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In Focus: West Ham's top-four bubble in danger of bursting
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Cian Cheesbrough
West Ham failed to secure any new signings in January
West Ham failed to secure any new signings in January

A fine season so far has West Ham making an unlikely charge for the top four — but their lack of January transfer activity is a cause for concern.

Despite Michail Antonio being their only striker and Angelo Ogbonna’s injury leaving them short in defence, the Hammers were one of the few Premier League sides not to strengthen at all in January.

And with games coming thick and fast in the league, Europa League and FA Cup, their threadbare squad is set to be tested to the limit during the second half of the season.

Ahead of their FA Cup fourth-round clash against minnows Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday, we look at whether the Hammers have squandered their chance to reach the top four.


Relegation contenders before the Scot took over, Moyes has done remarkably well to have West Ham fighting where they currently are.

They sit just one point off a Champions League place, while they were near flawless in their first-ever Europa League group stage campaign — only suffering defeat in their final game once qualification was already secured.

Notable wins over the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea in the league have left the Hammers faithful dreaming they could defy all the odds.

But as can happen to any team, their form suffered a blip in the winter months — recording just one Premier League win during a seven-game period in November and December.

They responded well with a four-match winning streak in all competitions but defeats in their last two outings against Leeds and Manchester United have once again left the Hammers’ momentum fading.

Ownership anger

Michail Antonio has impressed this season but is West Ham's only striker
Michail Antonio has impressed this season but is West Ham's only striker

That is why the club chiefs’ failure to back Moyes with January incomings has left supporters so frustrated.

With regular starter Ogbonna suffering a season-ending injury in early November, it has been known for some time that defence is an area that needed to be looked at during the winter window.

Yet January came and went with no defensive reinforcements appearing even close to making a move.

Their need for a striker stretches back further, with top scorer Antonio without a back-up to support him since Sebastien Haller left for Ajax last January.

The Jamaica international’s scoring form has covered up the problem to an extent but a recent dip where he managed just one goal in 11 league games between October and mid-December laid bare their problems in that department.

There was late hope when the Hammers were linked with Benfica striker Darwin Nunez as well as Leeds pair Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha on deadline day — with all three quoted as costing upwards of £45million.

Unsurprisingly, none of those ambitious moves came to fruition.

And former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan was not convinced any of the deals were close and thinks it was a ploy from club chiefs to appease fans for their lack of business.

He told TalkSPORT: "I don’t believe that there’s any real interest [in Phillips]. First of all, the player’s got two-and-a-half years left on his contract.

"This is a standard way of operating that [David] Sullivan and [David] Gold have. 

"Who in God’s name told them that Kalvin Phillips is ready to go to West Ham and wants to go to West Ham, and on what basis would they have gone in on a £50m player who was never going to go there in the first place?

"It looks good on paper. We can all bid for players and make sure the media are aware of our ambitions without actually being able to conclude them."

Siege mentality

West Ham's small, close-knit squad has performed well under David Moyes
West Ham's small, close-knit squad has performed well under David Moyes

That means Moyes has once again been left to tend to his business without assistance.

But while January was undoubtedly a disappointment, you would not say their top-four rivals United, Tottenham and Arsenal had convincing windows either. 

The Red Devils and Gunners drew blanks amid concerns over their lack of defensive midfielder and striker respectively, while Spurs’ late double signing of Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski does not look like addressing their problems.

That will encourage the West Ham squad and it may just form a siege mentality within the group Moyes has formed as they look to carry on piling pressure on the wealthy Premier League teams around them. 

The 58-year-old has put together a small and close-knit bunch in East London, which according to resident LiveScore columnist Joleon Lescott — who played under Moyes at Everton — is exactly how the manager likes it.

He said in his column in August: "Knowing David, he will want to keep strengthening the team with quality additions but he is not the kind of manager to build a squad of 20-plus players.

"He wants a tight-knit group of guys he trusts, probably around 16 or so, that will all come in and do their job for the team when needed."

In the likes of Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, Antonio and many others, the boss has players he knows he can trust out on the pitch.

Do not bet against Moyes continuing to work miracles even with one hand tied behind his back.


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