It’s been a difficult year or so for Javier Hernandez at West Ham United. Taking in three different managers, Chicharito (‘the Little Pea’ in English) has struggled for form and fitness since Slaven Bilic brought him back to the Premier League from Bayer Leverkusen last summer.
But, with a new manager and plenty spent in the transfer window, is there hope for Chicharito at West Ham?
His Struggles In London
No matter which way you cut it, Hernandez struggled badly last season at London Stadium.
The raw numbers certainly back this theory up with Hernandez scoring an all-time low 5 league goals last season. What makes this statistic even more damning is that he did so in 1387 minutes of game time which is 505 than when he achieved his previous low of 7 at Real Madrid. Worse still for the context of Hernandez’s low goal return, he was signed by Real as a total backup player with nearly all of his contributions from the bench in 2014/15.
For a striker whose only real calling card has been goals, Hernandez also struggled to get shots off for West Ham last season, managing just 25 total across his 26 Premier League games in 2017/18. Compare that to his final season in Leverkusen, Hernandez attempted more than double that number (52) in the same number of league games. Of those same two seasons, Hernandez was more accurate with his shots at West Ham (54%) than Leverkusen (53%) but those are still the two lowest numbers in our comparison.
Perhaps most telling to Hernandez’s plight at London Stadium is the number of shots outside the area he took. While he only attempted five (higher than only the four he took in 2014/15), it is the percentage of shots from outside the box that is the troubling part. One in five shots from Hernandez last season came from outside the box which for someone who is widely considered a ‘fox in the box’ or ‘poacher’ is a big red flag. This indicates that he was often forced to come deeper to get a sniff at goal or he was being played out of position. That ratio is considerably higher than the 2015/16 season where he took a record 12 shots from outside the area which equated to 18.75% of total shots (64).
Can Hernandez Turn It Around?
The ability for Hernandez to turn it around is there and many West Ham fans believe in him and are giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Hernandez’s struggles at London Stadium are attributed by WHM writer James Murray to the men in the dugout:
“All three managers he has played under at West Ham haven’t played to his strengths. They have tried to make him into more of an all-round striker, rather than just a poacher, but it just isn’t his game.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by WHM site lead Luke Glanville who also feels that Manuel Pellegrini’s belief in Hernandez and his desire to keep him should have fans optimistic. He proffered this interesting theory too,
“Over time, I believe that the Chilean will look to use him in behind the lone striker Marko Arnautovic, as an advanced No10”
I agree with much of what Luke and James say but it is also interesting to see that Chicharito is being viewed as an option rather than the main man. WHM analyst Michele Tossani emphasised that when he said he viewed Hernandez as a “simple backup to Arnautovic“ which is telling.
Hernandez’s game has always been about goals and it may have hindered him with Hammers’ bosses who wanted more from their frontman, things that Arnautovic brings. That’s not to write Hernandez off however as he has a reputation for being an incredibly effective substitute.
Look no further than the final column of the earlier comparison. Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at Manchester United saw Hernandez play 415 fewer minutes than he did in 2017/18 but he outperformed himself in every category.
It speaks volumes for what Chicharito can do given the opportunity and service and, with his goal against Wimbledon last night and Arnautovic doubtful for the weekend, he might just spark his West Ham career into life.
I think he just might…