It’s Valencia or West Ham for Maxi Gomez but surely the answer is simple

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Maxi Gomez who has had a solid 2 years at Celta Vigo scoring goals is wanted by two clubs in Europe, Valencia and West Ham. But which club will succeed in getting his services?

A few years ago this wouldn’t even be open for debate, Valencia would be the smart choice. A massive club who at one point in the last decade could challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid’s dominance and had a very good team. Gomez could have joined and become a better player. But in 2019, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The best pull for Gomez to join Valencia is that the club will be playing Champions League football next season, and that is massive for any player who has never tasted playing at the highest level for club football. It’s a big ask for Gomez to turn that down when West Ham aren’t playing any European football next season.

Financially a move to West Ham would be better for Gomez too and the Hammers will be able to offer him much better wages. So where should the 22 year old go? The answer for some is an easy one and that is to play for West Ham in the Premier League.

The reason is due to two things. Firstly West Ham are clearly pointing in the right direction and having Manuel Pellegrini as boss is a great thing for the London side who have under achieved too much in recent years. The club have some genuine attacking quality and it is thought that they will be attack minded next season with the likes of Pablo Fornals and Andriy Yarmolenko.

However does Gomez want to improve as a player and person? If so if you move to a foreign country and sample that experience and different culture. If he stays in La Liga he will be doing what most English players do and stay in their comfort zone. There isn’t much wrong with that but you usually become a much better player with a move to a different club and you learn more about the game. The move would be a massive plus for Gomez who could prove his qualities in a different league.

Who is the bigger club is the other question. True it is Valencia but they are not as big as they once were, and what happens if they exit the Champions League in the group stages and then struggle for top 10 status in the league it can happen and the club do have financial difficulties.

Going to West Ham would be a challenge for Gomez and it won’t be easy, but spreading his wings and giving the club a chance to see his qualities just seems like the right option to take. It will be interesting to see who Gomez picks over the coming days/weeks.

Pablo Fornals: Lowdown on West Ham’s latest signing who is more than ready for English football

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Over the past few seasons, it’s been quite easy for a young individual to announce himself as a player with an immense career ahead of him and be regarded as the next big talent. However, the situation has quietly been different for Pablo Fornals, someone who was a regular starter in midfield and was a key player for La Liga side Villarreal. However, the club and player did not have a solid season as per their normal standards, as the lack of consistency and squad quality became concerning month by month.

Fornals only returned to Villarreal in the summer of 2017 after spending five beneficial seasons in Malaga’s first team as well as their reserve team, and was recently linked with a £24million move to Premier League’s West Ham United. With the deal now becoming official yesterday, it would mean that Villarreal would be making an estimate profit of around £15million and potentially any add-ons or bonuses, which is quite good for a player that was seriously looking for a move since the January transfer window.

Before West Ham smartly snapped him up, both Arsenal and Napoli were interested in the Spaniard a couple of week ago, but were no longer looking at the player and have moved onto the other midfield targets they have in mind. The Yellow Submarines have not seen many major departures so far this summer, but it has shockingly began with Pablo Fornals moving from sunny Spain to rainy England.

It’s time to look at everything you will want to know about the 23-year-old…

Villarreal background

Over the last 10 to 15 years, Villarreal have been recognised for the types of centre-backs and central-midfielders they have purchased for quite a bargain, before going on to developing and nurturing them into top quality players. The likes of Giuseppe Rossi, Joan Capdevila, Marcos Senna, Ruben Cani and currently Bruno Soriano have played for this beautiful and passionate club, individuals who have given their all on the pitch whilst becoming fan favourites during their good moments and bad moments.

The current Villarreal squad is still blessed with quite a number of individuals that are born and raised in Spain, including the experienced Santi Cazorla, captain Bruno Soriano, the calm and collected Vicente Iborra and Gerard Moreno, someone who has not had the best of seasons in front of goal but will always be a huge aerial threat, as long as the crossing is effective from the flanks.

Which world-class central-midfielder is he similar to…

It’s still early days for Fornals to be dubbed or regarded as the next Cesc Fabregas or Koke, however, his style of play is very similar to team-mate Santi Cazorla, who once upon a time was a crucial player for Arsenal and was seen as one of the most underrated players in England. With his constant knack for wanting the ball and his ability to dominate it whilst being seen as the focal point of the midfield, he is able to avoid the press with his dribbling skill as well as his intelligent movement.

