Whilst one other team are having a fairy-tale season, West Ham are enjoying the best campaign in their history in the Premier League.
In fairness to the club, not many people thought that the Irons were anything more than a settled midtable side. The aspirations were always there, but in the past they sold their best players, lost Premier League status twice and had to fight to get back at the first time of asking.
When the board at Upton Park failed to entice their first choices as manager last summer, they turned to Slaven Bilic and everyone knew that it was a risk. However, West Ham fans always enjoy seeing one of their own return and the Croatian was welcomed with open arms.
The new manager, with his own ideals and tactics, plus an avalanche of new players, has simply gone beyond the remit of ‘keep us in the Premier League ahead of the move to the Olympic Stadium’ and the Hammers have become actual contenders for a European place, and possibly a top four finish. The club’s sights were very firmly on the FA Cup until last week as well, and Bilic always fielded his strongest possible squad in all of their matches.
As it stands, West Ham are 6th, which if the league finished today, would be their best ever finish – and with a points total that has also broken the club’s own records.
But with all of that good work comes expectation. Next season will have to be as good or better, and whilst West Ham fans don’t think they are title winners yet, there must be progression.
With the team vying for a place in Europe, they will need to strengthen and replace. So who might Bilic bring in through the gates of their new stadium?Here are SIX ambitious targets…
A bit of a surprise, or is it? Bilic is a huge fan of Modric and is quick to liken players to the Croatian midfielder. Modric is quick, intelligent and superb in possession, whilst working hard to regain the ball once out of possession. In short everything Bilic would want.
However, Real admire the player so much that even though Modric earns far less than Bale and Co., he is on decent money. It might not stop Bilic from enquiring and if Zidane steps down, as some think he might, then the ex-Spurs man may decide to move on.
He may be dropping down the pecking order at Arsenal, but Walcott at 27 still has a lot to offer. He needs first team football, to be playing regularly and an injection of confidence, which are all things West Ham can give him. His lack of starts this season has put his England place in doubt and the likelihood is that he will leave the Emirates with three years still remaining on his contract.
It’s not news anymore, but West Ham need to find strikers that can score goals, so expect a change up front for next season. Despite the well-reported interest in Marseille forward Batshuayi, the Belgian may prove impossible to attain, so other options must be assessed.
Gignac made a surprise move to Mexican Club U.A.N.L Tigres over the summer on the back of netting 21 goals in Ligue 1 during his final season in France with Marseille, and has thrived in the Mexican league. 24 goals so far in 29 games brings his name back to the attention of the Premier League, and at 29 he has lots still to offer.
Another surprise? Maybe not. West Ham need to ensure that they stop leaking goals as they have done over recent weeks, and although they haven’t played with a settled back line for most of the season, someone like Manchester City’s Zabaleta could be a solution.
The Argentina right-back has made just 10 Premier League appearances this season due to a combination of injury and the form of Bacary Sagna, and with a year left on his contract, as well as a new manager coming in, he may decide to move on.
The Bosnian moved to the Italian capital to join Roma last summer from the Etihad, but he has managed to find the net just eight times this season. The 30-year-old is likely to be growing frustrated at his situation, and sporting director Walter Sabatini has already held talks with the player. He is said to favour a return to the Premier League and with West Ham’s ambitions, despite his age, east London could be appealing.
The PSG midfielder was on Bilic’s radar last summer and it was reported that officials from both clubs had met to discuss a possible loan/transfer. Currently valued at north of £20m, the youngster would eat up the majority of any war chest that the board would give to their manager, especially if £20-£25m is being put aside for a striker. However, Bilic is a fan of the Frenchman and after another improving season, he could bolster the options in midfield and become a key member of the first team.