Why West Ham could be a team to watch in the Premier League this season
On the face of it, West Ham United look to have done good business this summer. New boss Manuel Pellegrini has already brought in seven players and more signings may follow.
The board’s best move was arguably getting the Chilean to come on board in the first place. His presence might have played a part in attracting players to London.
Clearly, the Hammers will not accept a season like the one just passed. A dreadful start under Slaven Bilic threatened their Premier League existence before David Moyes turned things around.
However, merely surviving is not good enough for West Ham.
That is why Moyes had to go and why the club could not pass up on the opportunity to hire Pellegrini.
It is why the new manager has spent more than £85 million recruiting players such as wingers Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko.
Meanwhile, a fit and hungry Jack Wilshere is being given the opportunity to play his way back into England contention with a move across the capital. Another ex-Arsenal man, Lukas Fabianski, offers cover in goal while defenders Fabian Balbuena, Issa Diop and Ryan Fredericks are the other arrivals.
Pellegrini will not need reminding that big spending in July and August does not necessarily equate to a fast start or indeed a good season. He has only to cast his mind back 12 months or so when Everton splashed the cash in pre-season only to limp through a disappointing campaign. Like West Ham, they ended up changing managers twice in the space of 12 months.
The Hammers have been guilty themselves of making big transfers following a major tournament and seeing those players flop. However, this time around, West Ham’s recruitment policy looks to be much better planned.
The club has got the majority of its business done early in the window, allowing the Chilean maximum time to work with his new squad.
West Ham’s new signings address last season’s problems. The Hammers needed to shore up their back line, were desperately short of a creative spark in midfield and lacked penetration in the final third.
At the back, it is out with the old and in with the new; 20-somethings Balbena, Diop and Fredericks come in as elder statesmen James Collins and Patrice Evra depart.
Both Felipe and Yarmalenko are comfortable playing on either wing. Pellegrini now has several options in the wide positions with Michaeil Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Robert Snodrass already at the club.
Meanwhile, Wilshere — thanks partly to Manuel Lanzini’s absence through injury — can hope to enjoy the regular football he was denied towards the end of his time with the Gunners. He has points to prove — to his new employers and Gareth Southgate.
The biggest question is whether Pellegrini can get his new men to gel well with their new team-mates and formulate a system that accommodates them effectively. If pre-season form is anything to go by, the early signs are good.
What is more, the Hammers could be fun to watch in the coming months — and it has been too long since that has been the case.