As the start of the new Premier League season fast approaches fans will be busy assessing their club’s activities in the transfer window. Supporters of West Ham United would have noticed that their club has been busier than most this summer, adding five new players to Avram Grant’s squad. Despite the foibles of West Ham’s co-owners they have honoured their pledge to back the new manager with funds in the transfer market. Their activities will have Hammers fans quietly confident of an improved showing this campaign. Senior players at the club, including its captain Matthew Upson have expressed their view that the squad looks its strongest for a few seasons. But as the club has failed in their attempts to sign high-profile players such as Yakubu, Loic Remy and Neymar are they still a few signings away from where they would like to be?
The first positive to draw from this summer is that talk of a fire sale at Upton Park has not materialised. Previous transfer windows have seen West Ham fans collectively breathing a sigh of relief that their best players had not been sold. Despite reported interest from Stoke in Carlton Cole and Mark Noble and Spurs’ bid for Scott Parker the owners remain adamant that the core of the team will not be disbanded. The club’s reported interest in ageing stars such as Riquelme, Pires and Beckham have not bore fruit. However this will come as some relief to fans who feared an influx of ‘geriatricos’ would be brought to the Boleyn if only for the replica shirt sales.
Avram Grant’s first summer signing was the former Villan, Thomas Hitzlsperger. ‘The Hammer’ is an all-rounder who can be expected to bring some added steel and experience to the midfield, helping to close out games and contribute offensively too. Extra creativity in midfield has been acquired through the acquisition of Mexican international Pablo Barrera. The youngster was used as a substitute in the World Cup but is blessed with pace, good close control and accurate crossing ability. As a natural winger he should bring much needed width to the side which never compensated for the loss of Matthew Etherington.
However after last season defence and attack were always likely to be the key areas of concern for West Ham. A vast number of fans were left bemused by the club’s decision to release Guillermo Franco and Ilan. Both forwards had impressed with timely goals especially Ilan whose diving header at Goodison Park to clinch a 2-2 draw lifted spirits at the club immeasurably. Frederic Piquionne has been signed from Olympique Lyonnais for a fee of £1 million and will team up with Avram Grant for a second time following his loan spell at Portsmouth last season. He will add depth to the forward line but is unlikely to bring a plethora of goals having never been prolific during his career. Fans therefore may still be craving for a quick, skilful forward who can net fifteen plus goals whilst former a partnership with Cole. The club have seemingly missed out on capturing Remy and have decided against signing the portly Milton Caraglio.
In defence the club have secured the services of Tal Ben Haim on loan and announced the signing of Kiwi defender, Winston Reid earlier today. Reid is aerially strong and whilst Ben Haim has earned a reputation for making clumsy challenges, both players can play at full back which will strengthen the club’s defensive options. Julien Faubert and Jonathan Spector were both exposed last season after being far too casual in defence.
Typically of West Ham’s co-owners, transfer dealings have frequently been conducted with a degree of hyperbole. When the club’s website referred to being close to signing a “young international who represented his country to distinction at the 2010 Fifa World Cup,” thoughts drifted to Mesut Ozil before it transpired to be Reid. It has been a broadly successful transfer window but Hammers fans will be hoping for at least one more signing that would signal the club’s renewed hope and ambition ahead of the 2010/11 season.