The Jesse Lingard questions, when will they go away I hear you ask? Will he come back to West Ham? Should he? Do we need him? Well if it was down to me, I’d say no, that ship has sailed and can we please stop talking about it. But that would make this a mighty short column.
So first of all, I’ll tell you why I think West Ham should leave it well alone and then I’ll try and give some credence to those who think we should go all out to sign him. I want to get it straight now, I think what Jesse Lingard did for West Ham was phenomenal.
I think his loan spell at the London Stadium suited both parties down to the ground and both sides got plenty out of the arrangement. Granted, Lingard missed out on Gareth Southgate’s final Euro 2020 squad which was his ultimate aim. But the fact he even got back into Southgate’s thoughts, let alone a smidgen away from making it to the summer tournament, shows just how much he achieved in such a short space of time.
His nine goals and five assists in 16 games were more than any Hammers fan could have dreamed of. But the notion that him coming back permanently, or even on loan in January, would see him replicate such numbers is naïve in my opinion. There were so many factors that saw him produce such performances last season – with the main one being his desire to prove himself once again.
To football fans everywhere, to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to Southgate and, most importantly, to himself. That driving force has now gone. He also had 18 months left on his Manchester United contract when he moved to east London and was playing for a new deal.
The playmaker has since been offered one by the Red Devils and has decided to reject it. That is clearly because he’s a free agent at the end of the season and will command a much higher wage at his next club as a result.
He has been happy for the narrative to run suggesting he just wanted to give himself another chance at his boyhood team he loves. But perhaps he doesn’t love them that much or surely he would have signed on the dotted line already? Do we want someone like that? He’s barely got a sniff since returning to Old Trafford despite the team’s terrible form. And United fans abused him during another grim showing by their team when he wasn’t even on the pitch!
All in all, it’s clear he hasn’t got a future at United unless he is content with sitting on the bench and getting a few minutes in cup competitions here and there. If he is happy with that, do we want such a player? And if he isn’t, why isn’t he making it quite clear he wants to rejoin the Hammers in January? Because he’s hedging his bets and looking for the biggest and best offer. And do we want a player like that?
Lingard made it quite clear after he scored that screamer to put the Hammers to the sword at London Stadium in September that he had already left his loan spell in the past. He said: ‘They supported me in the loan spell and gave me a great reception, so it was only right to pay them back. It was a great reception from the West Ham fans. I had a brilliant time here, but I had to do my bit.’
Lingard clearly had a good time at the London Stadium and had a special relationship with Mark Noble. He told The Players Tribune: ‘Let me tell you about Nobes. He’s got banter, or at least he thinks he does. He had it in for me from the time the gaffer called me Golden Boy in training. We were doing boxes and the ball went out. I touched it last, but David Moyes was like, “No, no, no, Jesse doesn’t have to go in the middle. He’s our Golden Boy!”. After that Nobes was after me. Seriously though, he took me under his wing and explained to me what West Ham is all about.’
All very nice but the West Ham move was a means to an end for Lingard. And that’s OK, but that’s all it was. So now we’ve cleared that up, let’s pretend Lingard does re-join for a second.
Firstly, what happens to Said Benrahma? Three goals and two assists in nine Premier League games at time of writing is a very decent contribution. The Algerian was always a long term signing. And although he took a while to get going and didn’t deserve any more game time than he got last season, his confidence is now through the roof and he’s playing the football we all hope we’d see from him.
Why ruin that and have him try and find form when coming off the bench every now and then? Secondly, Lingard is said to want a four-year, £140,00-a-week deal. He’s 29 in December. Does that sound like good value to you?
That’d mean breaking the club’s wage structure to make him the highest paid player and we’d still be paying him that money when he’s 33. Moyes’ ethos is to fill the squad with young hungry players with something to prove and I fear that may be lacking in Lingard the more time goes on. Think Samir Nasri, Patrice Evra, Javier Hernandez et al.
It’d be Lingard’s last big contract and, as we’ve seen before, that can lead to a ‘feet up and take it easy’ mentality. Thirdly and finally, we are arguably playing better football this season than we were last. We’ve got such a good thing going without Lingard, I just think the current positives outweigh the potential negatives of a Lingard return.
The arguments I keep hearing for bringing him back seem to come from the same places and the same people who suggested we should ‘change the system to suit Sebastien Haller’ and ‘David Moyes should give Felipe Anderson another chance’. And getting rid of them were two of the best things the club have done in recent times.
We’re a far more cohesive unit where the team is more important than any one player at the moment. And long may that continue. Thanks for the memories Jesse, but let’s leave it at that.