Liverpool and FSG aware of incoming Newcastle threat, but West Ham gave a more pressing reminder
Ever since the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) took over Newcastle United last month, much of the talk has been around how the Magpies will be a force to be reckoned with soon enough for Liverpool and the other Premier League big guns.
An ownership group worth £380bn and grand plans for the future mean that Newcastle fans are dreaming of breaking the stranglehold that the ‘big six’ have on the top flight, although the deal hasn’t been without its controversy. There has been criticism over the human rights abuses linked to the Saudi government, which have strong ties to PIF.
Despite the wealth, notions of the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland donning the black and white stripes of the Toon Army anytime soon are somewhat far-fetched, especially when Newcastle will have to conduct their rebuild within the confines of Financial Fair Play rules. The Premier League are also set to get tougher on the ‘related party transactions’ that some club owners have previously used to drive up sponsorship value and ease FFP issues.
Newcastle’s first task is to make sure that they are a Premier League club at the start of next season, with the appointment of Eddie Howe seen as a move that will give that the best chance of happening. There is so much work that needs doing with the Newcastle side, the backroom staff and the club’s strategy moving forward that the club aren’t likely to be seen as any kind of threat in the short to medium term for Liverpool and their owners, FSG.
With regards to West Ham, though, that might not be the case.
Liverpool were humbled in the capital at the weekend as they went down 3-2 to the Hammers at the London Stadium. It was a defeat that set the Reds back in their quest to regain the Premier League crown they won in 2020, and with Chelsea drawing 1-1 at home to Burnley it was seen as an opportunity missed.
But it wasn’t a fluke for David Moyes’ men on Sunday. They were full value for the victory, a win that took them up to third. The continued success they have seen this season has carried on from last season, where they pushed hard for Champions League qualification before eventually finishing in the Europa League spots. There has been enough shown to suggest that West Ham are now a problem for the biggest sides, and they have arrived on the scene threatening to gatecrash the Champions League spots.
It’s pretty early days, but West Ham have quietly gone about their business under Moyes, building and improving. Moyes has always been a fantastic manager; his stock unfairly tumbled when he was handed the almost impossible job of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. A look at where United are at right now, allowing the malaise to deepen and the problems to grow due to the sentimental nonsense that keeps Ole Gunnar Solskjær in a job beyond his capabilities, shows that maybe the nine months Moyes had at Old Trafford wasn’t really enough to shape what he wanted.
Fast forward to 2021 and Moyes has rebuilt his reputation with an impressive, hungry West Ham side. Players like Jarrod Bowen have produced remarkable form, so much so that Liverpool were linked with the Hammers forward during the summer, while the likes of Michail Antonio has enjoyed a new lease of life.
There is quality throughout the team, with the likes of Declan Rice courted by some of the Premier League’s heaviest hitters, and while the Hammers may not own their London Stadium home they are attracting 60,000 through the door each home game. They are in the top 10 in Europe when it comes to average attendances. FSG will be hoping to match this with Liverpool through the current Anfield expansion project, but for now they trail in this department.
Then there is the not insignificant possibility that Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský will take a 27 per cent stake in West Ham, potentially with a view to a full takeover from David Gold and David Sullivan further down the line. The businessman was in attendance as Liverpool fell to defeat.
Křetínský already owns Sparta Prague, one of the Czech Republic’s biggest clubs, and with the Hammers having achieved big successes in the undervalued Czech market with the additions of two of their key performers, Vladimír Coufal and Tomáš Souček, the potential for the kind of multi-club platform that Liverpool owners FSG have been interested in remains strong.
West Ham are in an excellent position right now. They have a structure and an identity and are riding the crest of a wave.
For some time now they have had to contend with being among the Premier League’s also-rans. With potential new ownership on the horizon to help them build from a position of strength, there is enough to suggest that they are planning to stick around and upset the party among the biggest sides.
For Liverpool, making the Champions League each season is viewed as a minimum requirement; it is certainly vital to the business side of the football club being able to function as FSG wishes. Having another side appear as genuine challengers for a top four spot won’t be welcomed.
Liverpool themselves have shown in the past that it isn’t always who spends the most that determines success, and West Ham will be aiming to prove that to be the case themselves.
Newcastle are a long way off being a problem. West Ham, well, they are closer than you might think.