With the best season for the Hammers in ages now completed, it’s time for Slaven Bilic and the backroom staff and board to review the year and to look at the necessary changes.
West Ham’s transfer targets have been well publicised for some time now and it’s common knowledge that the priority for West Ham is a striker or two who know where the goal is.
Sadly for West Ham, injuries up front prevented a consistent forward line from being fielded, but largely the strikers have been ineffective, as the team’s goals came from attacking midfielders in the main. Andy Carroll had a late revival and was equal with Dimitri Payet for league goals with nine apiece.
Injuries were also a major concern at the back and the re-shuffle that often took place meant that there was never a cohesive unit playing. If you look at Leicester, their back line seldom changed and that ultimately assisted their title win.
West Ham lost Carl Jenkinson at right back and brought in Sam Byram. When he wasn’t cup-tied, he was injured and Michail Antonio had to cover. James Tomkins also covered that same position and did exceptionally well, but he is a centre back and in that position, the Hammers are well stocked with talent.
Only Aaron Cresswell played in his usual position throughout, as West Ham lost defenders early in the season to a series of red cards and then injuries. James Collins, Winston Reid, Tomkins, Angelo Ogbonna and the out-on-loan Reece Burke are the centre backs, but within any sort of combination, West Ham shipped goals.
At one point, it was at least two goals every other game, if not consecutively. Two goals at Everton, then Chelsea, then Palace, two more at Leicester and three against Arsenal and a resounding kicking from Swansea.
With the players they have, why are West Ham still a team that leaks goals? It comes down to injuries and a back four that never stays the same.
Bilic said after the Crystal Palace draw that his side cannot keep having to score three goals to win games, and he has a point, because so often this season the Hammers have had to be on top form in front of goal just to get a point.
West Ham need to improve the defensive unit and so here are FIVE possibilities:
Yes, he is currently at Arsenal and one of their better players, but we can dream, right? The seventh-highest interceptor in the entire Premier League this season with 105 attacks broken up, Monreal has had another excellent year. The Spaniard’s impressive performances at left-back for Arsene Wenger make him one of the only players in the squad that the fans don’t want replaced or strengthened on whenever the transfer window opens and could be excellent cover should Cresswell see pound signs in his eyes and leave.
One of the most consistent Premier League defenders, Williams has yet again been Swansea’s most important player. Williams made 99 interceptions this season and only 68 tackles, stats which prove his reading of the game is a cut above several mega-money stars. The Welshman’s assured style in defence is one of the reasons Swansea recovered from the brink of a relegation fight.
Smalling has improved drastically under Louis van Gaal’s management and has become one of the Premier League’s best defenders. Calm under pressure, excellent in the air and with a great understanding of the game, Smalling provides the muscle and organisation in United’s defence next to the creatively minded Daley Blind.
The England man is hugely experienced and very capable of doing a job at the heart of the Hammers’ defence. With his in-and-out appearances for Chelsea this season and a new boss on the way, Cahill needs first team football regularly, not just for his team, but his England future.
A player who almost decided to quit football altogether at 16 years of age, the Feyenoord and Netherlands Under-21 international is now 21 and has an incredible range of passing for a young defender, with his short and long game not really needing too much refinement at all. Adept at turning defence into attack, he is perhaps the least physical of Feyenoord’s central defenders, but he excels in terms of natural ability to anticipate what is going to happen and to snuff out the danger before the opposition have any chance to capitalise. One for the future and for a while he was under Ronald Koeman’s tutelage earlier in his career.