With a move to the Olympic Stadium next season, the powers that be at West Ham were clearly keen to give their supporters something to shout about in 2015/16.
The London club’s final campaign at the Boleyn Ground has been an eventful one so far, but on the whole the Hammers fans will be looking at the club’s future with positivity. West Ham spent considerably in the summer, with new progressive manager Slaven Bilic put in place to get the best from a squad with ever-increasing quality.
The initial signs were good, with the Croatian leading the club to an opening day shock away win over cross-city rivals Arsenal; unexpected victories on the road against Liverpool and Manchester City also followed suit.
Much of the early-season buzz around Upton Park surrounding the injection of attacking intent from summer arrivals Manuel Lanzini and specifically Dimitri Payet.
However, in recent weeks the club’s results have not been as impressive, with the level of collective performance dropping from the early months of the campaign. A serious injury to Payet has robbed the club of their chief creative talent, while the side’s water-tight defence has started to look less than assured.
Although the Hammers still sit in a lofty Premier League position and are more than able of finishing in the top half this term, things have gone a bit flat in recent weeks.
As such, a new injection of quality and drive from the heart of the West Ham team could well be called for, with Alex Song seemingly ready to return to action.
The Cameroon international spent last season on loan at the club from Barcelona, winding back the years to remind the English footballing fraternity of the array of skills that were on show frequently during his time at Arsenal. However, despite the Hammers having secured Song’s services for another campaign, the African deep-lying playmaker has had injury concerns and is only now getting back to a position where he can contribute.
In his absence, the workmanlike Mark Noble has captained the side with passion and purpose, while Cheikhou Kouyate continues to grow in stature with mature performances displaying both physicality and poise on the ball.
That said, Bilic will be pleased to have Song back amongst his options, as the Barcelona star possesses a unique range of skills compared to the other players at his disposal.
The Cameroonian possesses an enviable range of passing that could well unleash West Ham’s attacking weapons, while his control over the tempo of his side’s play would surely make the Hammers more assured in possession.
With Payet’s guile evidently being missed in recent weeks, Song’s vision from deeper areas could well make up for the France international’s absence.
Noble and Kouyate are a daunting pairing for any opposing midfield, but having a team with Song in it presents a completely different proposition.
However, with West Ham looking to get back to winning ways, Bilic would be advised to shuffle either formation or personnel to accommodate the sublimely gifted Song.