On top of that, he is more than capable of producing a large number of perfectly-timed passed thanks to his range of passes and his sharp vision to even attempt, which is something that many central-midfielders don’t take the risk to complete. The style of play of both himself and Cazorla is something to admire, given that the latter flourished in the Premier League and the former will without a doubt, do the same as long as a system is in place and the team is built around him, and no one else.

Strengths

Complete midfielder. Not many players within La Liga, especially from outside of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid, can boast about playing in a number of tactical roles within midfield whilst dominating the match and the opposition. Due to this natural blessing, Fornals’ quality has always been undervalued, purely because of the other talented midfielders and attacking-minded players produced within Spain.

Being a player that does not rely on pace or physicality, the Castellon-born midfielder has proven himself to be dominant on both sides of the pitch. From completing the second most key passes (42) and fourth most successful dribbles (39) when compared to the rest of the squad, he has actually achieved more than expected as the side have recently not been known as a possession-based team. Thanks to his intelligence and positive thinking on the ball, he is able to work really well within tight areas and has the actual ability to get past one or two defenders or midfielders without even trying.

Weaknesses

Although it will be his range of passing as well as his rising quality to get the best out of the midfield that may be what the West Ham supporters will be looking forward to the most. However, Fornals’ has had a bit of a consistency to give away cheap fouls and also in a number of dangerous positions. Unfortunately for him, the Premier League referees will not be be too lenient and inconsistent like the ones in La Liga.

On the other hand, it is ideal and useful to have a player that is quite stocky, aggressive and is willing to go into the much needed tackles and tactical fouls. With a number of players that come to play in England from other European countries, they tend to lack the defensive duties or the mentality to help the team to retrieve possession, which will surely not be a problem for Pablo Fornals at all, as he always puts the team before him.

How would he fit into West Ham?

Fornals could potentially play alongside Mark Noble and just ahead of defensive-midfielder Declan Rice in 4-1-4-1 formation, which is a system that manager Manuel Pellegrini has used time and time again, that has allowed the Hammers to play with the ball confidently and also more productively.

Given that Jack Wilshere has become unreliable and is still battling his own injury issues whilst both Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass are starting to age and decline, it makes sense Pellegrini’s side to continue to play their football in a 4-1-4-1 setup, providing more space and time for Fornals to pull the strings deep in midfield or to advance up the pitch in possession to create chances for his team-mates or for himself.

With a lot of things spicing up for West Ham, including the fact that they have been scouting and recruiting players effectively for the last couple of seasons. It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see them aiming for a Europa League spot finish for the upcoming campaign, despite the competition from the likes of Everton, Leicester and Wolves.

On the other hand, the budding transfer of Fornals and Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez could prove to be perfect signings in the long run, and only if the East London side go on to finish within the top seven, especially in what could potentially be a really competitive season. Now that the deal is official, the Spanish international will certainly be regarded as one of the best signings of the summer window and also for such a really low fee.

Could West Ham have finished in a Europa League place without long term injuries?

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West Ham have been safe for a long time, that is the positive news the bad news is that it doesn’t feel like the club have moved on and gone onto the next level. They are set to finish the season in 11th place, though if they can beat Watford away in their last game of the season they would squeeze into the top 10 and finish the season with 52 points. Last season the Hammers finished on 42 points so there has been a significant improvement.

However with the quality that the team possess and a world class stadium to go with it and a successful manager in Manuel Pellegrini perhaps we were expecting more. But the one noticeable problem for the club has been the amount of injuries that they have had to endure. And we are not talking about players missing one of two games or even a few weeks, but chunks of the season which must have greatly affected the team.

Jack Wilshire has only just returned from an injury that he picked up in September and Andy Carroll keeps coming back in fits and bursts but has hardly played this season. But even before the season started there were problems. Manuel Lanzini got injured for Argentina in last summers World Cup- his return date, last month. The case of the highly rated Andriy Yarmolenko is another head scratcher. Injured early on his West Ham career, he wasn’t expected back until March, now he won’t take any part in the season, Winston Reid has been another casualty of the season.

The clubs training facilities at Chadwell Heath have been cited as a problem in recent years but they have another two training grounds and the first team rarely train there although it has been known. Then there is the medical staff- are they up to the job? The probability is that they are indeed and that the clubs injury list is simply down to being unlucky. But then again why does it seem that the Hammers keep missing key players that can make all the difference for long periods of time?

Certainly deciding to bring in Wilshire and Carroll made no sense in the light that these were two injury prone players well before they came to West Ham- to end up with one was a surprise, but both seems odd. Of course on their day and when fit they can be a danger for any opposition team but they simply do not get enough games to play.

