West Ham MUST address striker shortage to stay in Champions League fight... they can ignore the issue no longer

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·4-min read
West Ham MUST address striker shortage to stay in Champions League fight... they can ignore the issue no longer
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West Ham's lack of a striker to cover for and compete with Michail Antonio is not something David Moyes needs reminding about, but it is an issue he must fix next month.

It was unfortunate for West Ham's talisman to miss the Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Tottenham due to a positive coronavirus test, especially considering the forward is fully vaccinated, but the absence of an alternative is an issue of West Ham's own making and one which cannot continue.

It has been almost a year since the club made the call to sell Sebastien Haller to Ajax. That decision remains the correct one as Haller offered far too little in a West Ham shirt, but the east Londoners cannot go on without a replacement if they want to compete on all fronts.

It was not just the absence of a striker which hurt West Ham against Spurs. Moyes's squad has also been decimated in defence, but in lacking a focal point going forward the visitors could not take advantage of their second-half dominance.

West Ham put on a strong show given the names missing. As well as Antonio, there is still no Aaron Cresswell while Vladimir Coufal was suspended and Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna are both long-term absentees.

Jarrod Bowen was tasked with leading the line and did so well, scoring West Ham's only goal with some fine footwork to create space and finish past Hugo Lloris, but the 24-year-old does not impose himself on opposing defences like Antonio or any natural striker. That is no real criticism, it is not Bowen's style or natural role, but it was an issue for the Hammers in the second half on Wednesday.

Even when he is struggling in front of goal, Antonio occupies defenders and draws them into a fight, creating space and chances for others around him - something Bowen was not doing against Tottenham.

West Ham have put on a number of superb displays this season and, in the second half especially, last night was another - right up until the final third. The hope will be that crucial last bit does not cost them.

Moyes is keen not to waste money and sign a striker simply to fill a void. The Scot wants someone who can make an impact on his squad from the off and is wise to spend carefully given the wasteful use of funds during Manuel Pellegrini's reign.

West Ham cannot stay in the Champions League fight relying solely on Michail Antonio up front (Getty Images)
West Ham cannot stay in the Champions League fight relying solely on Michail Antonio up front (Getty Images)

However, West Ham now sit in a position where they can either sink or swim as a club fighting for Europe. They have kicked on after a sixth-placed finish last season and now Moyes wants them to join the party at the top of the Premier League on a permanent basis. The former Manchester United manager has drawn so much from this squad and knows they must now invest if they are to make further strides.

West Ham do not have the bank balances of the clubs around them in the race for Europe. They cannot spend like Chelsea or the Manchester clubs, but must find players who can keep them competing with the ‘big six’. What they do now have is the backing of Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, which means they are not going into the January window short of funds.

Next month is also a chance for Rob Newman, the club's new head of recruitment, to shine in his first transfer window.

Blackburn and Chile’s Ben Brereton Diaz is of interest to the Hammers next month (Getty Images)
Blackburn and Chile’s Ben Brereton Diaz is of interest to the Hammers next month (Getty Images)

There is interest in Blackburn's Ben Brereton Diaz, while Divock Origi has also been linked with the club - though it is hard to see Liverpool sanctioning a sale with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane set for the Africa Cup of Nations. Moyes also wants to add cover at the back following the injuries to Zouma and Ogbonna.

Finding a striker who can hit the ground running at an affordable price and during a window which is famously difficult to navigate is no small task, but it is one West Ham must rise to if they want to stay in the fight at the top of the Premier League and in Europe across the rest of the campaign.

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