Tuesday 8 August 2017 15:15, UK
West Ham have been linked with a move for former Man Utd striker Javier Hernandez - and the Mexican could be what they need, explains WhoScored.com's Ben McAleer...
West Ham's hunt for a striker has been a long-drawn out affair. The Hammers pressed and pressed for a big-name frontman last summer and pursued Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Michy Batshuayi, Alexandre Lacazette and Carlos Bacca, but were disappointed as the former duo moved to Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively, while the latter pair remained at Lyon and AC Milan.
In the end, West Ham signed Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri. Both, as one might expect, disappointed. Zaza only lasted six months before a switch to Valencia. Calleri netted just one goal and it was no shock that the club opted against making his loan move permanent.
It's back to square one then as far as Slaven Bilic and the side is concerned, with Andy Carroll the Croat's only viable option up front. However, the England international's ongoing fitness concerns means Bilic is unable to consistently call upon the 28-year-old.
He was the Hammers' top scoring frontman with seven goals to his name last season, a respectable return considering injury disrupted his campaign, but the striking department is an area that needs addressing this summer. They can't expect to launch an assault on a European finish without strengthening in the final third and it's looking increasingly likely that the Hammers will dip into the market again sooner rather than later.
West Ham have already landed right-back Pablo Zabaleta to improve Bilic's defensive options and - according to reports - Javier Hernandez could be the next to arrive at the London Stadium.
In an inflated summer market, Chicharito is believed to have a paltry £13m release clause in his contract. Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen would be reluctant to lose their top scorer, but are powerless to stop the Mexico international from departing if he sees fit.
Their poor showing in Germany's top tier last season has already prompted a minor exodus, with Turkish pair Omer Toprak and Hakan Calhanoglu having already left for Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan, respectively, while Kevin Kampl is widely expected to follow the pair out of the BayArena exit. Chicharito is set to take his leave after a season that saw Bayer Leverkusen finish just four points above the Bundesliga's relegation playoff spot.
For his price and goalscoring expertise, he could be the ideal pickup for a West Ham side gunning for a European finish in the coming campaign. At 29 years of age, it might be now or never for Chicharito to secure a return to the Premier League where he impressed when handed the opportunity for Manchester United. While his final full season at Old Trafford returned just four Premier League goals, it was a campaign that is best remembered for David Moyes' ill-fated spell as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor.
His good form in Germany's suggests he still has the means to succeed in England, particularly in a side that would look to build the attack around the Mexican forward. Indeed, in the last three seasons in Europe's top five leagues, Chicharito has a conversion rate, excluding penalties, of 23.6%; only Luis Suarez (25.1%) has better of those to score 30 or more non-penalty goals over the same period. He's developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'finishing' and for good reason considering his respectable return in front of goal.
Should West Ham make Chicharito the main man and task him with scoring goals and nothing else, then the Hammers would have at their disposal the ideal striker to fire them up the Premier League table towards the European spots. Considering his price tag and experience in England's top tier, it's remarkable that there is not a longer list of potential suitors for Chicharito, but a lack of interest could well be West Ham's gain.
An average of 9.4 key passes per game was a mid-table return for the Hammers in England's top tier last term, but that figure dropped to 8.4 key passes per game once Dimitri Payet departed at the turn of the year.
It's of the utmost importance, then, that they bring in a striker who is more than capable of tucking these chances away on a regular basis and having averaged a goal every 56 touches in the last two Bundesliga seasons, the fourth-best return of players to score 10 or more goals in that time, Chicharito can be seen as the perfect frontman for Bilic's side.
Provided he can replicate his best form, Chicharito has the means to take to the Premier League with ease for a second time in his career.
As the top teams play more and more games per season, a striker of his ilk would make for a solid deputy in attack, though you wouldn't blame Chicharito for turning down a bench role for a more prominent position in a team and it's perhaps for this reason why West Ham is a great fit for the player.
He'll be first choice at the London Stadium and the Hammers would solve their striking shortcomings without having to break the bank to improve up top. If West Ham can push this deal over the finish line, their chances of a return to Europe increase significantly.