West Ham United have moved quickly in this transfer window, bringing in seven players for their first team but the most important signing was that of coach Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean tactician took over after Moyes’ contract was not extended beyond his short stay, during which he saved the Hammers from relegation. Pellegrini has won the Premier League as recently as 2014 and took Manchester City to the Champions League semi finals. His appointment as manager, combined with the signature of some big players, is a real statement of intent from the Hammers’ board. They are not here just to be spectators this time! An incursion in the top 6 is possible.
West Ham Signings so far: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Ryan Fredericks (Fulham), Issa Diop (Toulouse), Felipe Anderson (Lazio), Andriy Yarmolenko (Borussia Dortmund), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians).
Last season, the Hammers were on the verge of relegation under Croatian coach Slaven Bilic and fired the latter in the middle of the season. Bilic himself admitted it was the correct decision since he had tried everything he could and it was not making any difference. In came David Moyes. The Scot had a job on his hands, in what was probably his last chance at redeeming his reputation after dismal spells at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. Moyes kept West Ham in the Premier League and managed to get the best out of star signing Marko Arnautovic by playing him as a number 9. At the end of the season, West Ham did not offer him a new contract though, instead deciding to go with a more proven Premier League winner.
Pellegrini quickly went for some top players. Jack Wilshere joined from Arsenal, after an injury plagued stay with the Gunners. If Pellegrini has a healthy Wilshere in midfield, that will be a big advantage. Record signing Felipe Anderson has a big price tag (reportedly 36m pounds) to live up too. The Brazilian surprised everybody by moving from Serie A club Lazio. Fredericks has shown his offensive abilities from the full back position and will be prime real estate for fantasy league players. Fabianski, Diop and Balbuena are more defensive reinforcements. We expect Balbuena to marshall the Hammers’ defence. Finally, Ukrainian forward Yarmolenko, linked with a move to Liverpool in recent seasons, is another great catch for Pellegrini. The Chilean will feel comfortable knowing his superiors are backing him with everything they have.
Even without these signings, Pellegrini inherited a squad with some solid players. Marko Arnautovic has been impressive as number 9 last season and should remain in the starting 11 this season as well. Given Pellegrini plays offensive football, benefitting strikers, Chicharito could thrive under him. The Mexican showed how good he can be in a team which wants to play offensive football at the World Cup. Let’s not forget Manuel Lanzini’s creativity, Aaron Cresswell’s reliability, Kouyate’s grit and Ogbonna’s big club experience. Add to this the promising youths: Masuaku, Declan Rice and Sam Byram. Pellegrini has a balanced team to work with. The cherry on the cake is Pablo Zabaleta, one of Pellegrini’s lieutenant’s at Manchester City. He will be instrumental both on and off the pitch.
Having been recently linked with Domagoj Vida, Niang, Olivier Ntcham and some others, maybe West Ham is not done in the transfer market after all but they should be careful and avoid the fiasco that was AC Milan’s transfer windows last summer where they brought in a whopping 14 players, only for their season to falter before the halfway mark was reached.
Pellegrini now has a team capable of playing the system he employed at Malaga and ManCity. The Chilean likes his teams to retain the ball and play with fluidity and likes flexibility in his squad. He now has it. Just look at the attack as an example. Arnautovic can play on either flank or as center forward. Chicharito is a penalty box specialist. Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko provide other options. Once Lanzini is back from his long term injury, he will be another valuable addition. Andy Caroll can provide a physical dimension to the Hammers’ game.
It’s not an overstatement that West Ham has a realistic chance of cracking the top 6 this season.
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