Prior to West Ham’s narrow defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday, The Sun ran an article entitled ‘Av: I can be West Ham’s Wenger’. Now, before I get started, I do want to emphasise that nowhere in said article is Grant actually quoted as saying this. Through some intuitive and headline-grabbing journalism, it could be implied that this is what Grant meant, but there is not a direct quote anywhere in the piece that says as much.
Here is what Avram Grant actually said;
“I speak with Arsene all the time, I’ve known him for more than 10 years and we have a good relationship… We more or less share the same idea. And most of his ideas we want to do… He has built a team through the academy into a top team, this would also be the vision at West Ham… When I came to English football, they gave me 10 days. They say I’m going because with me the team would go down but when you want to build something it takes time… I spoke with Arsene Wenger about this and I don’t know a lot about his first year at Arsenal but it was not so easy…They won the Double and then the league without defeat but when things didn’t go well, like a year ago, he stuck to his way and this is the only way to get results.”
He also went on to note that;
“Every club is a little bit different and I think we need a long-term programme…Wenger and Alex Ferguson are good examples of this. Imagine they didn’t let them continue after the first year, the whole history of the clubs are different…It won’t come in one day and you can’t push a button and everything comes good.”
What could be surmised from this is that Avram Grant is a man with a complex. He clearly feels that he needs to be given a chance to instil some of his own footballing virtues into a team, and that team, he feels, is West Ham. It can be argued that Grant inherited both success at Chelsea and relegation at Portsmouth and the 55 year-old Israeli sees the east London outfit as a blank canvas on which to initiate a long-term plan of his own to bring success to Upton Park. The problem is, West Ham aren’t a blank canvas.
The truth is that no football team are, there are always going to be in-built expectations, and the Hammers are no exception. Being firmly rooted to the foot of the table approaching Christmas is not good enough for a club who have spent only two seasons out of the top flight since 1993 and the longer you don’t live up to the club’s expectations, the shorter your life-span as manager is going to be.
With West Ham, Grant has also inherited a team which, after accumulating only 35 points last season, in any other campaign would have been relegated, and a club which, arguably, hasn’t been in the right place psychologically since the Carlos Tevez affair. So the Hammers are anything but blank, even if Grant assumes otherwise.
Grant’s allusions to Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson may seem like delusions of grandeur from the West Ham boss, but I believe Grant has merely made a grandiose comparative statement to draw attention to his cause. It is highly unlikely that, like Wenger, Grant will win the double with West Ham next season, or, like Ferguson, Grant will propel West Ham to the forefront of world football if given two decades to work his magic. What he is saying, however, is; give me time and I will bring relative success to the football club. A fair point in itself, and one, considering his adherence to the club’s youth academy in his statement, will resonate nicely with West Ham fans. But given the current predicament the club find themselves in, it sounds more like the final rallying cry of a doomed man rather than a serious glance towards the future.