On the 11th anniversary of David Sullivan and David Gold buying West Ham United, it seems fitting that the big talking point of the moment is an issue that the owners have spent more than £150million trying to fix without much success.
West Ham have signed 31 strikers since the beginning of Sullivan and Gold’s tenure and the only recognised, experienced centre forward in the current squad was brought in as a winger.
Michail Antonio has been outstanding when fit but, for all his qualities, he is among the most injury prone players in the Premier League.
It is an unfortunate scenario for David Moyes, who has overseen a significant improvement in results with a shallow squad since taking the manager’s job for a second spell 13 months ago.
That West Ham are three points off sixth after 18 games is the consequence of good management and a tight-knit group but depth issues suggest they will struggle with anything greater than a minor injury crisis.
Especially in attack.
Moyes has seen Sebastien Haller depart to Ajax for €22.5million (£20million) and contribute to four goals in two starts and one substitute appearance for his new club.
Haller was a big disappointment in East London but that he has been allowed to leave for less than half what he cost without a replacement lined up points to another example of poor advanced planning from a disjointed recruitment set up that long precedes Moyes’s tenure.
Once again the solution, it seems, may be to chuck more cash at the issue when the damage has already been done.
The latest name linked with a move to Stratford is Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri. The 23-year-old Morocco international is a good player but so is Haller, whose primary issue was that he did not fit with the team’s style.
There is no guarantee that En-Nesyri will be a success and there has long been a feeling at Rush Green that Moyes’s preference is for homegrown players or at least those with a proven track record in England.
Josh King was among Moyes’s top targets in the summer but the club chose to sign Said Benrahma, who can play out wide or behind a striker but not as the focal point, initially on loan, from Brentford.
The interest in King has cooled, with the former Manchester United academy player struggling for minutes at Bournemouth and holding out for an obscene wage, but there is little guarantee that any forward will arrive in the next fortnight.
Speaking at lunchtime, Moyes confirmed that there have been attempts to strengthen but he pointed to January being a far more difficult window to get business done compared to the summer.
“We have had one or two offers for players either been rejected or they are not available or the clubs want too much money in our eyes, so it is not as if we are not trying to improve on it [the squad],” he said. “If we don’t get anybody in then that’s the way it is going to be but we are out there trying.”
Which brings us to an old article doing the rounds on social media this afternoon: the owners’ infamous ten-point pledge from May 2010. The jury remains out on a couple of them, several have clearly failed and the one that was achieved (pledge nine: go for the Olympic Stadium) drove thousands of supporters away.
It is pledge two that is most pertinent here, though.
“For too long, the focus has been on players leaving rather than arriving,” it read. “We will strengthen in the right areas to ensure an exciting and balanced squad that is well placed to cope with the rigours of a Premier League season. Our main aim will be to bring in players hungry to do well who share our ambitions and aspirations.”
Few can question the attempts to strengthen. The problem is that more often than not the arrivals have been more ineffective than their predecessors. Can they get it right this time?