As we approach the climactic stages of our penultimate season at the Boleyn Ground, most Hammers fans will be relatively happy with how things have turned out as Sam Allardyce’s men close in on a top half finish. Perhaps more pleasing has been the transition into a far more appealing brand. This reshaping has unearthed several new stars, with many of the summer additions emerging as top-class players, and has allowed old faces to reach new heights.
One player, however, who has really struggled in claret and blue this term has been midfielder Matt Jarvis. In fact, Allardyce has openly admitted that Jarvis very nearly joined QPR in January and it seems inevitable that the 28-year-old won’t be a part of West Ham’s closing year at Upton Park — or subsequent move to the Olympic Stadium — as a summer departure beckons.
The former Gillingham man arrived from Wolverhampton Wanderers in August 2012 for a total fee of £10.75 million, including add-ons to the initial £7.5m, to become the club’s then-record signing. Unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked out during his three-year stay at the Boleyn. Theoretically, Jarvis possesses all the attributes to shine in a Big Sam side. The winger has long been heralded as one of English football’s greatest crossers and this, combined with a relatively rapid acceleration, should have allowed him to rack up assists for the likes of Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll.
But the once record acquisition has managed just three assists in as many seasons. Admittedly, his first team opportunities have been extremely limited this term as he continues to fall down the pecking order, but that return simply isn’t good enough for a winger with over 70 Premier League appearances for the club. Could Jarvis cite the smallest pitch of all 20 Premier League clubs, which has been the case in each of his three seasons, as a genuine excuse? It’s a possible explanation.
Let’s not forget the resurgent Stewart Downing also struggled for assists during his early West Ham days before rediscovering the Midas touch as part of the revamped line-up this term. Joe Cole, Jack Collison and Matt Taylor also found it equally tough going out wide during their West Ham days under Allardyce.
On the other hand, left-back Aaron Cresswell has managed four assists in his debut Premier League campaign, which does rather undermine arguments that spatial congestions are the sole reason for Jarvis’ continued struggle. Some would suggest that Jarvis has been rather unlucky in the capital, not least during his debut season. The midfielder created a Premier League high 46 goalscoring opportunities during that campaign but didn’t claim a single assist — those failings cannot be solely his fault. But whilst the blame for that particular disappointment must be shared, it shouldn’t detract from his own poor record.
Jarvis ended his first season having been involved in just two of West Ham’s 45 goals. The second season stats weren’t much better as the winger produced two goals and three assists, whilst his number of crosses dropped by over a third from 213 to 137. The owners, manager, and fans had hoped for so much more from the £10m man.
A thigh injury scuppered progress during the early stages of what was always going to be an immensely important campaign for the No.7’s Hammers career, but the middle third presented a fantastic chance to work his way back in. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done nearly enough to merit a regular role and, in brutal honesty, cuts a subdued figure who already accepts his fate. If the fight has left Jarvis, then perhaps it is best he leave soon — for his own future as well as the club’s. Since arriving in 2012, Jarvis has never managed to replicate the form that earned an England cap against Ghana less than one year earlier and the player has faded into the shadows at Upton Park. The prospect of forcing his way back into Allardyce’s plans over the final weeks of the campaign look slim to say the least and, assuming he does exit this summer, will reflect on his time in the capital with a degree of disdain.
In another life, Jarvis could have set the Premier League on fire at West Ham but it has been a case of unfulfilled potential for the winger. Jarvis still has some years left in the game and there is no reason he can’t go on to reinvent himself elsewhere. As far as West Ham are concerned, his imminent departure will hardly be noticed.