Why Jesse Lingard’s West Ham loan could be a disaster
Man Utd academy graduate Lingard appeared to be on the path towards a great career as recently as 2018. He played a pivotal part in the Red Devils achieving their highest Premier League finish and points total since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, with his eight goals and six assists in the top flight, helping to fire the Red Devils to second place.
A call up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad in the summer followed, where he started five games in the Three Lions’ run to the semi-finals, including that last-four defeat at the hands of Croatia.
But since that memorable tournament in Russia, Lingard has severely struggled for form. In the following two-and-a-half years, he has started just 28 Premier League games, scoring five goals and providing three assists. A big drop-off from the sort of form that secured his place in Southgate’s squad.
Now, though, Lingard is set to embark on a new chapter in his career. A move to an in-form West Ham team under the tutelage of David Moyes, a manager who took him on United’s pre-season tour squad back in 2013, seems a sensible choice at first glance, although on closer inspection that may not be the case.
The Hammers are currently on an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions, including four consecutive league wins that has seen them rise to fifth place in the Premier League standings.
West Ham’s success this season, amongst other things, has been built on stability. Moyes has used just 23 first-team players in 2020/21 – only five teams have used fewer. Jarrod Bowen has started 19 of their 20 league games to date, while Pablo Fornals has featured from the off 18 times, limiting summer-signing Said Benrahma, who scored 17 Championship goals last season, to just six starts and ex-Borussia Dortmund man Andriy Yarmolenko to 283 minutes of top-flight action.
It’s true West Ham need added reinforcements and extra bodies. Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek lack any natural cover bar the ageing Mark Noble, the centre of defence is light on numbers, and the departure of Sebastien Haller has left them crying out for a striker to ease the burden on an injury-prone Michail Antonio. Lingard, however, is none of those things.
He is entering the capital club as arguably their sixth choice winger behind Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma, Yarmolenko and Manuel Lanzini. It’s a loan move that’s hard to see the reasoning behind for either party.
Lingard should be enjoying the best years of his life. He’s in his peak and yet is seeing the prime phase of his career pass him by. There’s still time yet to resurrect what was once shaping up to be a memorable career, but it’s hard to see that happening in claret and blue.