Sunday, 24th September 2017
Can a summer signing up West Hamís game?
Filed: Wednesday, 14th June 2017
Author: Staff Writer #3
West Ham ended the 2016/17 season on a high note with a 2-1 victory at Burnley last month, but boss Slaven Bilic and Hammers fans will generally be looking forward to moving on from an often underwhelming and challenging debut campaign at the London Stadium.
To state that the transition to the new 57,000-capacity arena proved to be difficult is an understatement as the team struggled to adjust to new surroundings and suffered several chastening defeats. West Ham scored just 19 goals in 19 games on home soil whilst opposing teams, away from the compact and intimidating Upton Park, appeared more comfortable and at ease.
However, Arsene Wenger said last year that West Ham would need to ďmake memories and build a little historyĒ before the new stadium in E20 felt like home, and the memorable late season 1-0 win over Spurs could be a catalyst for a much more successful second campaign.
In terms of player performances, Dimitri Payet shone during the opening months with wonder goals and assists, but diminutive playmaker Manuel Lanzini ably stepped up to the plate when the Frenchman decided to leave for new pastures midseason.
Michail Antonio also impressed again with his pace and power, and the England international topped the scoring charts in the Premier League with nine goals, ahead of Lanzini (eight) and Andy Carroll (seven), who continue to struggle with niggling injuries that prevent Bilic from using his preferred number nine.
Bilic will need to improve on West Hamís 11th-placed finish next term. A top ten finish currently has short odds on UK betting sites. The signing of Pablo Zabaleta on a free transfer is an impressive statement of intent as the Argentinian remains one of the finest full backs in the top flight, even if his ability to bomb down the flank has diminished due to his advancing years.
The Hammers were often porous in defence against the bigger sides, so it is no surprise that Sporting Lisbon centre back Ruben Semedo is high on the list of targets. However, the club would need to spend around £13 million and beat clubs such as Newcastle to secure his signature.
Bringing in strength in depth in central attacking positions is also vital due to Carrollís injury record. Sky sources claimed earlier this month that West Ham are leading the chase for Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who is struggling for game time at the Etihad Stadium.
The Nigerian had the best goals-to-minutes ratio of any player in the history of the Premier League after netting in the 3-0 win over Hull on Boxing Day. At just 19 years of age, he could represent a quality investment for the future whilst providing the goal threat the club needs to improve during the 2017/18 season.
Bilic appears to be focusing on youth as Sky also believe the club is at the head of a queue for 20-year-old striker Henry Onyekuru. Previous reports claimed Arsenal were holding talks with the playerís representatives, but he could move to the London Stadium when he flies to England for negotiations with interested parties this month. Other striking targets include Crystal Palace hotshot Christian Benteke, Chelseaís outcast Michy Batshuayi, Niceís Alassane Plea and Werder Bremenís Max Kruse.
Winger Yacine Brahimi is also on West Hamís radar after reports emerged claiming that Porto are ready to cash in on one of their prize assets, though a release clause of £52.5 million may be a deterrent. The Frenchman scored six goals in Portugal's top league last term and is renowned for his technical ability and skill.
West Ham have moved quickly to trim the squad in preparation for new signings with Alvaro Arbeloa, Gokhan Tore and Jonathan Calleri all leaving the club in early June. Reports also indicate that midfielder Havard Nordtveit, who joined on a free transfer last summer, is set for an exit, with German sides Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim all interested in the playerís services. The 26-year-old will command a fee as he still has four years left on a five-year contract.
The Hammers will also be looking for several current squad members to step up the plate next term. Robert Snodgrass struggled to make an impact following a £10.2 million transfer from Hull in January and the Scotsman has vowed to improve. Meanwhile, big-money signing Andre Ayew will be eager to add more goals to his game.
Bilic has been given a vote of confidence by the board, and he will have to work hard over the summer to bring in the right players and integrate them quickly. Without European commitments, West Ham will be fully focused on the Premier League and it is important that the club gets off to a fast start and targets an improvement on the 7th-placed finish they achieved during Bilicís debut campaign in 2015/16.