Wilshere? Sturridge? A Look At Who West Ham Could Target This Summer
Here we take a look at where West Ham need to strengthen and possible targets Salven Bilic should be looking at this summer.
Before this years’ FA Cup final, a Chelsea fan on the BBC spoke with great pessimism about their chances (it turned out she was right). I couldn’t believe I was hearing things like ‘when you support Chelsea, you’ve learned to expect the worst’. Given that they are the reigning champions, have won multiple league titles and European titles in the past 15 years, it’s difficult to feel sorry for poor old Chelsea. But it shines a light on a particular nuance of English football, and probably football in general; fans are programmed to be pessimistic, because we’ve all been let down and even heartbroken by our teams.
Which brings me nicely onto the subject of today’s piece, West Ham United. Steven Gerrard delivered one of the first heartbreaks in my tenure as a fan with his legendary performance in Cardiff, bringing Liverpool back from the brink in the 2006 FA Cup final. Since then it’s been a rollercoaster. Gold and Sullivan, and more recently Slaven Bilic, have done a good job at providing the club with some stability (even if it’s not always been pretty), but after a disappointing season at the London Stadium there’s work to be done to boost the level of quality in the squad…
Between the Sticks
After losing his place in the first team following a few questionable performances, Adrian regained his place towards to the end of the year, and showed why he is still a fans favourite. Still liable to the odd gaff, but generally reliable and a fantastic shot-stopper, at only 30 the Spanish ‘keeper can be counted on for another couple of years. Darren Randolph provides good competition for the starting spot, and showed reliability when called upon this year, with some man-of-the-match performances scattered in when needed. This is one position that shouldn’t require too much tinkering over the summer… unless Joe Hart reveals that he’s been a Hammer all along.
At the Back
Sam Byram came on leaps and bounds this year… when Bilic finally trusted him to start a few games in succession. He’s a good footballer, and a dedicated defender, and still young and learning his trade, but a summer spent in the Right-Back berth and some sessions in the gym will help him to get bigger, stronger and more reliable. Pablo Zabaleta was a good signing, and his experience should rub off on the younger Byram. On the other side, Aaron Cresswell had a slightly quieter season this year, but still one of the first names on the team sheet. Getting used to the bigger pitch at the London Stadium definitely played a part in his reduced impact going forward, as he can’t swing crosses in from anywhere in the opposition half, as was the case at Upton Park. Masuaku is still only 23, so should grow into a capable back-up in the next 3 years of his contract.
In the middle of defence is where some decisions need to be made. James Collins will be 34 come the start of the season, and although he’s loved in the terraces, his powers are declining. If Bilic continues to work with 3 centre-backs, then signings are needed. Jose Fonte played like a man who’d recently secured a new contract and had nothing to play for, and it showed in the defensive record; West Ham conceded 3 or more goals 12 times throughout the season. Reece Oxford has been loaned out (again) following David Gold’s vote of no confidence for Youth Players, leaving Angelo Ogbonna and Winston Reid (both injury prone) as the only other Centre Back to be called upon. Kouyate can fill in, but his athleticism is missed in midfield. A quick, strong centre back is required, and with the level of experience already present, investing in someone with youth on their side is an option. Recently relegated Ben Gibson would not be a bad pick-up.
The Water Carriers
Kouyate and Noble played the majority of minutes in the two deeper lying midfield positions, with Kouyate yet again playing as an unsung hero. Mark Noble has been my hero for about a decade, but he did struggle to match the highs of the final year at the Boleyn Ground. Calls for his head were wrong though, and showed the fickle nature of football fans. Expect a bounce back year, just with fewer minutes played perhaps.
- Harvard Nordveit is an easy player to criticise. Because he’s rubbish at football.
- Robert Snodgrass highlighted that he perhaps suffered from ‘Small Fish in a Big Pond’ Syndrome at Hull after failing to endear himself to the fans, and hasn’t yet scored in 8 appearances for the club.
- Edmilson Fernandes is a young player who’s worth investing time in, and Pedro Obiang never seems to let you down, but also doesn’t provide a great deal going forward. Keeping his services amid interest from Everton is important though.
A top-quality centre midfielder, who is confident on the ball, would seriously improve the fate of the squad this year. Recent reports suggest that Kwadwo Asamoah of Juventus is a target, and represents great utility rather than the skill to unlock defences; but would be a good squad booster nonetheless. Jack Wilshere would help to sell a few shirts, but he does spend a large portion of his time in the physio’s room. Quality is needed from somewhere, redeem yourself Slaven.
Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio provide quality and effort of the highest level and are both comfortable starting in wide positions or centrally. Sofiane Feghouli began to find his feet towards the end of the season which is promising, but you must wonder how high his ceiling his based on recent performances. Andre Ayew works hard and provides the odd moment of quality, and Diafra Sakho is a goal threat when fit; as is the returning Enner Valencia.
The problem is, apart from Lanzini and at times Antonio, there’s a distinct lack of invention. Andy Carroll really can be a 20 goal a season striker, IF he played 35 games a year, but even he struggles to generate chances and finish them himself.
A central striker would solve a lot of Slaven’s woes this year. There’s been talk of Anthony Martial relocating to East London, but that seems optimistic, and Daniel Sturridge would be an expensive partner for Big Andy in the Physio suite. Shane Long would provide a few goals, and a lot of energy, but success by committee is not really what’s needed from this summer’s marquee recruit. Southampton’s Dusan Tadic would provide good pace and invention, but again doesn’t hit the back of the net often enough. Investing in someone who has experience in England would be preferable, but who wants to sell a 20 goal a season striker to a rival?
I feel I’ve deserved the right to be pessimistic about West Ham’s recruitment in the past, as does anyone who paid to watch Luis Boa Morte don the Claret and Blue long after he’d passed his peak. This summer the stable ownership needs to make a big splash, else another year avoiding the drop is inevitable. Watch this space…
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