Now this is a thorny subject. For some people, me included, the success of next season will depend on whether we can find a striker or two who can almost guarantee a double figure tally whilst staying fit enough to play for most of the season. This apparently is a tough ask as we have not been very successful in our attempts to make this happen recently. Last year’s scattergun approach to signing new players was bad enough generally but when it comes to strikers, we made some spectacularly poor decisions. It’s coming to something when the most successful attacking acquisition made during the 16/17 pre-season turned out to be Ashley Fletcher……. OK strikers are hot property, I accept that. Getting one is not that easy. But we had opportunities last year and apparently blew them all, and this was mainly down to too much wrangling over the contract small print and trying to play hard ball with agents. Carlos Bacca, Alexandre Lacazette, Michy Batshuayi are all top class players, yet we failed to land any of them. It is slightly worrying therefore to discover that the current situation appears to have more than a touch of déjà vu about it. I only hope I’m proved wrong.
I’m going to focus only on those players that we have been strongly linked to. Which means that Mario Mandzukic, Anthony Modeste, Chris Wood of Leeds, Southampton’s Shane Long, Daniel Sturridge, Dries Martens of Napoli, Werder Bremen’s Max Kruse, Steve Mounie (who may be off to Huddersfield by all accounts), Isaac Success of Watford, Martin Braithwaite of Toulouse and yes even Anthony Martial can all be mentioned in dispatches but only because there has been paper talk and nothing else. We have already missed out on Jermain Defoe, sadly, though in this regard we were probably right to baulk at his excessive wage demands. So who are our prime targets? Or we will be relying on the injury prone and the walking wounded again this season?
HENRY ONYEKURU (KAS Eupen)
19-year-old Nigerian who scored goals for fun last season in the equivalent of Belgium’s Championship. Even though this suggests that he’s been playing in a Mickey Mouse league and consequently his record should not be taken seriously, it’s worth noting that both Romelu Lukaku and, I believe, Batshuayi also spent their apprenticeship playing at this level and look what happened to them. Rumour has it he has had a problem with obtaining a work permit and in order to get one, a team needs to ensure that either a specific transfer fee is paid for his services or investment in a sizable increase in his wage structure needs to occur for the permit to be granted. Celtic, and more importantly Arsenal have shown interest whilst The Hammers are apparently uncertain about spending too much on a player who obviously has bags of potential. Incidentally, “too much” could be as little as £800,000. It was recently announced that the permit problem has been solved, so have West Ham stumped up the extra cash or has their dithering meant that another team have triggered the contract clause?
MICHY BATSHUAYI (Chelsea)
Along with another target from last year, Carlos Bacca, we are apparently back in for both players with the talented Belgian high on our list of priorities. This is despite the fact that he turned us down in preference to a big money move to Chelsea last season and then couldn’t understand why he wasn’t a regular in their 1st team. It would appear that his future depends on a number of other moves being completed with both Diego Costa (going out) and Lukaku (coming in) playing a big part in where the Belgian will be playing next season. Despite his appearances being at a premium during 16/17, his goal scoring ratio was still impressive. For those young enough to remember, his name reminds me of the backing vocals of The Rubettes “Sugar Baby Love”, so will he be rocking up to the London Stadium next season? (I’ll get me coat…)
KELECHI IHEANACHO (Manchester City)
Talented 20-year old Nigerian whose chances at star-studded Manchester City were limited last season. Despite showing a preference to stick it out at the Etihad by announcing that he was staying put, City have told him that he is not required and he is being shown the door. Enter West Ham and our negotiating team. The sticking point this time is a deal that allows City, in 2 years time, to have first refusal on him by re-purchasing him with a slight profit going to the club that initially takes him off their hands. It’s called a buy-back option but it’s effectively a loan of sorts. Man City want to sell him for £25 million and get him back for 35, The Hammers want to double their money.
I’m all for trying to prevent the Big Boys from dictating terms but I’m not sure our bargaining power is that strong and bullying Man City into getting what we want is not necessarily going to do us any favours. In other words, if we want the player we are going to have to compromise or risk losing him altogether. Both Crystal Palace and Leicester City have shown interest and the suggestion is that he may well end up at the latter. Over the course of this weekend, Iheanacho has apparently started to follow Leicester’s players on social media. Another good man done and gone perhaps?
OLIVIER GIROUD (Arsenal)
A recent rumour had us not only being linked to the 31-year old Frenchman but had us “in talks” over a possible transfer. Some West Ham fans on the Knees Up Mother Brown forum were suggesting that at 31 he was too old. Come again? In my opinion Giroud may not be the player that we need, but if we could get him, he would be a major coup. Arsenal are after the £40-odd million rated Alexandre Lacazette and Giroud may well be sacrificed in order to make way for the younger man. However, the fact that it is rumoured that Olivier wants to stay in the capital city may well make us an attractive proposition, plus he has the forthcoming World Cup in Russia to consider and needs regular first team football. But recent suggestions has him returning to France as part of the deal that brings Lacazette to the Gunners. What’s more the Lyon president has been saying nice things about him. What’s even more is that there are pictures to prove his impending departure (Giroud was spotted at a French airport this weekend – um……on holiday perhaps?) If we do not obtain his services then what about a £25 million deal for team-mate Theo Walcott? Recent reports says he’s on our list too.
Talking of the KUMB forum, one ITK recently provided a cryptic message that said something about finding “diamonds in the rough” and watching out for the letter “R”. Hmmmmm…let’s do some detective work here. Rashford perhaps? What about Wayne Rooney? I dunno about you but my money’s on Nile Ranger.