I felt a quiet sense of satisfaction as the transfer window snapped shut. We had signed seven players and smashed our transfer record in the process. But two more signings at the death made me wonder if Manuel Pellegrini has got the pick ‘n’ mix syndrome?
Nine new players consisting of one goalkeeper, three defenders, four midfielders and one striker is almost an alternate starting eleven. But will they gel as a unit and complement the existing squad? The Bournemouth game brought this vexed issue racing to the surface. We were trying desperately hard to find rhythm and understanding in each other’s play.
In contrast, Bournemouth with the core of a settled squad looked comfortable and assured playing their way to three points. Moreover, Eddie Howe has been manager at Bournemouth for five years; West Ham appointed four managers over the same period which doesn’t encourage a consistent transfer policy.
Signing Colombian midfielder Carlos Sanchez on deadline day was a curious move. He hardly covered himself in glory at the World Cup; sent off against Japan in the third minute, and a willing executioner in England’s bruising battle with Colombia. He might not get an easy ride from rival fans as the World Cup will always linger in the memory.
Nevertheless, he is a midfield enforcer who will add some much needed steel to the artistry. Known as La Roca (‘The Rock’), he should also provide defensive cover for Jack Wilshere and Filipe Anderson to push up and dictate the play.
Sanchez is the type of player who rarely wins plaudits but remains an essential component in any successful team. However, question marks still remain and are difficult to resolve with any certainty. Admittedly, Sanchez has won 88 caps for Columbia and played in two World Cups so is nobody’s fool.
He emerged unscathed from the death threats that inevitably followed his World Cup dismissal. All which prove he is a tough cookie who won’t be intimidated and has rightly earned his nickname. However, his best years seem behind him at 32 and the image persists of a journeyman footballer in wind down mode.
He began his club career in Uruguay and even rubbed shoulders with Edinson Cavani. However, he never settled and was soon on his way to a nomadic existence in Europe. His longest spell was with French Ligue 1 club Valenciennes. Strangely, his seven year stay was almost broken in 2012 by West Ham when Sam Allardyce tried to sign him.
However, the deal fell through and he drifted through the Spanish and Italian leagues. In between was a brief spell at Aston Villa, where the jury never quite returned as he left in the aftermath of relegation.
Sanchez feels more like a hired gun who is just passing through; a stubborn, determined performer who can plug a gap if and when needed.
He can kiss the badge as much as he likes, but will never love the club as much as the fans do. This may do him an injustice as the majority of players could be viewed in the same light. Pellegrini will doubtless see the benefit of adding a fellow Spanish speaker to the ranks.
Football may be a universal language, but it does no harm to have players who share the manager’s native tongue. Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Rafa Benitez at Liverpool favoured the same approach which paid off handsomely.
Sanchez can certainly do a job for West Ham, but he doesn’t strike me as a good long term bet. It’s far too early to judge having played only 13 minutes as sub against Bournemouth. Let’s just hope we haven’t signed him six years too late?