out that he’s now scored 11 goals in his last 11 starts at the Emirates, taking just 16 shots to do so. It makes sense that he’d be so productive at home. What may come as more of a surprise is that Nketiah is the second-highest scorer under Arteta, his 24 goals trailing only Saka’s 26. Saka’s started 116 matches; Nketiah, 44. If he was scoring like this while playing for RP Leipzig or PSV Eindhoven, we’d be salivating over him and wondering if we could sign him for £37m.

That’s all speculative, of course, and he’s played just one match since Jesus went down. There’s a lot of football to be played, and a lot of pressure to be heaped on his shoulders. “It’s just West Ham,” many will say, as if they don’t boast one of the stingiest defenses in the Prem. “The goal didn’t change the outcome,” they’ll add.

To that last point, Arteta responds by saying “it was a great goal, but I think overall his performance was incredible. The way he understood the pressing, his intensity, the way he counter-attacked certain spaces, the composure he showed”. To be sure, no small part of that comes from the manager speaking to the player through the reporter, boosting confidence and offering public support. But it’s not an inaccurate description of how Nketiah played. He grew into the game and started playing a role similar to if not nearly on the same level as what we’ve seen from Jesus: moving off the ball, creating space for teammates, making the pass instead of hoping to score on his own, pressing…

Yes, it’s early days, and this one performance doesn’t prove much but does add to a growing body of evidence, if not a preponderance of it: Nketiah may not be good enough at this moment, but he seems to get better with each match. Maybe that is good enough after all? Objections? Concerns? Share your thoughts in the comments-section below!

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham: Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

We dominated. It looked for a while like we would blow West Ham away until Saliba gave Jarrod Bowen a chance to go down in the box (under the lightest of touches, it must be added, but a touch nonetheless). Strangely, somehow, against all odds, Bowen managed to take several more steps before realising he had been clipped. Fair play to him for trying to play on rather than diving awkwardly to attract Oliver’s attention. Anyway, Benrahma converted from the spot, and it might have felt like the old Arsenal again. However, we stormed back. First, Ødegaard forced a pen by drilling his shot off of Cresswell’s arm in stoppage time, only for VAR to overrule. It did look to go off of Cresswell’s head, if we’re being honest. Into the second half, three goals in 15 minutes secured all three points: first, Saka pounced on Ødegaard’s smothered shot; then, Martinelli beat Fabianski from a tight angle, and last but not least Nketiah spun his defender tidily to score the third—his 11th goal in 11 Emirates starts from just 16 starts. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Anyway, we’ve taken all three points, we’re safe from relegation on forty points, and we’re now eight points clear of City…for now. Let’s get to the poll and rate the lads!

Open Letter to Declan Ahead of his Emirates Audition…

Hey, Dec (can I call you Dec?)

We’ve flirted with each other, haven’t we? You were coy a year or so ago, encouraging us to go after Yves Bissouma and ultimately staying at West Ham, and why not? Moyes guided you lot to a seventh place finish, good enough to qualify for the Europa League Conference (congratulations on winning the group, by the way). However, the Prem campaign has…failed to impress. I hope this isn’t impolite to bring up, but you’re just a point from the drop-zone. That’s gotta be a more than a bit frustrating. Still, y’all have only conceded 17 goals, level with such luminaries as Liverpool and Chelsea and stingier than Man U or Tottenham. We know you’ve been a big part of that.
We also know you’re one of the youngest members of one of the oldest squads in the Prem. We know also that you must be frustrated as you watch your Three Lions mates ply their trades at bigger clubs with better chances at silverware, Europa League Conference be hanged. Last summer, we might have seen you as a competitor or even an upgrade on Thomas Partey. At the time, after all, you were playing a deeper CDM-type role, but you’ve moved to more of a box-to-box role of late. This may have something to do with the trouble West Ham have with scoring. Despite that impressive goals-conceded record, your club still has a negative goal difference.

There’s a whiff of desperation rather than strategy to the fact that you’re among the league-leaders for shot-distance (25.5 yards per shot, Dec?). Even if you’ve taken most of these shots from that deeper position, you’ve scored just the once. It might be time to rein yourself in just a little and focus on what you do best. You’re more of a defender and destroyer than you are a scorer. That works. We’re accepting applications to eventually replace Partey, not Xhaka. It’s possible that your eight-ish skills could develop over time, but what we’d be looking for is more of a 6. Then again, Moyes has you all sitting in a very deep block, whether by preference, necessity, or both, and this does push you into that deeper role. Were you to come to Arsenal, you might find yourself somewhere between those 6 and 8 roles or at least as a 6 who gets forward from time to time. 

Let’s face facts. West Ham probably peaked last season, and the competition at the top is gettting fiercer. Moyes is a good enough manager to keep this squad from getting relegated, but he’s shown time and time again that he’s not much better than that. You might fancy a return to Chelsea. With Kante out of contract in the summer, they may even come calling, but do you want to join that hot mess? You’d be another bolt-on part to an increasingly expensive jalopy that doesn’t know which direction it’s going.

The big obstacle, of course, is money. Moyes said back in March 2021 that “£150 million would be the minimum, but he is not for sale. What I do know is that it means that there are only certain clubs that could even consider it.” £150 million seems a bit steep even for a Prem-proven homegrown player of your potential, but there’s public negotiation and private concession. West Ham face a major rebuild sooner rather than later, and you’re really their most-marketable asset. I really don’t see you going for £150 million. No offense. That valuation probably reflects West Ham’s needs rather than your market value. Whoever it is that comes calling over the next few weeks or in the summer window, I foresee a fee closer to £70 million.

Just do your best on Boxing Day not to drive that fee up too high, yeah? Who knows? Maybe a January move is in the offing.