COMMENT By Matt Farr
The signing of Jose Fonte from Southampton in the January transfer window looked to have been an inspired piece of business for West Ham.
The Hammers’ defensive efforts, or lack of rather, had seen the club perform well below expectation in the Premier League this season, but adding an experienced customer like Fonte could have been the answer.
Fonte, 33, had proven to be a key first team player for Southampton in the top flight despite his advancing years, while his displays for Portugal during their Euro 2016 triumph suggested he was to be a revolutionary addition.
However, the 21-time capped international has done little to stop the rot in West Ham’s defensive disaster, and has kept just one clean sheet since his arrival at the London club.
Questions had been raised by West Ham fans over the £8million fee spent to sign a player with little potential sell-on value, but they will not have been left particularly impressed by the return they have had to date.
The decision to swap European-hunting Southampton for struggling West Ham, meanwhile, was questionable in itself, regardless of his transfer request.
Fonte was thrown almost immediately into the West Ham first team, with his arrival coinciding with the devastating season-ending setback to Angelo Ogbonna, and has since made 11 league appearances.
But West Ham have made little improvement during that time, winning just two games, and conceding 23 goals.
Slaven Bilic has repeatedly changed his system in order to find the best way for his stars to flourish and put an end to their miserable form, and that has had a lasting impact on their defensive efforts.
But the bottom line is, whether it has been in a back-four, or a back-three, Fonte has not lived up to expectation.
His fellow January signing, Robert Snodgrass, has not fared much better, joining an extensive list of transfer flops at the Olympic Stadium this season, one that also features the departed Simone Zaza.
However, Fonte’s deal perhaps trumps the lot, considering his (arguably) excessive price-tag and distinct lack of return.
He should have been a strength, but he has been a weakness, and West Ham already had enough of those.
In fact, however, a fine case could be made to consider Fonte as one of the worst transfers of any Premier League club this term.