If people weren’t taking West Ham seriously before Saturday, they must be now. The Hammers out-played an admittedly wobbly Liverpool side at Upton Park to secure a 2-0 victory, turning a run of what was drawn games (five in total prior to the Southampton win) into what many are now describing as an unbeaten run that stretches way back to mid-November.
West Ham have impressed over much of the current campaign, but injuries played their part in what was a dip from the club looking like top four contenders to a brief period of flirting with midtable. Slaven Bilic has, however, dragged his side back up to sixth, and perhaps one or two choice additions this month could book the Irons a ticket to Champions League football… stranger things have happened.
One name being persistently linked with the east of London is Juventus’ Simone Zaza, who almost joined the club on loan over the summer. They say never go back, but the claret and blue-clad outfit should be looking at the Italian once again, and here’s why…
Although West Ham boast five first-team worthy strikers – Mauro Zarate, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and Nikica Jelavic – Bilic has already found himself short of options this season. Since their arrivals, Carroll, Valencia and Sakho have shown that they are relatively susceptible to injuries, while the other two options are, in the case of the Argentine, more deep-lying and the Croatian, not really of sufficient quality to lead the alone on a weekly basis.
As a result the Hammers boss has found it difficult to keep a settled team, on the pitch, so perhaps a move for Zaza could offer some much-needed stability. The Italian is a good all-round attacking option, with pace, power and good technical ability.
Take a look at the Premier League table. Will West Ham ever have a better chance of finishing in the top four? Possibly not. The Irons are currently just four points off of the fabled Champions League qualification zone, and with Leicester having picked up just two points from the last nine available while failing to score, there could be a slot open to a willing side before long. Add into this the fact that champions Chelsea are still in the bottom half, Manchester United are inconsistent and Liverpool cannot score goals and the door is firmly ajar.
Despite his struggles at Juventus, Zaza is still a very capable striker. The 24-year-old shone for Sassuolo before making his summer move to Turin, netting 20 goals across two seasons in Serie A, despite playing for a side many predicted would fall back into the second tier.
To an extent Zaza has maintained a decent record of finding the net at Juve, notching two league goals in just shy of 300 minutes of action, while also scoring in the Champions League – one goals in two appearances off the bench.
Zaza is sure to be chomping at the bit to get away from Juve for the remainder of the season and play football. After all, EURO 2016 is looming large on the horizon and the Old Lady star has been a part of Italy’s set-up for much of the years and a bit. The Azzurri are not blessed with a wealth of top-class strikers, but Zaza will need to be playing regularly and to a good standard to make it into the set-up to travel to France, so West Ham would surely have a player eager to prove himself on their hands.
With Arsenal, among others, thought to be interested in Zaza, a move from West Ham to lure him to the east end of London would show that the club mean business. The Hammers are on the very cusp of moving up a level in English football with their Olympic Stadium move due for the end of the season, which will allow them to compete financially with sides that have been, for much of the last decade, seen as superior outfits. Snapping up a top quality, international striker ahead of moving to one of the best grounds in English football with the possibility of playing in Europe there, too. Wow.