West Ham if they weren’t linked with every Tom, Dick and Harry who are coming to the end of their careers but have once been regarded as world class. In the past we’ve had the likes of David Beckham, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Ricardo Quaresma and Dejan Stankovic linked with unlikely moves to Upton Park.
This January it’s Nicolas Anelka’s turn to be the subject of West Ham’s interest, although this time it looks like a real possibility compared to some of the others, which where obviously just paper talk.
We all know what Anelka is capable of in the Premier League. During his time in England he scored 123 league goals in 352 appearances for Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea. It was at Bolton, of course, where he worked with Sam Allardyce and at the Reebok he enjoyed one of his best goal scoring records with the net bulging every 2.41 games.
But do West Ham need, or can they afford, a player like Anelka in a team that is in desperate need of a regular goal scorer up front? He’s currently in talks with current club Shanghai Shenhua about the termination of his £200,000-a-week contract and will be available on a free, but his wages will still be quite a stumbling block for a club still £80million in debt.
However, on the pitch he could still be an effective signing. He wants to return to the Premier League after a dismal experience in China and a new lease of life and direction for him at a club like the Hammers could be what he needs.
At Chelsea he wasn’t the biggest name on the team sheet and, therefore, was constantly under pressure to perform and outshine the likes of Didier Drogba. Whereas, at West Ham and considering the position they are in and their expectations for their first season back in the Premier League, the Frenchman will be able play without as much weight on his shoulders and will be able to play with freedom up front.
Most importantly, he is a proven goal scorer and that’s exactly what the Hammers need. Of the 21 goals West Ham have scored in the Premier League so far this season, only five have been scored by strikers/attackers, with the majority coming from midfield. It may have been an enjoyable and surprising return to the top-flight for Allardyce’s side, but their goal scoring threat up front is a huge worry.
Allardyce knows Anelka well from his time at Bolton and will know how to get the best out of a player who has built up a reputation of sulking when he doesn’t get his own way. With the manager slowly adopting a Bolton-like approach to his West Ham tactics, albeit with a slight twist, he’ll know exactly how the player will fit straight in to the team.
Moreover, he will act as the perfect strike partner for Andy Carroll when he returns from injury. Carroll will be there to nod the ball down or flick it on and Anelka will be there to finish, just like we’re so used to seeing from him in the top-flight.
That’s another plus side that signing Anelka will bring to West Ham. Playing with a player who has so much experience and talent will bring the best out of the likes of Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Matt Jarvis and Mark Noble, while Carlton Cole will need to step his game up even more to remain in contention for a place in the side.
His arrival will add a healthy competition for places and his experience will be priceless in helping West Ham compete as strongly in the second half of the season as they have done in the first.
The only real problem, as mentioned above, is his wage demands. He clearly moved to China for the money (who wouldn’t at that stage of their career) and will no doubt be reluctant to take a huge cut in his wages to return to the Premier League at a club battling out for mid-table mediocrity.
However, co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan seem to have developed a way of persuading players to join on big wages and then magically finding a way of paying them without making too much of a dent in the club’s finances. Andy Carroll being the main example with his wages apparently coming out of their own pockets.
Anelka is a player who would be a great signing for Allardyce and West Ham, and one that would show great ambition from a club who are trying to increase their image and status ahead of their proposed move to the Olympic Stadium in a few years time.
What do you think? Is Anelka the ideal signing for West Ham? Or should Allardyce be looking for younger players for the long term? Leave your comments below.