Croatian sensation Slaven Bilic has set the Premier League on fire since taking over from Sam Allardyce at West Ham this season, presiding over one of the most exciting teams the club has fielded in recent memory.
Having already beaten the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, the former Besiktas boss has done an excellent job in building attacking fluency off of Big Sam’s defensive foundations.
That is not to say they are the finished article of course, having suffered disappointing losses at home to Bournemouth and Leicester as well as being trounced against a rampant Tottenham Hotspur. Still, the signs are promising for everyone involved with the East London outfit heading into their stadium move.
Their recruitment policy over the summer was excellent as the Irons picked up two gems in Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, as well as drafting in Angelo Ogbonna from Italian giants Juventus. As they enter their final five months at Upton Park, they are in with a great shout of finishing in a European spot.
The decision to get rid of Allardyce had been met with caution but Bilic is a former fan favourite and has taken the side to new found levels of entertainment. Now into the second stage of their project and established as a Premier League outfit, the only way is up from here.
As proved by some of the losses it is by no means an easy transition, but the club have gone the right way about it by bringing in flair players to complement their defensive solidity. An attack on the top six is not a wayward notion once their injuries clear up.
Perhaps some more astute additions will help as those in charge of recruitment in East London have proved they are more than capable of finding players who fit the new philosophy.
With that in mind, here are THREE potential signings and THREE potential departures at West Ham to help them launch a European assault…
AC Milan’s Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda is understood to have become disillusioned at the San Siro after seeing his playing opportunities limited at the San Siro. The 29-year old has been linked with a switch to West Ham after Payet and Lanzini suffered lengthy injuries, and it’s easy to see why.
The playmaker is similar to the aforementioned duo but also possess more of a natural ability to play wide. Presumably Bilic will deploy a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid going forward and the former CSKA star would gladly fit a wider role, flanking the pair.
Due to Payet’s insane levels of work rate when winning the ball back, the Hammers could also field the Frenchman and Honda behind a striker. Watching the pair scheme together would be a mouth-watering prospect, and Payet’s energy means very little defensive work is lost as a result.
A statement of intent should he arrive.
Though the Irons are seemingly well stocked in the striking department with four recognised names on paper, it doesn’t tend to translate so well on paper. Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and of course Andy Carroll have all proved to be relatively injury prone so far.
There are also questions marks as to whether the towering 26-year old Geordie fits in with the new style in East London. In the loss against Spurs, the former Newcastle and Liverpool man toiled in front of goal and was asked too often to run in behind. That is not his strength, at all.
So, the arrival of Seydou Doumbia would be a wise addition. Powerful and pacey, the Ivorian adds an extra dimension to whatever team he plays in. Rumoured to be of interest to West Ham, his ability in front of goal make him a respected Champions League marksman.
His spell at Roma hasn’t worked out but that should take nothing away from his obvious qualities.
(The fourth striker I neglected to mention was Nikica Jelavic, but you’re not missing out on much there….)
Carl Jenkinson has attracted some criticism from sections of support this year, but the Arsenal loanee has been a solid right-back for the past season and a half. However nothing lasts forever and the 23-year old will more than likely return to the Emirates this summer as Mathieu Debuchy departs.
So, Bilic needs to find a new full-back. Enter Davide Santon. The Italian had a relatively successful period with Newcastle a couple of seasons ago, proving himself to be a competent Premier League player. He has fallen out of favour at Inter Milan and has since been linked with both the Hammers and Crystal Palace.
Though he predominantly played on the left during his Tyneside tenure, the 24-year old is naturally a right sided player. His versatility will no doubt be helpful should he arrive and his at time boundless energy overlapping from defence is likely to fit the Croatian’s preferred style of play.
James Collins is a perfect example of where the club have from and where the club want to be. The stoic Welshman has been rock solid since arriving from Aston Villa for £5m in 2012 as the side looked to consolidate their Premier League standing.
However, as unforgiving a defender as he is, the 32-year old is not the type of player to bring the club forward. His no-nonsense approach is perfect for further down the league table but Bilic is now hell bent on bringing the ball out of defence and starting from deep. The Welsh international is not the most elegant, and is slipping down the pecking order.
Sunderland chief Sam Allardyce is reportedly keen on linking up with him once more. The Black Cats are in a relegation battle of their own and need all the defensive reinforcements they can get.
A great servant of the club, but Collins should be sold should the Wearsiders firm up their supposed interest.
As previously mentioned, Carroll’s injuries and the fact he might not be the best fit for the club anymore has seen him once again touted with a return to Newcastle. Despite his limitations in terms of pace and passing, the England striker is still a force to be reckoned with on his day.
The Toon Army are in desperate need of a lift and the signing of a local hero would surely go some way into raising spirits. It would of course be tempting for the Hammers to keep him as another option, but considering his wages and the amount of injuries, it would make more financial sense to sell and find a better suited replacement.
Who knows, maybe a return to St. James’ Park is the spark the 26-year old needs to re-establish himself as a regular in the Three Lions squad.
Another player to be linked with the North East. Big Sam is apparently set to make James Tomkins his primary target heading into next month’s transfer window.
While he is a better footballer than Collins, so more likely to fit the style, the 26-year old would also command a much higher fee. Having risen through the ranks at Upton Park it would be a shame to see him go, but perhaps shifting him on and keeping Collins merely as cover is more a financially sound idea.
He’s unlikely to be content in playing second fiddle to Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna whereas the ageing Welshman is surely more likely to accept the situation. Should Allardyce table a £10m bid, the club should surely consider it for a player who doesn’t even get in the first-team.