header decal

News

10 Jul 2018

West Ham United: The changes that will make the Hammers competitive

West Ham United: The changes that will make the Hammers
competitive

After a poor season, the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini has brought optimism to E20.

Jump To
link decal

Between the posts

link decal

Soliding up

link decal

Where there's a Wil there's a way

link decal

Looking forward

link decal

A sense of optimism

(Photo credit: David Holt)

Last season was one to forget for West Ham fans. 

Their club's poor form on the pitch in tandem with a disconnect between fans and the owners off the field resulted in a toxic atmosphere hanging over the London Stadium. 

This came to a head on the 10th March in a Premier League fixture against Burnley, which led to angry West Ham fans invading the pitch to remonstrate with players, causing scenes that were broadcasted worldwide. 

David Moyes, who replaced Slaven Bilic in November 2017, was at least able to retain West Ham’s Premier League status. However, it wasn’t enough for the Scot to get the confidence of the owners, declining to extend his short-term contract.

With the new Premier League season less than a month away, West Ham's fans have cause for optimism with owners David Gold and David Sullivan choosing to replace Moyes with Manuel Pellegrini. 

Between the posts

Along with recently-appointed director of football Mario Husillos, Pellegrini has already begun addressing the problems that plagued West Ham last season.

Conceding goals was a weakness that led to some terrible displays form the Hammers throughout the 2017/18 season. They may have finished 13th but they had the joint worst defensive record in the league (with relegated Stoke), conceding 68 goals – an average of 1.7 goals per game.

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

To the club’s credit, they’ve backed Pellegrini with funds to improve a poor defence. Goalkeeper was a position that West Ham struggled with last season as Joe Hart committed several costly errors during his loan spell leading to Moyes replacing him with Adrien near the end of the season.

Both players have now left West Ham – Joe Hart back to his parent club Manchester City and Adrian sold to Real Betis – resulting in the acquisition of Lukasz Fabianski. 

The Pole may have suffered relegation at Swansea City last season but was a bright spot during a tumultuous period at the Welsh club. He is an experienced Premier League keeper, coming on leaps and bounds since arriving at Arsenal from Legia Warsaw in 2007.

Soliding up

Yet it is at centre-back that Pellegrini has made his biggest mark. 

Signing Issa Diop for roughly £22 million may sound like a high price but his displays for Toulouse show why he is a rough diamond. 

Since making his debut as a 18-year-old in November 2015, Diop has been ever-present in a Toulouse side that mostly battled against Ligue 1 relegation with his ascent to the captain’s armband in October 2017 an indicator of just how well regarded he was at Les Tefece. 

Reading the game well, the youngster has picked up a high amount of interceptions (34) in Ligue 1 last season which should prove key in a fast-paced league in England. Such is his talent he could easily play for a Champions League club in a few years.

West Ham have looked to strengthen their centre-back areas further with Corinthians accepting a bid for 23-year-old Fabian Balbuena. The Paraguayan's release clause may be low at £4 million but has been ever present in the league and Copa Libertadores this season. 

The signing of Ryan Fredericks from Fulham on a free transfer provides viable options at right back with Fredericks providing competition to Pablo Zabaleta. The days of Michail Antonio as an auxiliary right-back should hopefully end.

Where there's a Wil there's a way

In midfield, the misfortune of Manuel Lanzini's horror injury which will keep him out for the rest of the season has led to West Ham adding much-needed creativity. 

Given the Hammers never really replaced Dimitri Payet after his acrimonious move to Marseille in January 2017, the talk that has recently surfaced of a surprise move for the Frenchman back to E20 will most likely be wishful thinking.

As a result, the signing of Jack Wilshere on a free transfer is a much-needed tonic but could be the bargain signing of the season. Injuries may have plagued the ex-Arsenal midfielder, yet they didn't stop him from making 20 appearances last season. When fit, his drive, vision and ability to draw defenders from their rigid positions can only be an asset for West Ham. But it all depends on his fitness.

The potential arrival of Felipe Anderson for nearly £40 million would be a marquee signing for West Ham, let alone breaking their transfer record again, the first time merely a few weeks ago when they signed Issa Diop. 

The Brazilian may not have been first choice last season but has been part of Lazio’s revival in recent years. At times, he may blow hot and cold but his creativity can unlock defences and bring flair not seen since Payet and perhaps even a certain Paolo Di Canio.

Looking forward

The impending arrival of Andriy Yarmolenko for £17.7 million would bring incisiveness to a lukewarm attack only occasionally enlivened by Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez in the latter stages of last season. 

REUTERS/Darren Staples

Yes, the Ukrainian had an injury-hit season at Borussia Dortmund but many remember the barnstorming displays he put in for Dynamo Kiev that led to several European clubs wanting his signature. 

Goals and assists are what he can bring when fully fit: something West Ham need. Only one player reached double figures in goals last season – Marko Arnautovic with 11 goals – something that must be avoided if West Ham want to match the ambition shown this summer in the transfer market.

A sense of optimism

Pellegrini is trying to instil a sense of optimism into a club that needs it. How the Hammers fare in the opening stages of this season will either maintain or dampen this new founded assertiveness. 

Their opening league fixture is tough – away to Champions League finalists Liverpool on the 12th August. But their opening home fixture against Bournemouth on the 25th will be where fans want to see their new signings to click. 

Facing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on the 25th will be a tough assignment before facing Wolves on the 1st September before the international break. A competent start will sustain or even lift confidence to the squad while a bad start could stunt it.

Whether the Hammers can reach the Europa League spots come May remains to be seen but the London Stadium will at least be a far better place than it was last season. And that can only be a good thing.

How do you see West Ham's season going? Let us know by commenting below.