Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

West Ham striker Javier Hernandez looks more rabbit in the headlights than fox in the box

Win over Huddersfield has calmed waters for manager Bilic, but solution to return Mexican to form needs to be found ahead of crucial Premier League tie against Tottenham.

West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster, left, slides in on West Ham United's Javier Hernandez. Nick Potts / AP Photo
West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster, left, slides in on West Ham United's Javier Hernandez. Nick Potts / AP Photo

The night of May 5 will forever be etched firmly in the collective psyche of fans of both West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur.

For West Ham it elicits schadenfreude, Manuel Lanzini's goal at the London Stadium having the twin effect of securing three points while simultaneously ending Spurs' title bid. While high-scoring matches tend to be better remembered, this was a 1-0 that will echo for ages.

Spurs make the same journey across London this weekend where they can expect hostilities that makes the US president Donald Trump's gripe with North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un look like two schoolboys arguing over marbles. If there is one win West Ham fans covet above all else it is one against their capital rivals.

May's victory was the signature win West Ham so desperately needed as they settled into their new abode after moving from their spiritual home of Upton Park. Spurs are finding out the hard way how tough the move to new digs can be as they seek an elusive first win in the Premier League at their temporary "home" of Wembley while White Hart Lane is redeveloped.

Revenge will be on the minds of the Maurcio Pochettino's players, the defeat proving terminal to their chances of closing the gap on Chelsea in the title run in. They will take encouragement though from their performances away from Wembley with wins at Newcastle United and Everton from their two road games so far.

A quirk of the scheduling means West Ham have played only one of their four Premier League games at home, a much-needed win over Huddersfield Town to relieve the pressure on under-fire manager Slaven Bilic.

Those three points spared the Croatian the same fate that befell Frank de Boer a few hours earlier at Crystal Palace. They were backed up with a hard-earned point at West Bromwich Albion. After three successive defeats to start the season, Bilic is sailing much calmer waters. He faces arguably his first real selection dilemma of the campaign over whether to persist with arguably his signature summer recruit.

Marko Arnautovic may have arrived for more more money but Javier Hernandez's arrival was a statement of intent. Prolific, mostly off the bench for Manchester United and Real Madrid and as a starter at Bayer Leverkusen, securing Mexico's record scorer looked as if Bilic had finally addressed the East London club's Achilles heel for much of the past decade: goals.

Simone Zaza, Jonathan Calleri, Ashley Fletcher, Carlton Cole, Marouane Chamakh, Modibo Maiga, Nikica Jelavic, Victor Obinna, Ilan, Mladen Petric reads like a who's who of misfiring strikers. Hernandez was meant to be the star to restore the halcyon days of Paolo di Canio.


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However, save for his two goals in a losing effort to Southampton on the opening day of the season, Hernandez, 29, has looked lost on his return to England's top flight. He registered two shots off target from 25 touches in the 3-0 defeat away to Newcastle United, none on target in 64 minutes in the win over Huddersfield (22 touches) and failed to take any shots from 29 touches in the 0-0 against West Brom over 76 minutes. His replacement in the win over Huddersfield, Andre Ayew, scored with a chance straight out of the Mexican's playbook, a goalmouth scramble from all of three yards.

Part of Hernandez's problem has, in part, been brought about by Andy Carroll's return to the side. The giant Englishman will always occupy the tip of the attack when fit, meaning Hernandez has been shunted out to the left in West Ham's two most recent games.

All that has done is blunt Hernandez's strengths and highlighted his weaknesses. Never one to take defenders on or supply teammates, the Mexican's best attributes are his anticipation in the area and ability to convert chances. Including his time at United, Hernandez has scored 39 times in his Premier League career with all of them coming from within 18 yards.

To use one analogy, he looks more rabbit in the headlights than fox in the box.

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Updated: September 21, 2017 08:13 AM



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