Just one week after West Ham United decided to stick with manager Sam Allardyce – so long as he “provide more entertainment next season” – the club have gone out and signed themselves Argentine forward Mauro Zarate to a three-year deal.
The 27-year-old makes his way to Upton Park from Argentine side Velez Sarsfield, where he was the top-tier’s leading scorer with 18 goals in 28 appearances.
“My reaction is that I am very happy to be at West Ham,” Zarate said after completing his deal with West Ham.
“This is a new chance for me and I want to play. I think I played well for Velez this season and that was important for me. I had some good team-mates and they helped to make it a fantastic season for me.”
Despite finishing 13th in the table, West Ham endured an underwhelming 2013/14 season that exposed holes both defensively, at wing-back in particular, and offensively in the generation and scoring of goals. The latter proved the major blemish, as the Hammers netted only 40 times in the 38 match season.
The lack of offensive production was due to a number of issues, in particular the extended injury absence of Andy Carroll and a lack of service. With Carroll out, Allardyce was forced to play a committee of forwards (Modibo Maiga, Ricardo Vaz Te, Marco Boriello and Mladen Petric) who, with the exception of the surprising Carlton Cole (6 goals, 23 appearances), was relatively toothless.
In Zarate, the Hammers have a player who has the skills, goal-scoring ability and most importantly, desire. “If you ask me what I can bring to the squad then I say I hope I will bring goals!” he exclaimed upon sealing his deal. Pacy and quick to shoot with either foot, the 5’9″ speedster can be a handful for opposing defenses. The key will be playing to his abilities and getting him the ball, which given West Ham’s style is no sure thing.
To get the most out of Zarate the club’s style will need to change. Route 1 football won’t suit the Argentine, as he needs the ball at his feet with options around him to be at his best. At West Ham, expect him to play inside of Carroll in a 4-4-2 or on the left wing in the 4-2-3-1 setup typically deployed by the club this past season.
Fortunately for both Zarate and the Hammers, the Argentine has experience in the Premier League after he spent the second half of the 2007/08 Premier League campaign on loan at Birmingham City from the Qatari side Al Sadd. In that 14 match stint Zarate scored 4 goals, proving himself to be a fantastic talent capable of the incredible.
Balancing that considerable talent, however, is a dark side. After his spell with Birmingham Zarate was sold to Lazio where he spent three seasons (scoring 25 goals in 103 appearances) but was also handed a two-match ban after being photographed giving a fascist salute amid the Ultras section of fans. A spokesman later pled Zarate’s innocence due to his not knowing what the gesture meant. Since then Zarate has undergone a number of other questionable incidents including clashing with club executives and going on holiday when he was supposed to be receiving treatment.
With the deal secure it’s clear that Allardyce has deemed the risk of Zarate to be worth the reward. For the sake of Big Sam’s future at the club, he best hope that turns out to be true.