We have one game remaining in a season to forget rather than one to remember, and as the players prepare to get their suitcases packing for their extended holidays this summer, transfer movements are already in full swing.
At the start of the season we were promised a 20-goal-a-season striker, and the owners failed to deliver.
Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew have been our most successful strikers this year, getting fourteen goals between them. However, the club have not done too bad in finding goals from areas outside the striker position.
Michail Antonio has managed to get nine goals from being rotated between right-back to right-wing, Manuel Lanzini has bagged eight goals attacking from a deep position as well taking free kicks. Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Sofiane Feghouli, Winston Reid and James Colins have all managed to get on the score sheet, too.
So, although a 15+ goal striker is on the shortlist, is a striker really a priority this summer? On talkSPORT a while back I recall Danny Higginbotham talking about his days at Manchester United and Tony Pulis being his boss at Stoke City. One comment that clearly stood out was that a solid defence keeps you in the Premier League and a good (not outstanding) striker that scores goals with a solid backline behind him, will win trophies. You don’t get any free spins in the Premier League.
We are currently 17th in the Premier League defensive rankings (63 goals conceded), with one game to go – and currently behind bottom of the league Sunderland (62), miles behind relegated Middlesbrough (50) and Tony Pulis’ West Brom (46).
Interestingly, on the offensive rankings, we sit quite comfortably in 11th place above a ‘high flying’ West Brom side.
The statistics don’t lie and these prove that West Ham’s defence has been the main issue this year and not necessarily for the lack of goals scored.
Aaron Cresswell has been below par this season but wasn’t helped by starting the season injured; Angelo Ogbonna has been struggling with an injury; Collins was overlooked; Reid has been average at best; Alvaro Arbeloa has been non-existent; Sam Byram just isn’t Premier League quality; Arthuer Masuaku just has pace and clearly lacks the passing precision of Cresswell; Jose Fonte has been underwhelming since his ‘big money’ move; Midfielders Antonio, Havard Nordtviet, Kouyate and Pedro Obiang have all had cameos in defence, too.
There has been a worrying level of inconsistency at the back this season and this needs to be addressed by buying top drawer defenders.
So who goes this summer?
James Collins should be given an extended deal at the club. He puts his body on the line every game and, although he lacks the pace he once had, he still has a lot to offer.
Ogbonna has to stay. Man United and Chelsea have reportedly been lurking and we must tie him down. Fonte has just signed so I can’t see him leaving so quickly and his experience is vital on the pitch.
Cresswell is still a great player, but he has not had the support around him to be able to push on and deliver crosses. He is one of England’s top five left-backs and must be given another chance.
Sam Byram needs to go out on loan for the season to a less established Premier League club or a Championship side challenging for the title.
That leaves two defenders – Reid and Masukau. If they both attract a lot of interest from other clubs and I would seriously consider selling them if the right offer came in.
Reid just lacks charisma to be the main centre-half and vice-captain of the club. Yes, he puts in a good tackle, but he makes too many mistakes on the ball. If a bid of £12m came knocking on the door from Arsenal, I would take it and invest it in a better all-round player.
Masuaku has supposedly been attracting interest from Roma and again, if a bid north of £10m came in, I would take it. No doubt the boy is quick, but is he better than Cresswell? Why does he get picked for one game and dropped the next? Is something going on in training? We should cash in while his value is good.
If we could get between £17m-£25m for Reid and Masuaku, that would buy one very good international level defender under the age of 27.
Who do we sign this summer?
The priority signing is a right-back. I’ve said season after season, Carl Jenkinson would be a great value for money signing for West Ham.
For his age, Premier League and European experience, he would be a fantastic player for us – bear in mind he is one year older than Byram, a clear difference in quality.
If the club are going to look at exceptional players, then they need to look at big European clubs and see who is not playing as much.
Barcelona’s Aleix Vidal would be a good purchase; the Spaniard is valued at £6.5m and is 27-years-old. The experience he has gained from Barcelona playing as a wing back would be an ideal fit for the club and a deal would require no deposit or loan deal to test the water, he’d settle straight away.
Other players that cold be considered would be Celta Vigo’s Hugo Mallo, the recently linked Pablo Zabaleta and PSG’s Thomas Meunier.
With Reid sold, we have Fonte, Collins, Ogbonna and Oxford as our centre backs, so we need one centre back that will challenge for a starting place in Bilic’s preferred three.
We have experience in our two aged 30+ player – Collins and Fonte – so we need someone younger, quick, strong and a good ball player who can grow into a leader at the back and lower the average age in defence.
Sporting Lisbon’s Ruben Semedo would be a good addition having spent majority of his time challenging for Portuguese titles. Lazio’s Brazilian centre-half, Wallace, is a very good player who signed for rejuvenated Lazio side managed by Inzaghi in the summer.
But a signing that could put the cat amongst the pigeons would be signing Chelsea’s Nathan Ake on a permanent deal. His abilities were showcased at Bournemouth this year and at 22-years-old he would have had some fantastic experience this season to become and outstanding professional for many years to come.
I honestly think if a bid came in for £15m for Ake, Chelsea would accept it. West Ham can then design their defence around Ake, who would be the spine for many years at the club
So – Is Jenkinson better than Byram? Is Ake better than Reid?
You tell me, what defender do you think should go and who we should go out and buy this summer?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.