West Ham Women’s busy summer transfer window continues with the focus shifting from improving the first team to improving the academy as they look to progress for the future. They have taken the likes of Lisa Evans from Arsenal to spearhead the Hammers’ front line this season, but have now shifted to taking young talents such as Sophie Hillyerd, Jessica Ziu, Halle Houssein, Alex Hennessy, and Keira Flannery.
Halle Houssein was brought in over a month ago, and was already a big blow for Arsenal fans, as comparisons were being drawn with the deal for Ruby Mace a while ago. However, it’s gotten even worse for Arsenal, as the other young talent out on loan, Alex Hennessy has also left, and Kiera Flannery following her out has made things all the more difficult for Arsenal in terms of retaining their youth from clubs who can offer them more opportunities, whether that be out on loan or in the first team.
ANALYSING THE QUOTES – WHY ARE THEY ALL JOINING WEST HAM?
Out of the trio, Houssein will likely be involved in the first team squad the most. She had already been at West Ham on a temporary basis last season, so it’s likely that she’ll fit back into the team, and maybe even with superior responsibilities due to some of the Hammers’ departures.
In Houssein’s interview, she believed West Ham would be better for her, saying “I think playing here will provide me with the best possible chance to develop and learn as I continue to grow as a player.”
Hennessy expressed a similar sentiment: “I want to become the best footballer that I possibly can and being at West Ham, I feel like I’m in an environment where I can do that.”
Flannery didn’t explicitly say the same thing, but she did say, “I just knew that this is where I wanted to play my football.”
West Ham’s strategy of youth in the future is definitely a reason, but I’d also say them valuing these players is key to it. Big clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Man United are ignoring their youth talents such as Aggie Beever-Jones, Freya Jupp, Ruby Mace, and Carrie Jones.
The likes of Houssein, Hillyerd, Hennessy, and Flannery were all being blocked into the academy systems of these big clubs due to their depth and the fact that West Ham being able to offer a chance was enough for them to leave. I know this is currently focused on Arsenal, but the same has and will happen with Chelsea, City, and United in the future, where they won’t be able to retain players who could easily come into the fringes because they aren’t willing to take a chance.
WHY ARE WEST HAM DECIDING ON A YOUTH STRATEGY?
We are delighted to announce the signing of Keira Flannery! 🙌
The young midfielder becomes our sixth signing of the summer! ⚒️
— West Ham United Women (@westhamwomen) July 22, 2022
But what does this all actually mean? Well, West Ham are getting these youth players owing to their shifting focus onto it, and its just not about this window, its more on a long-term scale. West Ham brought in the likes of Emma Snerle, Grace Garrad, Melisa Felis, and Brooke Cairns (who you may know from Alex Bailess’ Hashtag United videos) last summer, and even if only some of them get 1-3 years at West Ham, it’s still a brilliant reward and a good bet to make for nearly no risk.
But over time, West Ham are starting to realise that getting these neglected academy talents from big clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal could be their ticket to securing that spot as a midtable WSL team and help them to push on from there. It seems that youth development is now the main focus of West Ham, and bringing in a couple of players to help the first team could be the norm for the future, as their young players will reap dividends of senior experience.