It’s been the problem position so far this season: West Ham have been so lacking in the right-back spot that arguably the club’s most potent attacking player, Michail Antonio, has been forced to play there this year.
You’d like to think that will change this summer.
With a new stadium in place and starting to feel like home – especially after victory over Tottenham just the other week – it feel like the Hammers might be back on the straight and narrow, even if the impending summer transfer window brings back painful (maybe even humiliating) memories of last year’s attempts to sign Carlos Bacca, Alexandre Lacazette and Michy Batshuayi.
There’s no doubting the east London club has to dip into the market for a few new players, however. And a right-back is one of them.
And yet, full-backs are a sought-after commodity these days.
For one thing, the attacking width for many teams comes from their wide defenders getting up the pitch and making overlapping runs, whilst having full-backs with the ability to support the attack leaves open the tantalising possibility of playing with wing-backs – something the Premier League cool kids are up to these days. You get the feeling, though, any actual recognised right-back would feel like an improvement for the Hammers right now.
Bournemouth’s Adam Smith, rated at £2.13m by TransferMarkt.com, would seem like a good fit, too.
The first thing to clear up, though, would be his desire to actually play for West Ham United. He is, after all, a Leytonstone boy who has played for both Tottenham and Millwall in the past.
In this day and age, though, you’d think that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Now an established Premier League right-back, he’s the kind of player West Ham could do with, and surely he’d be excited to play in front of 60,000 fans every week at the London Stadium.
Beyond his past, Smith has one quality in particular that Slaven Bilic may well find attractive: he isn’t injury prone.
That might sound laughable, but the Hammers have suffered massively with injuries this season to go alongside their other problems from wantaway players to new stadium teething problems. Adding injury to insult is what took the club into an unlikely relegation battle, after all.
Of Bournemouth’s 36 Premier League games so far, Smith has featured in 34 of them. No current West Ham player has played more minutes than the Bournemouth full-back.
His ability to play multiple games in a row is hardly the best reason to buy a new player, but it should certainly be taken into consideration when you have as many problems as West Ham have in keeping your current players fit.
Defensively, Smith has made 2.4 tackles per game this season, and only three West Ham players can beat that. Offensively, he has scored once and made five assists. Crucially, of the Hammers’ current squad, no one has more than that. Only Dimitri Payet, on six, beats it.
Even if you think just having the ability to play in all the games is a weak reason for West Ham to sign Smith, the stats seem to present a player who will fit into the squad quite well in what is already a problem position.
And instead of focusing on big name players who cost exorbitant fees, Bilic could make Smith a priority, bringing a local boy into the team and making his squad much stronger in the process.