One of the reasons why West Ham’s supporters felt a weight lifting when it emerged that an American consortium is interested in buying the club from David Gold and David Sullivan is because of the money wasted on dud signings since the move to the London Stadium four years ago.
This is an institution in need of a new vision, even if the proposed takeover ends up going nowhere. Beating Charlton in the second round of the Carabao Cup changes nothing. Dysfunction was present even though West Ham won; it was there in the sight of Felipe Anderson, Sébastien Haller and Andriy Yarmolenko taking to the field for a low-key cup tie against League One opponents.
The fanfare that greeted the arrivals of Anderson, Haller and Yarmolenko subsided long ago. It is safe to assume the intention was not to use them on these kind of occasions and although Haller grabbed his first two goals since February, bullying a lower league defence is the least that should be expected from a £45m striker.
The same applies to Anderson, who needs to offer so much more than scoring the third goal in an easy win over Charlton. It hardly counted as a test and it summed up West Ham’s incoherent recruitment that their reserve side contained three of the biggest signings in the club’s history. A front three with a combined cost of £99m was less a show of strength, more an admission of underachievement.
In different circumstances the trio might have been sold during this transfer window. West Ham have spent the last two months fruitlessly trying to find a buyer for Anderson, who cost £37m from Lazio two years ago, and have ended up realising there are few takers for a struggling winger who earns £115,000 a week. They are learning the hard way. The market is awkward because of the Covid-19 pandemic and West Ham enraged their supporters when, in their desperation to find a player who could bring in some money, they allowed Grady Diangana to join West Brom.
For the club, though, there was logic behind the sale. Not only did they feel they needed to raise funds that David Moyes can put towards defensive signings, they also argued that there was a lot of competition in Diangana’s position. While their squad lacks balance, it is not short of creative wide players.
One of them, Robert Snodgrass, even started in central midfield against Charlton. It was Anderson and Yarmolenko on the flanks and there were times during the first half when the duo did offer glimpses of their class. Anderson, who had not scored since New Year’s Day, spent the opening period trying to make inroads down the left and Yarmolenko was bright on the right.
There was an eagerness to make a positive impression after last Saturday’s dismal 2-0 defeat to Newcastle in the league. Yarmolenko had an early goal disallowed for a foul on Ben Amos, Charlton’s goalkeeper, and he created the opener with a clever assist. Josh Cullen, a 24-year-old academy graduate with designs on becoming a regular after impressing on loan at Charlton last year, lifted a lovely pass through from midfield and Yarmolenko rammed the ball across for Haller to tap into an empty net.
Haller must have been relieved after blundering moments earlier when the young right-back, Ben Johnson, made it to the byline and produced a cutback. The Frenchman scuffed wide from close range.
But Haller settled down after his first goal, reminding Moyes that he does have something to offer. The forward can be a threat if West Ham find a way to play to his strengths. A player of his height thrives on quality service, which he demonstrated when he rose to head Snodgrass’s teasing cross past Amos.
At that stage thoughts turned to another questionable signing. Jack Wilshere, who has made six league starts since joining West Ham two years ago, was missing again after suffering an ankle injury in training and the former Arsenal player might find it hard to regain his spot after Cullen’s encouraging display in midfield.
“I think Josh has done really well,” Moyes said. “He’s a great boy. He works incredibly hard to improve himself.”
Charlton faded at the end and West Ham extended their lead when Manuel Lanzini set up Anderson for a crisp finish. Perhaps there is hope yet for the expensive misfits.