West Ham have endured a tough first season at London Stadium with poor performances, crowd trouble and transfer saga’s making it a campaign to forget.
Their time in Stratford did not get off to a good start when a summer fuelled by big promises from the board failed to deliver, leaving manager Slaven Bilic with a jumbled squad lacking the quality to mount a serious challenge for the European places.
A big gripe of fans in east London over the last 18 months has been that the need to bring in a first team right-back has been largely ignored by the powers that be within the club. It seems, however, having seen the likes of Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyate having to fill the berth this season that action will finally be taken in the coming months, with it now just being a case of who is brought in.
Former Leeds United man Sam Byram has performed admirably when given the chance but there is a sense that a bit more experience is needed if the club are to realise the ambitions set out upon them since the move from Upton Park. Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta, who is now a free agent, has also been mooted as a potential addition, but it seems one top choice is being over-looked.
Since earning promotion to the Premier League in 2015, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth have quietly gone about their business on the south coast to the point that they have now snuck into the top ten, finishing two places above West Ham, in only their second season in the top-flight.
Crucial to the Cherries’ success in the top flight has been the contribution of their full-backs. On the left, Charlie Daniels is the most prolific Premier League defender in terms of goals and assists since the start of the 2015/16 season whilst on the right a real talent has emerged in Adam Smith.
During the early stages of Bournemouth’s maiden top flight campaign it was now-captain Simon Francis who had a firm grip on the right-back slot at the Vitality Stadium, however, a long-term injury to Tommy Elphick forced Howe to move the former Charlton man into the middle alongside Steve Cook, giving Smith his chance.
With Elphick failing to make his way back into the side after injury, and subsequently being sold onto relegated Aston Villa last summer, Smith, a product of Tottenham’s academy, has become key to Howe’s style of play and would more than fit in at London Stadium.
The 26-year-old has pace to burn and, since earning a regular spot in the Premier League, has developed the ability to know when best to utilise his speed and when to hold off and support play.
The former England U21 international’s runs are often the trigger for Howe’s side to attack and pile numbers into the opposition penalty area as Smith, or a supporting winger in the shape of Ryan Fraser or Junior Stanislas, look to pick the perfect cross.
One thing Bilic’s side have certainly lacked this season is a number of creative players willing to test and take on their opposite numbers. In Smith, who is rated at just £2.13m by transfermarkt.com, the Hammers would have a confident, strong and experienced right-back more than competent in keeping things tight at the back before sparking a quick attacking move to find that £20m striker so often promised by David Sullivan & Co. waiting in the area.