West Ham’s Alleged Pursuit of Martin Braithwaite Makes No Sense – Literally, None

Martin Braithwaite
Martin Braithwaite does not have any Premier League experience. | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

In case you haven’t seen, West Ham have been linked with a move for Barcelona striker Martin Braithwaite.

Now, before we go any further, let me share you with my expression when I opened a couple of mocking WhatsApp messages this morning.

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The first one I received read, “Toby, why are West Ham, SO West Ham”. That message was swiftly followed by one that simply said, “Martin Braithwaite lol”.

Now, if that doesn’t tell you that what we’re about to touch on is so overwhelmingly typical of the club I’ve supported for the past 30 years, I don’t know what will.

What it also serves is a very untimely reminder that West Ham have little to no concept of understanding what a good Premier League striker looks like, nor do they know what to do with a player who could possibly be one.

Just last year, it came to light how bad the club’s recruitment has been in this particular department over the last decade. At that time, 38 strikers had been brought to the club under the ownership of David’s Gold and Sullivan – and you don’t need a degree from Oxford University to work out how many of those turned out to be successful.

Araujo IlanAraujo Ilan
Remember Ilan? No, not many West Ham fans do either | Phil Cole/Getty Images

Then came the club-record signing of Sebastien Haller. A fee of £45m – so rumour has it – was paid to Eintracht Frankfurt off the back of a very successful season in the Bundesliga. The numbers behind that success? 15 goals in the league and five on the continent, guiding the Germans to a surprise Europa League semi-final spot.

The thing that made Haller a success there was that he played in a two-man strike partnership alongside Luka Jovic. The pair linked up superbly – knocking balls down for each other while making a general nuisance of themselves – and it allowed the Serbian to also score a truck load of goals.

Jovic’s individual form was so good in fact that Real Madrid weighed into the market and took him to arguably the biggest club in the world. As for Haller, an international for France at every youth level going, he settled for a huge pay day in London – amid rumours that he didn’t really want to join – hoping West Ham would give him the platform to continue scoring goals and ultimately, secure a bigger and better move.

What he didn’t realise is that the club are renowned for taking a player’s best attributes, disregarding them completely and making said player operate in a system that does nothing for them. In this case, it was isolating Haller up front of his own – an idea that Manuel Pellegrini seemed to think was a really good one because he scored a few early season goals against Watford and Norwich.

Haller and Jovic excelled together at Frankfurt | FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

Soon enough, West Ham had been found wanting defensively and Haller has turned out to be fairly ineffectual when operating away from his teammates by a good 10 to 15 yards. Things took a turn for the better after David Moyes was reappointed as manager, and a switch to a conventional 4-4-2 – pairing Haller up with Michail Antonio – looked promising.

Together, the pair put in a couple of promising performances, and ran Southampton and Arsenal, to a lesser degree, ragged before lockdown. Since then, Haller’s been injured and the need for further reinforcements has been apparent despite Antonio’s superb end of season form.

Cutting a very waffly story short, that brings us to Martin Braithwaite.

A player who has never played in the Premier League, was mildly okay for Middlesbrough at Championship level and could barely muster a goal for Leganes before Barcelona sensationally found a transfer window loophole to take him to Camp Nou – because they fancied a bit of additional cover after Luis Suarez picked up an injury.

Needless to say, less than six months down that road and Braithwaite isn’t in any kind of Barça plans going forward. Shocked? No, we’re not either. Apart from he does appear to be in West Ham’s, amid talk of a potential move to east London.

Now, let me just remind you of Moyes’ comments in late January before we go any further. “We didn’t have much to spend at Everton and my idea was always to bring players in with resale value that I could sell back into the market,” he said, quotes courtesy of The Guardian.

“I want to stop the idea that always what we’re doing is just buying someone to fill the gap. I want it to be the vision for the club that we are looking to bring in young, attractive and hungry players who are saying: ‘We are going to make West Ham better.’ Whatever is said in the accounts, I am telling you what my vision is. I think if I get given the opportunity to do that, I will turn it around.”

Forgive me if I’m getting the wrong end of the stick here, but a willingness to pay €20m for a 29-year-old who will never be sold for that kind of fee again in a million years? That doesn’t sound like investing in ‘young, attractive and hungry players’, nor does it smack of pursuing a player who is going to ‘make West Ham better’.

David MoyesDavid Moyes
David Moyes hinted at a change in transfer policy in January | Pool/Getty Images

This was something the club are meant to be moving away from.

This is something that the manager said would not happen under his watch.

This is a manager who said in the last couple of weeks that he has the final say on all transfer dealings, or he wouldn’t be in the job.

This is something that is ‘SO West Ham’.

This is something that goes against the grain of any kind of common sense, and absolutely can’t happen if the club – and manager – is serious about changing things for the better.

This is something that we all hope isn’t true.