One can only wonder if West Ham with their best 11 playing regularly could have challenged for more this season? Perhaps at least 7th and a final Europa League spot in England and a deep run in a cup competition would have been welcome for a side who haven’t won a major trophy since 1980.

Every club gets injuries it is part and parcel of the game, but West Ham need to address why their injuries are taking a season and not a few weeks to mend, otherwise the club no matter who they bring in will be able to go forward.

 

EPL Player of the Week – Javier Hernandez (West Ham)

hernandezWest Ham have been having a fair to middling season in truth. At times criticised for poor performances, the Hammers have nonetheless staved off any threat of a relegation scrap thus far and find themselves ninth in the Premier League table. While they sit quite a distance from the European places – indeed, points-wise they are closer to the drop zone – they have managed to pull some decent results out of the bag, and this past weekend’s thriller at home against Huddersfield could be labeled many things, but never boring! Manuel Pellegrini has used his experience and past success in English football (one Premier League title and two League Cup trophies) to instill a sense of purpose throughout the side.

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Why West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic could be right to demand a move to China- but should be honest about it

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This week it has emerged that West Ham’s best striker Marko Arnautovic has demanded that the club listen to an offer from an unnamed Chinese club who have come in for him and offered West Ham £35m.

This is a bombshell for The Hammers given that they have no quality back up to replace the Austrian who has scored 7 goals in the league this season and saved the club almost single handily against Brighton a few weeks ago with a brace.

Arnautovic has been a breath of fresh air who has really stood out at the club for the past year after his move from Stoke and his height has caused all sorts of problems for opposing defenders. But is he right to want a move to China?

In China it has been reported that he could earn £10m a year over a four year contract meaning that he is guaranteed £40m and that doesn’t even take in all of the freebies and luxuries he will get over there together with any bonuses. At West Ham once we take away tax he is earning about £2.5m a year, so in four years he would earn what he could in one year.

Of course this situation seems grotesque given that Arnautovic even with a deduction of tax still takes home nearly £200,000 a month- that would take the average worker in England 10 years to earn. However this is the crazy world of football and the Austrian’s thinking has to be that he will be 30 soon and his career at the top is winding down- what does he have 3 or 4 years at the top at the most?

The problem then isn’t that he wants away- although a little bit of commitment and passion would be a good thing in today’s game. No the problem lies with his excuse for going- to win trophies. This claim seems a little far fetched. True if he went to China it would be for the best team that may well win league titles and cups in China- but with all due respect nobody would have these wins at the tip of their tongue the next time you play a football quiz.

Arnautovic is more than likely going for the fantastic wage and at his age he could end up earning quite a retirement package. It feels wrong that he wants out but at the same time if you look at the situation from his point of view it does actually make sense.

As for West Ham, they seem backed into a corner- they cannot give Arnautovic such a pay rise but they do have the player under contract. The problem there is that we have seen in the past that contracts mean very little and the player usually ends up getting what he wants. The fee of £35m seems scant too for a club who paid £20m for him. That £15m profit is reduced because as part of the deal his former club Stoke would be good for £7.5m, and so West Ham would only end up making a profit of £7.5m on a player they really can’t afford to lose.

It does sadly for The Hammers look like he will be going. The key for them is simply holding onto him until the summer, lose him now and it doesn’t look like they will have the time or find the quality in January to replace him.

 

Manuel Pellegrini deserves all the plaudits at West Ham

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On first glance seeing West Ham in 11th place and with half the points that league leaders Liverpool have looks like failure and a step backwards. But manager Manuel Pellegrini deserves a lot of credit with the club and how he has turned around their fortunes with so much being against him has been quite remarkable.

First we need to look at how the club started their league campaign which was a nightmare of epic proportions- at  a bigger club he would have been sacked because the Hammers lost their first four games of the season before beating Everton away from home in a surprise win. After getting a good draw against Chelsea and then beating Manchester United it was back to poor form. But we have to look further into the clubs problems.

Those problems stem from the amount of injuries they have had to deal with and for a club the size of West Ham that can be magnified. Before the season got underway they had lost influential Argentinian Manuel Lanzini who was injured at this summers World Cup. He is due back sometime in 2019.

Winston Reid suffered a knee injury in July and was thought to be out for a few months but come January, 2019 the club are still waiting for his return. The club have also been stricken down during the season. First it was Andy Carroll and then Jack Wilshere, the latter has returned but Wilshere has managed to play just 5 games this season. One must wonder if the purchases of these players who both have a history of long term injuries made any sense and in this case the club are to blame.

