What a difference a summer can make.
Last season, Sam Allardyce was fighting the board and the fans to keep his job at West Ham. Just a few months and £27million in transfers later, and the East London side, guided by Big Sam, have skyrocketed their way to fourth place in the Premier League table, enjoying healthy points cushions over the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton.
It would be nothing short of miraculous if the Hammers grabbed a Champions League spot come May-time, but it will take some more investment in the squad to get them over the finish line.
With that in mind, here’s a list of FIVE January signings – admittedly, rather audacious and bold ones that seemed out of West Ham’s reach during the summer – to keep the Upton Park outfit in the top four.
Marseille star Andre Ayew has been linked with some major names over the last year or so, including Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
But set to enter the final six months of his contract come the January window, he’s well within West Ham’s price-range too, with the tabloids quoting a miserly valuation of just £1.5million.
The Ghana international has proved himself to be one of the French top flight’s most potent widemen over the last few years, amassing 52 goals and 19 assists in 178 appearances since his debut for L’OM back in 2007. Here’s a clip of the 24 year-old in action:
As you can see, Ayew’s outrageously good at heading for a 5 foot 9 winger, which should go down particularly well with Sam Allardyce. Five international tournament goals, including two at Brazil 2014, further underline the African attacker’s goalscoring credentials.
But the positives don’t stop with Ayew’s netting prowess; he’s industrious and versatile too – as shown below, he’s been used in a plethora of diverse capacities already this season:
He’d add quality, depth and flexibility to West Ham’s attack, but Ayew’s availability is attracting interest from all corners of Europe.
Another winger likely to be on the move this January due to his contract situation is Dnipro star Yevhen Konoplyanka, whom the Hammers launched an ill-fated £9.5million bid for during the summer.
They may have considerably better luck in the New Year however, now that the Ukrainian international’s contract has entered its final six months without an extension in sight.
The 25 year-old, who boasts 32 goals and plenty of assists in 149 league outings for Dnipro, first burst onto the scene with this absolute stunner against England at Wembley back in 2012:
He’s since gone on to win two Ukrainian Premier League Footballer of the Year awards, leading many to believe Konoplyanka is one of the most Europe’s talented outside of its five leading top flights.
For West Ham to land the playmaking winger would be a major coup, but revived interest from long-term admirers Tottenham could prove problematic:
— Addicted to Spurs (@AddictedtoSpurs) October 18, 2014
Sam Allardyce certainly hasn’t been disappointed with the performances of Adrian since his move to Upton Park last summer. But goalkeepers make a huge difference to final league standings, so the opportunity to upgrade between the sticks can never be ignored.
Enter former Barcelona star Victor Valdes, one of the most decorated goalkeepers in world football with three Champions Leagues, six La Liga titles and five Zamora trophies (Spain’s Goalie of the Year Award) on his CV. Here’s a look at some of the Spain international’s best ever saves:
He left the Nou Camp on a bosman move last summer and has since trained with Liverpool and Manchester United in a bid to find a new club.
But neither of the Premier League big-boys have offered the 33 year-old a contract yet, suggesting the chance for a lesser club to give Valdes a route back into first team football.
It may constitute a rather audacious move and Champions League-standard wages could prove an issue. But Valdes is one of the best shot-stopping sweeper-keepers in the business, representing the precise injection of quality West Ham need to cement their place in the top four.
Carl Jenkinson’s performed well in his right-back berth since joining the Hammers on a season-long loan from Arsenal in the summer but some added quality at No.2 could make all the difference to the East Londoners European football bid – they do say full-back is now the most important position on the pitch, after all.
Meanwhile, AC Milan defender Ignazio Abate looks set to be on the move in January, with the San Siro outfit enduring yet another mediocre season and his contract entering its final six months.
Despite the Rossoneri’s seemingly endless malaise, the 28 year-old has been enjoying some strong form this season to grab four assists in ten Serie A appearances. Here’s a look at his vitals over the last few seasons:
As you can see, Abate’s a reliable, relatively error-free defender who also likes to contribute going forward. But his abilities at both ends of the pitch are underpinned by the Italy international’s electric pace – something the current Hammers backline particularly lacks. Here’s a clip of Abate in action:
The defender’s contract situation could see him leave Milan for a pittance in January, but West Ham will face stiff competition for his signature from Premier League rivals Liverpool:
Liverpool ponder Ignazio Abate transfer as potential cut-price Glen Johnson replacement – http://t.co/loZKv6L7Lo
— Liverpool Family (@lfc_family) October 24, 2014
Experience and a professional attitude are vital ingredients for any Champions League qualifying campaign and Manchester City’s James Milner represents both in abundance.
The England international, infamous for his consistency, has been enjoying some strong form for the Premier League champions this season to record four assists in 13 appearances, as detailed below:
But his contract situation remains open to speculation, with an extension beyond summer 2015 yet to be agreed.
Milner’s famed for his industriousness and versatility, being comfortable in virtually any midfield berth and even featuring at right-back on England for occasion.
His top flight credentials are undoubted too, having amassed 395 Premier League appearances, in addition to 53 caps for the Three Lions, throughout spells with Leeds United, Newcastle, Aston Villa and the Citizens.
If his contract isn’t renewed, a host of clubs will be attempting to lure the 28 year-old away from the Etihad in the New Year. But recent speculation suggests City could be on the verge of offering him improved terms:
EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool and Arsenal target James Milner set for new Man City contract: JAMES MILNER is set to be … http://t.co/nWpCZaAo6O
— Football Talk (@FootballTalk_) December 6, 2014