It’s fair to say that this season hasn’t quite panned out as us fans expected it to. I’m pretty sure some thought we would have a great European run, which we have, but no-one expected us to be in a relegation battle.
Likewise I am assuming there are players in our squad that never thought they would be benchwarmers this season. The likes of Manuel Lanzini maybe but not someone like Pablo Fornals. And what about our new signings? Gianluca Scamacca even before his injury was not really a first choice.
What about between the sticks? Having already been with the Hammers on loan, Alphonse Areola when he signed a permanent contract in the close season must have thought this was the year he would make that number one position his own but instead we have seen him languishing on the bench. With there being rumours that Fabianski will be offered a contract extension at the end of the season, the French keeper must be wondering what exactly has gone wrong and does he have a future at the London Stadium.
The goalkeeper position is an extremely important one and West Ham need to get this right and it beggars the question: Should we be investing in another year with Fab or finally give Areola his chance? Looking at our two contenders for that green shirt, or as it is now a multi coloured shirt, performance must be taken into account.
In my opinion Fab has lost a step, his distribution can be poor and he is subject to the odd mistake. But then just when I’m thinking it’s time for a change, he pulls off an amazing save to keep us in the match.
As for Areola, he hasn’t quite made the grade and like Fab, can be very inconsistent, one minute a world beater and the next making his compatriot Bernard Lama, remember him, look good.
But has Areola been given a chance this season? Last season he was the man in goal for our European campaign, a campaign which took us to the semi finals. This year Areola has started just five games in all competitions which is pretty amazing considering the amount of league and cup games we have played.
It feels as if the manager has already decided that Areola is not the right man for the job which is odd seeing that Moyes had a full season when Areola was on loan to decide if he was the right replacement for Fabianski. But if that is so, is Fabianski the solution? He has just turned 38 years of age and no doubt will have a season or two still left in him, but at the highest level? I’m not so sure.
Areola is eight years younger and could be our ‘keeper for years to come but he has failed to live up to expectations.
I feel if Fab gets that extended contract, Areola will want out. After all, he was on the brink of being a regular in the French national team before this season. Sitting on the bench will not help his international career. We may rue the decision to let him go but if we do, it will be back to the drawing board as Fab won’t last forever.
And in my eyes Fab, due to inconsistency in his game and his age, is not the long term solution. So where do we go then? There are two ‘keepers who stand out for me and may even be a possibility.
Yassine Bounou is currently the starting goalkeeper for struggling Seville, who could yet get relegated from La Liga. He is also the starting international keeper for Morocco where a certain West Ham defender also plies his international trade.
Bounou will be out of contract after next season. Despite Seville’s woes this year, he has been outstanding as he was in the World Cup. With Aguerd’s influence he could be a possibility. He is just 32 and so a full six years younger than Fab.
Having “Bono” in goal could be just what we need. Staying with La Liga, Valencia, another team in relegation trouble but also financial trouble, have the Georgian Giorgi Mamardashvili in goal. Last season he recorded almost 600 minutes without conceding a goal and was named in the La Liga discovery of the season team.
He is just 22 years of age and is out of contract at the end of the season. Could he be our future? And what of the likes of Raya at Brentford, Leno at Fulham and Meslier at Leeds, could they be the solution? There are plenty of options.
One thing is certain and that is if Fabianski remains out as starting goalkeeper next season, Areola will certainly be considering his future. We may regret that decision but one thing is clear, there are plenty of great keepers out there and who’s to say that in a season or two’s time we may be singing about Mamardashvili coming from near Moscow.