The next major injury was to Andriy Yarmolenko the player who cost £17.5m teared his Achilles in October and won’t be coming back to the team until at least March. Carlos Sanchez was another big loss, there is no reported return date for him and he has been out since September.

With all of these injuries on the face of it West Ham are having a decent season. They won’t be relegated and they won’t be in a relegation dog fight. This week they have the chance to go past Everton in the league and also have the chance to break into the top 10. It has been a slow build from Pellegrini when everyone was perhaps hoping for an continental burst of quality, but it has been here in moments for the club and if they stick and trust the Chilean they have all the chances to progress this season and next.

 

Is it time for West Ham’s Jack Wilshere to retire?

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It may feel like an awful thing to say or even think, that is to suggest a professional player should retire before their playing years are done and dusted. But one wonders if retiring now would actually benefit West Ham’s Jack Wilshere.

Wilshere has been dogged with injury his whole career and signed for West Ham this summer, although he has only played 5 games this season and has been out injured with an ankle injury for over four months. There is no update on when the player will return although it was first announced that he would be back in Manuel Pellegrini’s team in November and that just got delayed week by week and day by day. As we enter into 2019 there is still no sign of him.

Wilshere has played in 10 previous football seasons with his most games played in season 2010/11 where he played 35 times from 38. However unfortunately since then the most games he has been able to play is  27 games which was a couple of seasons ago when he was on loan at Bournemouth.

The truth is though from 470 possible games that he could play, he has only appeared in 171 games. That works out at less than 35% of games he has been available in. It is nothing short of a tragic story.

And tragic it is because Wilshere is a top player and a great midfielder, who distributes the ball so well, can stand up when being counted and tries always to win and be a very difficult opponent. We haven’t even talked about some of his silky skills too so it is worrying and a real loss to football that Wilshire has been injured so many times in his career.

The ex Arsenal player is only 27 years old and if he was to retire it would be seen as a shock. The good news is he would be backed up, a career in punditry and some other form of media would be a given. But there are also many coaching roles he could take on, it’s not the same scenario it was for some footballers in the 1970s and 1980s where early retirement could signal problems in their personal lives.

Hopefully Wilshere can recover and get a few more seasons in and win some trophies but surely all of these mounting injuries cannot be doing his body any good long term, and one can wonder if he will have problems health wise in the future.

For now the best of luck must be shown Wilshere’s way for a full recovery even if history says otherwise. Right now West Ham could do with his influential style and performances.

 

West Ham must manage injuries over festive period

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Like many other Premier League teams, West Ham have an incredibly important period coming up in December, as they prepare to play seven matches in the space of a month. Each of those is seen as realistically winnable, as the Hammers will face: Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Watford, Southampton and Burnley. However, at a time that is notorious for causing injury, it is vital that Manuel Pellegrini manages the squad well.

The Chilean is already without Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks, Manuel Lanzini and Carlos Sanchez among others. He’ll be boosted by the imminent returns of Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere, though they will both need to have their game time managed in order to avoid a return to the treatment table.

Among these two, others who should have an eye kept on them are Marko Arnautovic and Pablo Zabaleta. The Hammers’ leading scorer this season has had trouble with his knee in recent weeks, if that were to be aggravated to the point where he can’t play then the Hammers will be without their main threat, with the impact on the team being heightened due to how quickly the fixtures come along.

In the case of Zabaleta, Pellegrini has already claimed that he will be looking to rotate the Argentine, saying that at 33-years-old he shouldn’t be playing that number of games in such a short space of time. With his usual replacement Fredericks suspected to be out until after the New Year, Pellegrini will have to find a suitable replacement for when Zabaleta is rested. Michail Antonio was used at right back by Slaven Bilic which didn’t go down well, so he may not be used. Another option could be Reece Oxford – seemingly down to his last chance to impress in a West Ham shirt- who played at right back multiple times while on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach last season.

There have been times already where a youngster has come in due to injury and ended up impressing enough to keep their place. Declan Rice and Grady Diangana are the two main examples, as they’re currently regular features in the starting line up. This could encourage Pellegrini to use the likes of Oxford, Nathan Holland, Marcus Browne and Joe Powell at certain points during the festive period in order to keep his older and more experienced players injury free.

The manager will of course need to find a balance between keeping players match fit and fielding a strong side. As he has already stated, it is far from guaranteed that the Hammers will win a plethora of games just because they’re avoiding the biggest teams in the league. However, it is important that they do pick up points, as despite being 14th in the table, they currently sit just four points outside the relegation zone. This is arguably the most vital period of Pellegrini’s tenure at West Ham to date, it is also likely to be the most difficult to manage. West Ham’s manager has struggled at times since moving to East London, though it’s imperative that he and his team get things right in December, as if they don’t they could be in trouble.

