It may not come as a surprise to anyone that a West Ham manager is at odds with his board given all that’s gone on over the last few years. But after only two weeks in the job, fans would have hope that Manuel Pellegrini would have at least been backed as much as is reasonable in his very first transfer window.
It’s been that way for a while now though: promises are made which beguile those who hear them, only for dreams to be shattered when nothing comes of them.
That the promises were not kept is less of a problem than the fact they were made in the first place: when you say Champions League football is the aim, and when you go public about wanting a “£25-30m” striker you leave yourself very much open to failure. The moral of the story might be not to make promises you can’t keep.
This summer, things may not have changed very much but the speculation continues to link West Ham with some big names. Last year it was William Carvalho at the end of the window, and this time around Jean Michael Seri has now been linked – in an article in the Sun which claims that the Hammers could be about to hijack Chelsea’s deal for the highly rated Nice midfielder.
That makes some sense. Not only are West Ham a great stooge for any selling club to use when trying to get a flip-flopping potential buyer to shore up their interest, but Chelsea are also in the middle of something of a crisis given the uncertain situation around their owner Roman Abramovich. That might well lead to a stalling of their interest in long-held transfer targets, allowing others to swoop in.
So it wouldn’t be a ridiculous notion to think that West Ham could beat Chelsea to a player this month whilst things are up in the air at Stamford Bridge. What does seem less likely is whether the Hammers board would actually part with the cash when push comes to shove.
Then there’s the question of whether Seri would want to actually go to West Ham. Or indeed leave Nice, where Patrick Vieira is tipped to be the new manager – a man Seri could learn a lot from.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of those issues are no longer problems. That Chelsea are indeed wavering in their interest, that West Ham can swoop, that the board will stump up the cash and that Seri would be delighted to play his club football at the London Stadium next season. Even then, you still have to wonder if the Nice midfielder is even the right man for the job of adding steel to the Irons’ midfield.
It’s true that a central midfielder should be of paramount importance to Pellegrini this summer. One with a defensive mindset is needed, and Seri is indeed known as something of a deep midfielder.
A tidy passer and a good dribbler, though, he is a player who likes to get on the ball and make things happen. With over 86 passes per game on average, that shows the kind of player he is, especially when you factor in his pass accuracy of over 90%. With over two key passes per game, too, he’s more than worth having around.
The concern the new manager should have, however, is that Seri isn’t much of a tackler. He’s not a ball-winner nor is he a man to shield the defence: he’s a very competent box-to-box player who likes to get his foot on the ball. And whilst that’s nice to have, it’s surely not the most pressing issue in the Hammers midfield. Rather than a midfield tempo-setter, West Ham arguably need an N’Golo Kante type to protect a leaky defence from wave after wave of attack.
Last season, the Ivorian’s contribution in that sense was to make just under one tackle per game and a similar number of interceptions. That’s not to say he can’t provide that role if needed, but surely it’s better to find a defensive midfielder instead. Shoring up the midfield is definitely one of the priorities, but just because Seri is a recognisable name with a growing reputation doesn’t mean he’s perfect for West Ham right now.
Transfer rumours should be taken with a pinch of salt at the best of times, and probably even more when it’s a club run by David Gold and David Sullivan who are linked. But wouldn’t it be just like this Hammers board to pull off a real transfer coup only to realise later they’ve bought a big name without proper regard for how he fits into the team?