The West Ham Way™ has changed its meaning over the past decade or so. Once a moniker for the scintillating, attacking football that Hammers fans were treated to before the turn of the millennium, the term can now be used to deride the club’s transfer dealings.
The majority of the Hammers’ recruitment over the past few years have generally followed a three-step career path in east London.
Step 1: Arrival. Usually the deal looks good on paper and there is a lot of hype over the player taking West Ham ‘to the next level’, whatever that actually means in practice…
Step 2: A string of disappointing performances or fitness troubles see the new signing all but forgotten about.
Step 3: An acrimonious departure, either caused by a high profile falling out, a spate of injuries or just not being very good at football.
Now we know what the true West Ham Way™ is let’s look back at which Hammers’ signings have most closely fitted the brief over the past few years.
We kick off our list of Hammers flops with a name not uttered in east London many years, Pablo Barrera.
Remember him? Probably not right. Despite his obscurity, the diminutive Mexican is the archetypal ‘West Ham’ signing.
Brought in to much clamour for around £4m, the excitement around his arrival soon disappeared as he endured a fruitless 2010/11 season, not registering a single goal or assist. Following the Hammers’ relegation, he made the sum total of one appearance in the Championship, before being shipped out on loan to Real Zaragoza – where he was equally rubbish.
In 2012 he returned to his homeland with the hype that greeted his arrival a very distant memory. That is so West Ham.
Back in 2017, José Fonte was one of the most highly rated centre-backs in the Premier League.
His domineering performances helped Southampton establish themselves first as top flight club and then as Europa League contenders. Liverpool and a host of other top sides were linked with the defender in during the 2016/17 season with West Ham eventually securing his signature in January.
Upon arrival at his new club, the calm and composed player of old regressed into an injury- and error-prone disaster. Soon after his signing was confirmed, West Ham went on a run of five straight losses and overall the Hammers won just four games during the entire rest of the campaign.
Fonte’s second season was even worse, with an ankle injury ruling him out for the year in October. His typically ‘West Ham’ career ending with a move to the Chinese Super League in February 2018. What a way to blow £8m, plus a hefty amount on wages.
Although his on-field performances made it hard to believe, West Ham actually beat off competition from a host of Premier League sides to sign Modibo Maiga in 2012.
The Malian had been banging them in for Sochaux the previous season and seemed to be a perfect fit for English football. Despite high expectations, the striker was ridiculously goal shy following his £5m move, netting four times in 34 appearances.
Maiga gets extra, ‘that is so West Ham’ points for his brief and unsuccessful loan move to Queens Park Rangers. His miserable Hammers spell was finally brought to an end in 2015 when he moved to Saudi based Al-Nassr. Again, that is absolute classic, 100% West Ham all over.
What’s he doing these days, we hear you ask? Well, he’s currently seeking employment after being released by Thailand’s Buriram United in 2019.
To say that Carlos Sanchez’s West Ham career was disappointing would be the understatement of the century.
The Columbian international’s arrival on a free transfer was viewed as a shrewd piece of business, but it turned out being another case of the Hammers’ missteps in the transfer market. The warnings sign were there as well, with the veteran playing just a handful of games the season prior to his arrival.
Sanchez never settled in the capital with injury and poor form restricting him to just 13 appearances across two campaigns. The midfielder departed the club back in June, and now faces the tough task of finding himself a new club after barely featuring in the past three years.
When Jack Wilshere announced his departure from Arsenal in 2018, the narrative of West Ham craving expensive, injury-prone players was so well entrenched that everyone predicted that the midfielder would end up at the Hammers.
He actually did! Surprise surprise, the move has been a complete failure. All in all, Wilshere has made 16 appearances in two Premier League seasons for the east Londoners, racking up a single assist during that time.
With one year left to go on his big money contract, it would take nothing short of a miracle to see his contract extended before next summer…at any normal club that is.
This being West Ham, the midfielder will probably enjoy a run of three games in the first team, be declared ‘back to his best’ and handed a six-year deal – only for his hamstring to go the very next weekend.
Only West Ham could sign one of the most sought after strikers in Europe – only for him to regress dramatically as soon as he stepped foot on the London Stadium turf.
When the Hammers announced the signing of Sebastien Haller last summer, continental football experts hailed it a stroke of genius. The Frenchman was painted as just as talented as his Frankfurt partner in crime Luka Jovic who himself secured a big money move to Real Madrid around the same time.
While Haller’s season hasn’t been a complete disaster, there is certainly potential for the striker to be lumped in with the other wasters on this list if he does not improve his output next season.
In truth, the Hammers looked a lot better with Michail Antonio leading the line towards the end of the season which begs the question: was dropping a club record £45m fee on Haller really smart business or was it another typical West Ham mistake?