Chicharito's Midseason Panic: Why He Needs a Transfer from West Ham
It was supposed to be one of the best signings of the season. When Javier Hernandez arrived in July in a £16 million move from Bayer Leverkusen, West Ham United fans celebrated and everyone else raised an eyebrow. It did seem a fantastic piece of business.
By the time he made his home debut against Huddersfield Town on September 11, the club were already looking at him becoming an icon.
The club shop was packed with Chicharito merchandise, as a special section with shirts, mugs, coasters and photos was quickly made available. When his name was read out ahead of kick-off, fans rose to applause. It felt significant.
However, the fanfare soon died down and the realism set in. By November he was sidelined with a hamstring injury and West Ham had won just two of the 11 league games he had started. Since then it has only got worse. He has cut a frustrated figure—the dream slowly turning into a nightmare.
The Mexico international is now left with a dilemma ahead of the 2018 World Cup finals. How does he transform his season to ensure he recaptures top form and is in his best condition by the end of May?
He surely cannot risk staying at West Ham any longer—and offers from America and Turkey are already arriving.
Faith of the Manager
Chicharito has always needed a manager to believe in him as a No. 9. When that does not happen, he has the potential to struggle.
Throughout his career there have been dry spells but perhaps none as concerning as the one he is in right now. He has not found the net since October 28 and has been struggling to cement a spot in West Ham's starting XI.
Former manager Slaven Bilic failed to get the best from him before losing his job, and now David Moyes is not utilising his ability. Perhaps that's no surprise—the pair did not see eye-to-eye at Old Trafford, and the Scot froze him out of the side.
"It's safe to say most Mexico supporters aren't big fans of David Moyes," ESPN's Mexican expert Tom Marshall said.
"I think the comparison between what happened when Moyes took over Manchester United and when he came in at West Ham are obvious. The bottom line is that Hernandez doesn't seem to be Moyes' kind of striker. Even when Hernandez has played, he hasn't looked great, as if he has lost confidence."
But there were signs of problems before Hernandez returned to England, too. He enjoyed a great first season with Leverkusen, becoming the club's most consistent scorer and helping them to qualify for the Champions League. But his second season—when things got tough for the club—brought issues.
"The problems were more to do with coach Roger Schmidt, whose failure to evolve the style of play led to Leverkusen struggling to create the same sort of chances Hernandez had thrived off in the first season," Bundesliga expert Archie Rhind-Tutt explained.
"Hernandez cut a frustrated figure, even if he still managed to get into double figures for goals. When Schmidt was sacked, Hernandez picked up an injury shortly after. But even so, the interim coach Tayfun Korkut didn't seem to fancy Hernandez, as the club was forced into an unlikely relegation battle.
"There wasn't exactly a great outcry from the dressing room when Hernandez left this summer—only from the marketing department to whom Hernandez's reputation had been a massive boon."
Hernandez needs full support from a manager in order to utilise his ability. When Manchester United went after him at the age of 21, Sir Alex Ferguson helped him to shine by understanding his personality and background.
Right now, he could do with a similar figure to guide him.
Insiders at West Ham believe Moyes has other priorities. When he took over at the club on November 7, he decided it was too unbalanced. There were too many forward options and not enough men to hold the side together in midfield and defence.
Moyes has turned Marko Arnautovic into a central attacking figure, and insiders told me he is more interested in finding a way to bring Robert Snodgrass back from a loan spell at Aston Villa than building around Chicharito.
Fitting the West Ham Way
As a goalscorer, Chicharito's record is one you can't ignore. But when it's not raining goals, can you rely on him as a team player?
That has become one of the main questions posed of him this season and the resounding answer around east London is "No."
The view from sources within the club is that, perhaps, he just isn't the player he once was. One contact told me: "If he can stick his toe on it, then great. But technically his all-round play has been questionable.
"Ignore the fact he has been played out on the left flank at times, because that can be used as an easy excuse. He has had chances to make a name for himself at West Ham and hasn't taken them. There's also a feeling he spends too much time on the deck, it's become very frustrating to people behind the scenes."
Maybe he needs to be part of a front two. Perhaps he has lacked confidence just as so many in the first-team squad have this season.
Whatever it is, the fact Arnautovic is now being used as a central forward and has scored more goals in the last seven games than Hernandez has all season does not help.
Those who watch him regularly have also lost faith.
"I think he's struggled because he has simply failed to adapt to our style of play," Twitter user West Ham Central said. "At his previous clubs, Manchester United and Real Madrid in particular, he was a bench player who came on in the later stages of a match to make an impact against tired defences.
"I'd say he's had a fair amount of opportunities. I think a player of his calibre and reputation should be digging himself into the ground trying to make it work here, but his demeanour and attitude of late has been absolutely atrocious and West Ham fans are starting to run out of patience.
"I would not miss him at all. This team is on the up at the moment and it's on the up without him. If we received an offer of around the price we signed him for, I would urge the board to accept it and move on."
Mexico's Main Man
While Hernandez is failing at club level, he cannot afford to do the same for his country.
Mexico will be dependent on a fit-and-firing Chicharito in Russia if they are to make any impact at the 2018 World Cup.
El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio barely has any other obvious options to call upon in the most important area of the pitch—he needs the West Ham man in form.
"His form right now is not surprising," Mexican commentator Juan G. Arango told B/R. "Ever since he was a youngster at Chivas, Chicharito had significant dry spells like this one.
"Mexico is not very deep up top. This has been a problem for them for a few years now. Juan Carlos Osorio has mentioned recently how there is a lack of players like Chicharito in Mexican football. He needs to move clubs...but he has to move to a club that will be best for him."
His international boss does seem concerned.
"I was at West Ham in November and December, so I got to see his (Chicharito's) rehabilitation," Osorio said (h/t Arango). "I got to see the first few training sessions with David Moyes and Stuart Pearce, who I know from working at Man City. I saw Chicharito on the other side of the pitch with the physio.
"We are worried that footballers are not doing football-type work. The type of work where they aren't making decisions or when that form is not being constantly challenged. When you are training a player physically, he will be in shape but not in football shape to compete."
Where Does He Go Next?
"Chicharito is a consummate professional, and he will do whatever it takes to be in top form for the World Cup, regardless of where he plays," Arango said. "He has an incredible mindset and tremendous will to succeed."
Los Angeles FC have shown keen interest in Hernandez and the move makes sense as they look for a crowd-drawing name to add to their roster ahead of their first MLS season.
However, I'm told he is ready to reject such an idea. His motive is to remain in Europe and prove he can overcome his current problems in one of the world's more elite leagues.
There is now the possibility of a move to Turkey, as officials are heading to London in the coming days with the message: "Come to Besiktas."
It could be an enticing option, with the ambitious club ready to spell out their plans and offer a loan move for the rest of the season.
It would provide an alternative to the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga sides also being explored by his representatives.
One thing for sure is Little Pea needs a big end to the campaign.