There are statistics and there are statistics, but whatever way you look at the numbers it is hard to conceal a 'serial' goal scorer, as they say form is temporary class is permanent! Therefore to any number crunching geek or punter who likes his 'stats', Jonathan Calleri looked like a smart loan signing from Boca Juniors, especially given his prolific rate of scoring top flight goals, but his impact at the London Stadium has been unexceptional.
Results from this Saturday's FA Cup games were amazing to say the least, and although eventually failing in the last few minutes against Middlesbrough, Oxford United nearly got over the line helped in no small way by one Antonio Martínez López. Since his arrival from Valencia the 19 year old marked his Premier League 2 debut with a goal against Stoke City, in a 3–0 home win. After scoring 7 goals in 7 games for West Ham United U23 during the first-half of the season, he suffered two injury set-backs, the first left him sidelined for six weeks, unfortunately with the player due to return to action on the 21st of November, Martínez suffered yet another injury. His prolific goal scoring continued into January and he had racked up a total of 12 goals from 11 games before being sent out on loan to Oxford. Toni, as he likes to be called, is the real deal and we would not bet against him having a big impact in the Barclays Premier League next season.
West Ham United's player recruitment has come in for a considerable amount of criticism, possibly rightly so, but Toni Martinez was an inspired signing. Tony Henry, Hammers director of player recruitment, must sometimes be scratching his head, and Simone Zaza probably is the the main cause, such a high profile failure muddied the water with regards to the 'positive' business that Henry has quietly undertaken. Martinez has all the potential to 'do a Vardy', his speed and power coupled with an almost arrogant self belief could devastate top flight defenders, after all "they don't like it up'em!" Martinez possesses phenomenal ball control whilst running at speed and is equally at ease on either flank, at only 5' 11'' he is obviously not a big target man in the Andy Carroll mould, but his pace could carve teams up.
Calleri will return to Boca or go elsewhere at the end of the season, so where do West Ham United go in the striker department? Unfortunately the powers that be at West Ham, who are usually so astute, will make a rookie error by pursuing yet another 'marquee' signing, this will almost inevitably end up being an ex-military bivouac! After all there is no need to sell season tickets, the vast amount having already been sold in advance, so there is no need for a 'phoney' war on spending, maybe the club got ahead of itself in it's aspirations for this season and the pursuit of that top striker but are things really that bad?
Who is there to lead the line? On the club's books as out and out strikers we have, Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Toni Martinez, Ashley Fletcher and we'll get to the other one later, if only Carroll and Sakho could remain fit everything would be tickety boo, however the grim shadow of injury is always likely to fall on Big Andy followed very quickly by Daffy who still seems to have the JuJu in him courtesy of his national team's doctor propensity for planetary back re-alignment! Andre Ayew's name should be mentioned as well, although he is obviously not an out and out striker, so there are four to five players if fit to fill one or two places at the most, oh and by the way do you remember Enner Valencia? Ironically Enner is on hot weather training with his Everton colleagues in Dubai, just a stones throw from where West Ham themselves are training, perhaps one or two observers will find the situation rather strange that Hammers could have one of their strikers out on loan to a rival club who are well above them in the Barclays Premier League, in hindsight letting him go was a big mistake, he could not have done worse than Zaza and would have provided a mobile back up for the team's perennial injury victims.
The need for a new centre back and right back are arguably more important than chasing the top striker rainbow, speed and power will get you nearly there in the modern game and energy levels have to be off the scale, but a pragmatic view is also extremely important, Hammers need to set out their stall next year based on a solid defence, which is something Slaven Billic should relish, there is enough energy and youthful pace available to then hit teams on the break which happened so successfully last season.
With the impressive London Stadium from which, despite it's gremlins, West Ham have gained global exposure, the club have a vehicle to push on with. It is imperative that this 'gift horse' is exploited to the full before Chelsea and Tottenham are able to match the stadium's capacity, the couple of years that it will take to finalise their constructions should see West Ham push on to be at least top of the Premier League's second table ie: 7th place and with luck a bit higher, running before walking.
Fans themselves need to be realistic and not push the board for ludicrously expensive and exotic signings, there have already been signs that the club has wised up when it comes to transfers, untried foreign imports are a risk at best and need to be balanced by less spectacular but more reliable players who can hit the ground running such as Fonte and Snodgrass.
Unless the club experience a spectacular loss of form a new season in the top flight is guaranteed, and you can guarantee the atmosphere will be electric at the London Stadium as already it has started to feel more like home as fans get used to their surroundings and fellow supporters (we have a wonderful must be ex-speed freak nutter in a pink shirt near us who is almost worth the admission fee alone for his 'comments' to the away supporters) The players will feel more comfortable and the away teams will have 'lost their cherry' when it comes to the 'London Stadium Experience', so perhaps the playing field will be more level.
All in all there are reasons to be cheerful, and let's hope bloody England don't come calling for Big Andy or any of the rest of the squad and that the club doesn't set out on a quest for the unicorn striker - Ed