 

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West Ham face season-defining trip to Newcastle

West Ham are level on points with Newcastle – their opponents this Saturday – and only four points above the bottom three. There has been plenty to be positive about as a Hammer of late, yet the table does not make happy reading.

If results go against them, West Ham could be precariously positioned above the relegation zone by Monday. Manuel Pellegrini’s team are not exactly cut adrift, though they are already six points off the top half. They are closer to 20th then they are 10th.

This is not the group of teams the Hammers were meant to be in. Sure, it’s early and a couple of results can flip it all on its head, but this is a disappointing start. A favourable run of fixtures up to Christmas are an opportunity to turn this around – they do not face a top six side until they play Arsenal on 12th January.

Having drawn away to Huddersfield and been thrashed by Manchester City, Saturday’s clash with Newcastle is a big one. A win against the resurgent Magpies would set the tone for December. A defeat or poor performance would increase the pressure for the upcoming visits of Cardiff and Crystal Palace.

The Hammers might not be at relegation threat in the minds of many. Their performances and quality in the final third make that understandable, though they will be in as much trouble as anyone if December does not start as hoped. Their contest with Rafael Benitez’s side could be a turning point for Pellegrini’s men.

Newcastle have put together three straight one-goal victories. They have ridden their luck in each match, but this is kind of what we expect from them. Benitez was always going to find a way to pick up points. In contrast, West Ham have perhaps not quite got the results that their displays have warranted. Taking just one point from trips to Brighton and Huddersfield was a disappointment.

For all the fun of Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson, West Ham lack guile at times. Arnautovic needs service and too often he has to live off scraps from Pedro Obiang, Declan Rice and Mark Noble. They had a tonne of possession against Brighton and Huddersfield and, while they created chances, they should have done more with the amount of the game they had.

Newcastle will follow a similar game plan to their fellow second season teams. Benitez’s side have been far from secure at the back in their last three, but they have been a threat when able to transition quickly. Salomon Rondon holds the ball up and links play well, while Matt Ritchie and Kenedy are capable of causing problems down the flanks.

This is going to be a test for West Ham. Winning on the break like they did against Everton and Manchester United is one thing, but they still have to prove they can beat teams who will sit deeper and let them have possession. If Pellegrini is to take the club to the top-half/top-eight promised land, these are matches West Ham need to make a habit of winning.

The coming weeks will give us a clear idea of what West Ham are this season. How they get on at St James’ Park might just pick their path for the rest of 2018.

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More bad news for West Ham as Marko Arnautovic looks set to leave the Hammers

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It’s not been a great start to the Premier League campaign for West Ham and new coach Manuel Pellegrini and this could be compounded more by the imminent departure of striker Marko Arnautovic.

Arnautovic whilst not coming out as wanting away via shouting from the rooftops like Eden Hazard at Chelsea has been hinting that now is the time for him to leave for a bigger club. Such has been the progress of a desired move away that Pellegrini has had to make his first denial in a recent press conference and for him the Austrian international will be staying. But it looks inevitable that he won’t.

In some ways it’s difficult to deny Arnautovic his move. He has never played for a top 4 club and at 29 he is approaching his last big transfer move. Reportedly Manchester United are very interested in taking the player and it would be a dream move for him. He may just be the perfect player for an Jose Mourinho side, a dogs of war side that have a striker up front, standing at over 6ft tall whose presence will be dangerous in set pieces.

For West Ham they were just taking to Arnautovic as he enters his 2nd season with the club and has scored 16 times from 47 games. It isn’t a brilliant return but with better players the feeling is that he can score more goals. Plus he puts in a superb work rate for the Hammers and will be surely missed.

The problem for West Ham is that if a deal is going to go through there are suggestions that a team such as United would not want to wait for the summer and have the transfer go through in January. This would be a huge body blow for a club who only have a small gap from the bottom three. Losing a player of this quality even if they will make a good profit at such a time as the 2019 run in could prove even costlier to the club in the long term.

West Ham will naturally resist all offers for now but if United offer £50m or upwards you would feel that the London club would take that. Plus on a personal level Arnautovic will feel that all of his hard work has earned him the right to play in a team that can realistically win trophies and push on and play in the Champions League. A shame for West Ham true but Arnautovic looks like he will be spreading his wings very soon.