West Ham have announced the £16m signing of former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez from German side Bayer Leverkusen as their fourth new addition of the summer.
The Hammers’ summer business has, over the last week-or-so, really kicked into gear as manager Slaven Bilic looks to bounce back from a poor first season in their new home in which they rallied to finish 11th after flirting with a relegation battle around Christmas time.
After leaving Upton Park on a high, having secured Europa League football for the second season running, things in Stratford got off to an awful start with Romanians Astra Giurgiu dumping them out in qualifying for a second time in as many seasons.
Bilic’s season was hampered by all sorts of distractions and problems, both on and off the pitch, as fans struggled to settle in the London Stadium before star man Dimitri Payet decided to up and leave in January.
As it turned out the Frenchman’s fit at the turn of the year sparked the recovery, and without him in the side the east Londoners battled back to put in a far more respectable second-half of the season, however, it was too little too late to make anything of the campaign.
With that in mind, money needed to be spent wisely this summer, and with the agreement to bring Hernandez to the capital in place, it could be just what the doctor ordered.
West Ham fans have been pining for a marquee striker signing for years now, but it runs much deeper than just wanting a big name leading the line.
Since their return to the Premier League, only twice has a player in claret and blue made it to double digits in terms of league goals, with Kevin Nolan and Diafra Sakho notching ten in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons respectively.
Last season Michail Antonio, who missed the end of the campaign through injury, came closest bagging nine, however, given how thin Bilic’s squad was at times the former Nottingham Forest man was deployed all over the place, from centre-forward all the way to right-back.
With no standout talisman at London Stadium, largely down to Andy Carroll’s persistent injury problems, Bilic was forced to chop and change his leading man with Antonio, Carroll, Jonathan Calleri, the infamous Simone Zaza and Andre Ayew all taking it in turns to lead the line.
Given the constant rotation there was no real chance for any striker to hit a run of form and ramp up their numbers, and it showed come the end of the season with the Hammers finishing 18 goals shy of their tally from the previous season. Something needed to be done.
Why will Hernandez be such a good fit, then?
Not only does the Mexican international bring goals and experience, his injury record is almost perfect in comparison to the likes of Carroll, having missed just 16 games during his career according to transfermarkt.
The 29-year-old has outscored the Hammers’ top scorer in the last two seasons, and already has over 100 Premier League appearances under his belt, something that has been lacking from Bilic’s signings in recent years.
There will be doubts, however. At Manchester United Hernandez was never really the main man when it came to the front line, more often than not used off the bench to great effect. However, in east London he will be the star, facing pressure from the fans on a completely different level to that in the Bundesliga. Furthermore, he has only ever hit twenty goals in one season on one occasion, the 2010/11 season for United.
That said, Bilic does not need 20+ goals from his new man, it would be nice, of course, but given their record in recent years the Croatian manager will first and foremost want a striker he can bank on being in the side for the majority of the season, bringing in around 15 goals in a league campaign on a consistent basis.
Right man, right time?
It’s fair to say the Hammers haven’t exactly played their cards right when it comes to strikers over the years. If we take playing blackjack as an analogy, when you’re not happy with your hand you have the option to hit and take another card as opposed to standing and seeing how things go.
With this deal being the 33rd for a striker since the owners took over in 2010, it’s clear that the powers that be in east London are far more accustom to taking a hit, however, Chicharito could well be a forward they stick with for some time.
Should Bilic be able to keep Carroll away from the physio for the best part of the season then, coupled with the former United man and the talents of Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and potentially Austrian Marko Arnautovic in behind, the fans in east London could have quite the squad on their hands this season.
Having taken a chance on a number of players who didn’t really fit the mould in recent years, this time around it looks as if all the pieces could be falling together at exactly the right time.