“Strikers? Bunch of lazy goal-hangers, if you ask me,” says Manuel Pellegrini, taking time out from throwing darts at a picture of Andy Carroll Blu-tacked to his wall to speak with reporters at West Ham’s training ground.
For a team sitting somewhat precariously in mid-table having scored thirty goals all season, it seems counter-productive that a mass exodus of strikers is currently underway at the London Stadium.
As it stands, West Ham have four recognised strikers on their first team books: Marko Arnautovic, Andy Carroll, Javier Hernandez and Lucas Perez (yes, really).
Of those four, Marko Arnautovic has been publicly pushing for a move to China, Javier Hernandez has reportedly agreed a loan deal to Valencia, Andy Carroll is out of contract in the summer and has just returned from an eight-month lay-off, and Lucas Perez is being treated as the work experience kid.
Worst case scenario, Pellegrini could see his striking options reduced to a man with crisps for knees and a bewildered Spaniard who is still under the impression he plays for Arsenal. Shh, no one give the game away.
“A 0-0 is always better than a 2-1 loss,” Pellegrini explains, hastily stuffing a Voodoo doll of Marko Arnautovic in his desk drawer. “Strikers are a luxury we cannot afford.”
“But defenders…” The former centre-back’s eyes light up, and he gently strokes the picture of Angelo Ogbonna he has framed on his desk. “Defenders are the true artists. If you have four strong, proud defenders, you cannot lose, no?”
But it was not always that way. “Death by beautiful geometry” was once the phrase attached to Pellegrini’s intricate, attacking style of football while at Manchester City. Fast-forward three years, and it was rumoured a run-in with a renegade Taiwanese striker in China who stole his Quavers led Pellegrini to despise the front-men of this world.
So, with West Ham currently the only side in the top ten with a minus goal difference, a sudden influx of January strikers might be precisely what the club needs. Especially if Arnautovic and co. get their way.
Interestingly, there’s been talk of Olivier Giroud making the trip across London from Chelsea, but sources close to the immaculately-groomed Frenchmen say he is apprehensive over donning claret. “It does not suit his complexion. You have to understand, Olivier is a man of fathomless style. Perhaps we can strike an agreement where he only plays in away matches? We will see.”
The other target reputedly on West Ham’s radar is 22-year-old Celta striker, Maxi Gomez. The Uruguayan has scored nine times in 17 games in La Liga and is understood to relish the opportunity to play in a half-empty stadium in the East End of London.
“I watched Green Street back home in Uruguay, and fell in love with West Ham,” he told reporters waiting at the Celta training ground this afternoon. “Santiago Munez, si!”
Whether West Ham close deals for Giroud or Gomez hinges heavily on the prospective futures of their current crop of want-away strikers.
But, to be fair, if worst comes to worst, Pellegrini can always strap Andy Carroll up with gaffer tape and lump balls into the box. The good old British way. Death by beautiful geometry? More like death by terrible skulduggery.
*Even though West Ham are on the verge of inexplicably selling all their half-decent strikers, the quotes in this story are fictional. Obviously.