West Ham United, once again, enter a January transfer window looking for shortterm fixes to long-term problems.
The Irons found themselves just two points above the relegation zone at the midway point of the season and encamped in the middle of a group of 10 or 12 teams battling to avoid the drop. At least this time it is pretty clear where the problem lies.
A total of 40 goals conceded in our first 22 Premier League matches shows the defence is in huge need of improvement, although the debate continues as to whether it is our defenders or holding midfielders that need upgrading this month.
Slaven Bilic clearly felt it was the latter, and we will never know if he would still be in a job had he got his wish of signing Portuguese international William Carvalho from Sporting Lisbon in the summer.
That deal could not be forced over the line, however, and if we were unable to land our top target in pre-season it is difficult to see us faring better in a month where it is notoriously difficult to sign players at the best of times, and next to impossible when the team are so clearly embroiled in a fight for their lives.
Instead it is likely we will try and strengthen in one or two areas, paying over the odds for one or two players in a bid to get over the line this year while keeping the majority of our powder dry for a full reboot this summer.
Whatever the outcome of this window it is clear we will not reach the fabled ‘next level’ until the club develop a coherent and long-term approach to the transfer market.
The lack of direction has been frustrating but the biggest problem remains that it is very difficult to attract top quality players unless you are in the Champions League.
Of course you can get virtually whoever you like if you have deep enough pockets but unless the club are taken over by a friendly billionaire (and not an Icelandic one) then there is little chance of West Ham going down the Manchester City and Monaco route. Fortunately owner David Sullivan only has to take a short route around the A406 to see a blueprint of how a medium sized Premier League club can grow through a strategy of investing in youth.
Tottenham were not in a position to sign elite players until very recently but by bringing in the likes of Kyle Walker ( £5million from Sheffield United), Gareth Bale ( £10million from Southampton), Dele Alli ( £5million from MK Dons) and Danny Rose ( £1million from Leeds United) they have been able to snare talented footballers well before they have reached their peak.
The advantage with this method is that almost all of the players you sign will have a re-sale value. If they don’t work out you haven’t broken the bank to purchase them and you’ll get most of your money back if they move on while, if you stumble on a Bale or Walker, the transfer fee they bring in allows you a whole new generation of talent as you gradually increase your outlay to sign better known prospects.
Something to think about then, just as soon as we’ve secured survival after blagging our way through another window.