Javier Hernandez just doesn't seem to fit with West Ham United
HUDDERSFIELD, England -- Sir Alex Ferguson's presence in the stands for West Ham's 4-1 victory over Huddersfield Town on Saturday offered a reminder of happier times for Mexican striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
It was Ferguson who thrust Hernandez into the world spotlight by bringing him from Liga MX club Chivas to Manchester United in a deal done ahead of the 2010 World Cup. But those halcyon days of Hernandez establishing himself in the Premier League over the 2010-11 season seemed a distant memory in John Smith's Stadium. Hernandez's only participation in the cold Yorkshire afternoon was to warm up and stretch on the side of the pitch.
Not even with striker Andy Carroll out injured did Hernandez see minutes. West Ham United manager David Moyes preferred to use Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini in what resembled a 5-3-2 formation, despite neither Arnautovic nor Lanzini being recognized center-forwards.
West Ham's change of manager from Slaven Bilic to Moyes on Nov. 7 has stagnated the 29-year-old Hernandez's progress at the club. If the forward had been lukewarm under Bilic, under Moyes things have ground almost to a halt. Hernandez just doesn't provide what Moyes wants from the position, and West Ham's style under the ex-United manager has undoubtedly provided results but isn't one in which the striker can flourish.
Watching Hernandez flailing about on the halfway line in his only Premier League start in the Moyes era on Jan. 4 as Tottenham Hotspur passed the ball around him to lay siege to West Ham's penalty area was ample evidence of that. In that match, Hernandez had only 26 touches of the ball and completed just seven passes over the 64 minutes he was on the field. In total since Moyes joined West Ham, Hernandez has started one of seven games in the Premier League, completing 140 minutes in total, making 35 passes and having three shots.
Hernandez thrives close to goal and needs to be in a team that seeks to get him there regularly, which helps explain why giant clubs such as Manchester United and Real Madrid have seen worth in him.
Arnautovic, who has six Premier League goals since Dec. 9, talked after the match about Moyes asking the central striker to hold the ball up and play with his back to goal. That's just not Hernandez's strength. Whereas Bilic had chased Hernandez on more than one occasion before eventually landing him last summer, it's a stretch of the imagination to think Moyes would have actively tried to sign Hernandez.
The comparison to what Hernandez went through with Moyes in the 2013-14 season at Old Trafford is obvious. For Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck, read Arnautovic, Lanzini, Carroll and Andre Ayew. On Saturday's evidence, Hernandez is behind all of them in the pecking order. At Manchester United, Chicharito started only five Premier League games in that season under Moyes. The difference is that Hernandez came into this season believing he'd be the main striker for West Ham.
Moyes may have stated last Friday that he doesn't want players to leave and that Hernandez is "a really good player," but he's inherited the Mexico international twice and has relegated him to the role of a bit player in both situations. There's been more than one report to suggest West Ham would be open to selling if the right offer comes in.
Moyes can't be blamed entirely, as frustrating as it must be for Hernandez, who didn't speak to the press after the Huddersfield game. Hernandez was injured for Moyes' first month in charge and the former Everton coach has done a good job in making West Ham a much more solid and difficult unit to beat since taking over. The Hammers are out of the drop zone and the Arnautovic/Lanzini partnership provided three goals against Huddersfield and was the difference. Hernandez, on the other hand, is lacking confidence and hasn't scored in any competition since Oct. 28. Even when he has played, it hasn't been great.
In a World Cup year, approaching a tournament that will see Hernandez -- Mexico's outstanding player of his generation -- at the peak of his powers, the situation is worrisome for El Tri and coach Juan Carlos Osorio. Hernandez has never actually headed into a World Cup as the starting striker for Mexico and under Osorio has had added responsibility and a growing leadership role in the squad. Obviously, the player and El Tri would benefit greatly from having a confident Hernandez heading into Russia 2018.
The solution is obvious: Hernandez should be looking to leave West Ham in January for a club that is going to both play him and make him feel wanted. Under Moyes at present, that seems a long way from happening. There has been talk of Everton, a return to Manchester United, MLS and even Liga MX. Hernandez wouldn't be short of options although staying in Europe should be his priority.
Once again, a transfer window brings uncertainty for Hernandez, although the writing very clearly is on the wall this time around.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.