West Ham have been installed as bookies favourites to sign Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier Hernandez this summer as the Hammers look to solve their striker crisis.
With Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho expected to miss the start of the season, that leaves only Ashley Fletcher as the recognised, first team striker in the squad. Toni Martinez could be drafted into the squads if necessary and has been training with the first team at Rush Green this week.
The Hammers are believed to have met the £13m release clause for the Mexican striker but his £140,000 a week wage demands could prove a stumbling block – Carroll is the highest earner on £100,000.
But is he the answer the Hammers are looking for? Ben McAleer dives in to the debate.
Bayer Leverkusen’s sub-par showing last season suggests that many of their star players are now on the market. That they ended the campaign just four points above the relegation playoff spot means it should come as little shock that key men would rather ply their trade elsewhere.
Indeed, Hakan Calhanoglu has already departed for AC Milan, Omer Toprak has joined Borussia Dortmund while Kevin Kampl is set to follow the pair out of the BayArena exit.
The German side have retained some quality in Julian Brandt, Benjamin Henrichs and Kai Havertz – at least the time of the writing – but some of the more experienced stars see their futures elsewhere.
And while the club are keen to retain the services of top scorer Chicharito, they are powerless to deny the Mexico international a move away this summer.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid man netted 11 goals for a disappointing Bayer Leverkusen outfit last season, impressing when called upon as he ended the campaign with respectable conversion rate of 21.2%.
Chicharito has a desire to return to the Premier League, however, and while Bayer Leverkusen are loath to lose this star striker, the forward has a £13m release clause in his contract. In today’s inflated market, £13m represents a bargain, with West Ham leading the way to secure his services.
The Hammers are very much keen on a new striker this summer as they were last year before ultimately plumping for Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri. Andre Ayew was a club-record capture from Swansea and while the Ghanian was deployed as the lead frontman on more than one occasion, he is far better suited in a support role.
Zaza and Calleri netted just one league goal between them, with the former moving to Valencia at the turn of the year and the latter returning to Deportivo Maldonado upon the culmination of his loan spell.
Top-scoring striker Andy Carroll found the back of the net on just seven occasions over the campaign, though having registered only 18 top-flight appearances, 15 of which were starts, makes for better reading.
This lack of game time, though, is why Hammers boss Slaven Bilic is so eager to land a new striker. Carroll’s ongoing fitness issues means the 28-year-old is an unreliable frontman over the course of campaign, even if he is an effective attacking outlet given his height and size.
In Chicharito, you lose the physicality of Carroll, but the Mexican is a prolific goalscorer and, importantly, boasts vital Premier League experience. His last full season in England’s top tier may have seen him net just four goals, though to his credit, Chicharito registered just six Premier League starts over David Moyes’ forgettable spell at Old Trafford.
When handed a prominent role in attack, however, the experienced forward will score goals. With West Ham, he’d no doubt be their starting striker, be it on his own spearheading the attack or in a strike partnership. Fortunately for Bilic, Chicharito is experienced in both roles.
More often than not the 29-year-old was partnered with Stefan Kiessling or Kevin Volland, the former in a classic ‘little and large’ relationship, while the latter affords him the chance to hang on the shoulder of the last defender.
Bilic could replicate these partnerships by deploying Chicharito alongside Carroll or Ayew depending on how he wants the Leverkusen striker to feature.
If with Carroll, then he’d be making lung busting runs beyond the defence to latch on to any knock ons, while alongside Ayew, Chicharito would act as the furthest man forward with the former Swansea man drifting to the wings and between the lines to drag defenders out of position, thus creating space for the latter to exploit in the final third.
However, if Bilic requires a frontman to work hard off the ball and defend from the front, then Chicharito is not the striker he should be pursuing. He averaged just 0.2 tackles per 90 in the Bundesliga last season, but then demanding he defend from the front would be a tremendous waste of his talents.
Chicharito is a far stronger player when teammates carry out the nitty-gritty work, allowing him to maximise his goalscoring quality. It’s little shock that of the 42 players to scored 10 or more Bundesliga goals since August 2015, only three required fewer touches per goal than Chicharito (56).
In the 18-yard box, he’s ruthlessly efficient and if West Ham do secure his services, playing to his strengths would undoubtedly help in their quest for European football.
Chicharito is able to bring others into play of course having made 1.1 key passes per 90 minutes in Germany’s top tier last term, but then the striker is more effective when getting on the end of chances rather than creating for teammates.
Links with compatriot Raul Jimenez,- who is out of favour with Benfica – also suggest that Bilic has identified the Mexican duo as the ideal strikeforce to fire West Ham up the table.
The 26-year-old Jimenez averaged a goal every 110.4 minutes in Liga NOS last season, the third best return of players to make 10 or more appearances in Portugal’s top tier, and the potential arrival of the pair would significantly boost Bilic’s striking options.
The priority though should be Chicharito, who for £13m represents very good value for money in this window. If West Ham can convince him to make the move to the London Stadium, then their immediate striking options improve exponentially. The possible arrival of Jimenez would then give Bilic an all-new attack that has the capability of delivering European football to east London.
Would you like to see Hernandez line out for West Ham next season? Let us know in the comments below.