Johnson. Nocerino. Boriello. Armero. Razak. Names are just names and it takes the player behind them to make them mean truly mean something to a club’s supporters. These five men possess the ability to etch a place within the lore of West Ham United over the coming months.
January’s been a bleak month bar the last few days, make no mistake about it. The less said of the performances (if you dare call them that) against Manchester City the better. But the club and its supporters have been given a lifeline in a very busy last 10 days.
Roger Johnson was certainly not the sort of signing supporters were screaming for as the transfer window opened. We needed a center back, but not THAT center back was the general consensus. A man with rumored trouble off the field, and certain troubles on it, seemed a very poor option.
The fact he was thrown into the deep end against the awesome attack of Manchester City did him no favors. A bit different from the opposition he was use to to say the least. The man looked out of his depth, and the supporters looked out of excuses for Big Sam and his tactics.
Now let’s make no mistake: Roger Johnson was never going to be first choice once Winston Reid, James Collins and James Tomkins had returned from injury. If the club had started the season with Johnson as a fourth choice in the position, most supporters would have been happy.
But when he was brought in as first choice, even for a couple of games to provide coverage for injuries, he was always going to be up against. Frustrated fans watching their club flounder in a relegation battle weren’t about to offer out a olive branch.
Carlton Cole’s resigning was a welcome sight for many supporters, but once again it seemed like lateral movement. We needed to move forward! While Cole had been banging them in, word of a supposed loan from Ivory Coast standout Lacina Traore was whetting the appetite of many supporters.
As most fans figured he was targeted more for his height than his skills, the truth started to make it’s way out. Traore was a talent and the sort of striker we definitely needed so badly. Of course the transfer fell through and Everton ended up swooping in. The mood continued to sour.
Then came news of a double swoop from Serie A in the form of Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino. Supporters have to be forgiven for the skepticism that surrounded the possibility of the pair coming in on loans. One can only build up their hope so much.
So imagine the shock when it was actually confirmed we’d signed both a striker and a central midfielder. Borriello’s best days are very likely behind him, but he still has a nose for goal and has shone at smaller clubs throughout his career. He was certainly welcome given the goal scoring problems that have plagued the team all season.
Nocerino was a bit more of a surprising signing, given that we seem to have no lack of central midfielders. But his signing may end up proving to be the most important all season.
Mo Diame spent most of last season playing at a different level than most of his teammates. His dynamic presence in the center of the park was so often the lynchpin that kept everything together.
Supporters certainly realized the job he was doing, but it wasn’t so much appreciated until he was no longer doing it. Case in point: this entire season. How much his poor form is down to himself and how much of it is the result of regularly being played out of position is hard to say. But without that sort of player in the midfield we’ve suffered.
Nocerino could do well to fill in at that role. He’s incredibly comfortable on the ball and has an eye for a pass. With him pulling the strings in midfield, the second half of the season may very well be a different story.
Fast forward a few days and the club announced the shock signing of former Manchester City academy graduate Abdul Razak. Another midfielder but this time closer to the mold of a Diame. Box to box, breaking up passes and carrying the ball into attack, he looks a very promising prospect. How often he’ll play is the real question at this point.
And that brings us to today, the always exciting Transfer Deadline. And the club finished January off with a bang, bringing in highly rated Pablo Armero in on loan from Napoli. The loan signing is a coup for the club.
Possessing explosive speed, an ability to get himself far up the pitch and a few tricks up his sleeve Armero is a huge upgrade on the now departed Razvan Rat. While Rat’s signing was exciting news back in July, he proved to not be up to the pace of the Premier League.
Armero won’t have that problem. Just watch some of his highlight videos on YouTube. Yes they are capable of making anyone look like a sure bet, but what they exhibit is something you can’t edit: an awe inspiring acceleration that he regularly uses to treat defenders as though they are pylons.
All in all it’s turned out to be a good window, and not a penny was spent in transfer fees. While one has to suspect some of that has to do with the very real fear of relegation, Saturday’s match against Swansea provides an opportunity to make a statement for the second half of the season.
Wednesday’s draw with Chelsea exhibited a siege mentality, both literally and figuratively, that the squad is going to need to survive. Swansea provides the chance to show the squad is capable of doing it.