Striker search chief among West Ham United's preseason concerns

A bizarre kit launch that was the talk of social media has barely disguised the continuing problems besetting West Ham's search for a striker.

As the inevitable news was announced that Andy Carroll has suffered a groin strain and is likely to miss the next part of the club's series of warm-up matches, Diafra Sakho ignited the simmering tension that followed his transfer request by refusing to travel with the team to their training camp in Austria.

The club will almost inevitably have to sanction the sale of the 26-year-old striker, but owner David Gold has stated that will not be before adequate replacements have been brought in. The worrying question for fans is, when will that be exactly?

The Hammers' preseason has had an inauspicious start. A short tour of the United States saw Slaven Bilic's men lose 3-0 to the Seattle Sounders before losing a lead to draw 2-2 draw with the Carolina Railhawks. In another friendly against Slovacko in Austria, two goals in the last five minutes denied the Hammers a victory in another 2-2 draw. Inevitably, the team are not yet at full strength, but all the focus is on the chase for a big-name forward. In fact, with Sakho facing the exit, the club really need another two players to support the injury-prone Carroll.

It was obvious that Carroll was the player preferred up front by Bilic, and the Croatian boss always made sure his big England striker got some league game time even when bringing the player off the bench as a very effective substitute. Sakho's problems with the club are a little more difficult to fathom. The Senegalese international would certainly have had more appearances last season if he hadn't been beset by his own injury issues.

Before the series of niggling injuries occurred however, Sakho was a prolific and highly-rated striker and, if fit, there's little doubt he could look forward to a good number of games this season. The striker seems upset that Bilic isn't regarding him as his first-choice though, and the rift now seems too deep to heal. At an expected asking price of £13 million, the Hammers could certainly profit financially from a player that originally bought for Metz in August 2014, but that seems scant compensation currently.

The number of big names associated with the Hammers seems to fluctuate on a daily basis. Just a week ago Carlos Bacca looked likely to join the club from AC Milan, but the club or the player seem to have cooled on the move. This was bad news for Enner Valencia who was rumoured to be moving to Lazio had the Bacca deal gone ahead. As it is, the Ecuadorian has joined the growing list of unsettled forwards at the club.

Rumours that the Hammers are interested in Real Madrid's £63 million-rated Colombian James Rodriguez have to be tempered by the realisation that the club are unlikely to be able to offer any player Champions League football in the immediate future. Despite having a wonderful season in 2015-16, the Hammers could only finish seventh in the Premier League, qualifying for the Europa League only because Manchester United won the FA Cup on the last day of the season.

In terms of West Ham and their recent history, seventh is an admirable finish; but it's unlikely to be a lure to a player like Rodriguez however and that is a problem that Bilic is going to have to tackle. The club are in a strong middle ground currently; the future looks bright and the finances are in place to be able to realistically target someone like Rodriguez, but the fact is the club still lack glamour at the top level.

It's not easy, of course, but perhaps the club might be better looking at what Leicester achieved last season with Jamie Vardy and lower their sights a little. The club obviously have their eye on the future as the recent signing of Manchester United's Ashley Fletcher shows -- the young striker scoring one of their goals in the 2- 2 draw with Slovacko -- but it's the immediate problem that is causing concern.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the search is that, under Bilic, the Hammers are capable of providing any good quality striker with a wealth of chances in front of goal. When at full strength, the likes of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and new arrival Gokhan Tore will provide the ammunition; the club just need someone with a decent pair of shooting boots.

With strong rumours that £9 million-rated Argentine forward Jonathan Calleri may be arriving in Stratford in a few days' time perhaps the Hammers have already decided to scale down their targets a bit.

Whatever the thinking, until the striker situation is resolved, Hammers fans will have another reason to feel the heat this summer.