West Ham United could push for a top-six finish next season. On the surface, that may appear to be a somewhat hyperbolic statement.
But the Hammers’ recruitment this summer, so far, has been top-notch and one has to wonder if three of the top-six will fear for their places within it next term.
Indeed, the signing of Pablo Fornals from Villarreal for a £24m fee has shined a light on what Manuel Pellegrini is trying to do in east London: mould the best possible attacking team from the constituent parts he is working with.
Co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan deserve an awful lot of credit here too. Pellegrini, after all, explicitly asked for the signing of the Spain Under-21 international, per FFC sources, and, just like that, a deal was agreed. Of course, Mario Husillos, the Director of Football, did the negotiating but it was the owners who financed the deal.
With a new bid likely to be forthcoming for striker Maxi Gomez, too, Pellegrini is reshaping his squad and there is a great deal of excitement at the club.
Contrast that with Chelsea, who finished third last season. They have sold Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, their manager has left for Juventus and they are reportedly ready to appoint ex-midfielder Frank Lampard as his replacement, despite him having managed in professional football for a year. That year was also spent in the league below, as Derby County failed to gain promotion from the Championship. That is not to mention their transfer ban; they are unable to sign a single player in this transfer window. There will be no ready-made Hazard replacement signed.
Or contrast West Ham’s window so far with Arsenal. They face a season of Europa League football after failing to qualify for the Champions League and manager Unai Emery has been given a budget of just £40m to spend to improve a side with a porous defence and a paper-thin midfield. Aaron Ramsey, their best player in 2018/19, has left, too, and will play under Sarri at Juvenus.
Or contrast West Ham with Manchester United. They are in disarray in the transfer window. Paul Pogba reportedly wants to leave, with Real Madrid and Juve sniffing around, while Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen has turned them down and an £80m bid for Harry Maguire is being mooted. That figure is not a misprint.
Add to that the fact that the Irons will not be playing any European football at all next season but could potentially bring in the calibre of players who should be and it adds up to a distressing picture for those above them.
They do, of course, have the financial advantage. Monetarily, United can blow the Hammers out of the water if they so wish. But, as evidenced by their Issa Diop approach, they don’t need to sell to them, nor are they pretending to compete.
They are on a level playing field with both Arsenal and Chelsea, however, and one feels that it is the Irons making the shrewd moves this summer.
Next season promises to be very interesting indeed.