Opinion: West Ham’s pursuit of William Carvalho shows the
Hammers may actually have a long-term plan

West Ham have been heavily linked with Sporting Lisbon’s Euro 2016 winning midfielder William Carvalho, with a bid of £31 million seemingly lodged.

He could join fellow senior signings Javier Hernandez, Pablo Zabaleta and Marko Arnautovic joining the club this season. Joe Hart has been loaned in for the season, while 18-year-old Sead Haksabonic has joined from Sweden.

However, the addition of Carvalho is the only one that really sets West Ham up for years to come and makes any long-term sense.

Looking at West Ham’s business

Until now, West Ham’s summer transfer strategy appears to be “spend now, think later.”

Arnautovic, Hernandez, Zabaleta, Hart all seem good transfers on face value. They all have that ever-so-valuable Premier League Experience and their transfer fees weren’t that high. Even if their wages are, it’s the transfer fees that fans care about.

However, Zabaleta will be 33 in January, Arnautovic 29 in April, Hernandez 30 by next season and Hart is already 30. The Manchester City loanee isn’t so bad, being only a temporary move, but the other three do show a lack of long-term planning.

These players’ best years are most likely behind them, and there is little re-sale opportunity for any of three.

So, the London side are thinking very short-term, with the aim presumably to get into Europe?

Even short-term, the way the squad is built makes very little sense. It is going to be extremely difficult to fit both Arnautovic and Hernandez into the same team.

In their 4-0 loss to Manchester United, Slavan Bilic lined West Ham up in a 4-3-3 shape with Arnautovic and Andre Ayew either side of Hernandez.

Hernandez isn’t the type of striker to lead the line though, as we saw against United and throughout his career. Even the Sky Sports build-up stated that he needed an Andy Carroll-type striker to play off. Good idea.

How you fit £25 million man Arnautovic into a two-striker system is another worry. He just isn’t good enough defensively for West Ham to accommodate two strikers.

Tackles Interceptions Clearances Dribbled past Blocks
Arnautovic 1 0.8 0.6 1.1 0.1
Albrighton 1.5 1.1 0.9 1.5 0.1
Boyd 2.4 0.9 1 1.6 0.2
Tackles won Tackles lost Headed duels won Headed duels lost
Arnautovic 0.8 2.7 0.4 1.4
Albrighton 1.2 3.4 0.2 1
Boyd 18 4.8 0.5 2

Comparing Arnautovic’s 2016/17 with that of Premier League left-wingers who played predominantly in a 4-4-2 last season, Arnautovic clearly needs to do more in order to fit this system. (All numbers per 90 minutes)

Sure, it can be done. Arnautovic is 28 though and seems very much a player who plays his game and won’t deviate too much from it. Bilic might change that, but thinking so would mean you’re clutching more straws than two scarecrows on their honeymoon.

You also have to worry about Manuel Lanzini playing in a midfield two, to accommodate Carroll and Hernandez. Another defensive issue.

Really, West Ham are just one giant ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Does the Carvalho signing change things?

In terms of their squad this season, the midfield gets a lot better. Especially defensively. I won’t claim to have watched an extensive amount of Carvalho but swapping him for Mark Noble is a huge positive.

Outside of this season though, Carvalho is a player with a clear identity and could point to a way that West Ham want to play in the seasons to come.

Carvalho turned 25 in April, and has his best years ahead of him. It’s a very different signing to the rest of West Ham’s business.

The Hammers could be ready to build their team around Carvalho (25) and Lanzini (24). They have a lot of players on the books on the wrong end of the age curve, but few are poor players and West Ham may get enough in return for them.

To some extent I understand West Ham looking short-term. Finish around 10th, spend a bit, play at the London Stadium and repeat. Having the stadium in mind though, could the club be a bit more ambitious?

They could end up making a huge net loss on players for the coming seasons if they keep buying 28-year-olds for a season or two out of their four-year contracts, with the market becoming more and more inflated.

Perhaps the club has reviewed their transfer model and deemed it unsustainable. It’s unlikely, given the business they have already concluded this summer, but surely the Carvalho links are a step in the right direction, if nothing else.