As the West Ham faithful look forward to the next match against Stoke City on Monday night, there are many that are beginning to wonder which players will still be at the club come the end of the summer. Yes, as the end of the season draws near, the unmistakable and obligatory rumour mill jumps into overdrive as many within the fandoms and in the media begin circulating news items about possible targets and players that might be up for grabs.
“Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!” – ‘Otter’ – National Lampoon’s Animal House
Of course much of this is pure conjecture as until the league status of the club is confirmed, then all parties will be unsure which will be the most appropriate targets for the summer window. Many are fearing that some of the West Ham prized assets will be sold off in order to fund the restructuring of the squad, regardless of whether the team manages to avoid relegation.
Manuel Lanzini is top of the list and depending on his remaining performances for West Ham…and whether he will successfully feature for Argentina in the World Cup in Russia this summer, will largely determine whether other teams will show an interest to retain his services…whether in the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe.
West Ham currently have players on short term contracts or loan arrangements with huge salaries…whether they will be retained remains to be seen but if an overhaul is required, then a mass clearcut is certainly needed too! There has to be a shedding of the expensive players and those who are on the fringe…it simply makes a better business case to oust them out of the club. Other players will likely choose to leave…such as Hernandez, who hasn’t been able to find regular first team football at the Hammers this season, maybe followed by the likes of Carroll and Collins who may be deemed surplus to requirements.
The goal of the club now must be to create a squad that is balanced in both youth and experience as well as having depth in each position. Of course this is the stuff of legend, but this has been one of the reasons the Hammers have failed to impress over the last two seasons. The squad has not been able to develop properly because of poor transfer deals and underperforming players…the goal of higher performances was undermined in its restructuring infancy on leaving Upton Park.
There are two main hurdles that will prevent a successful transition this summer; money and management! How much ‘new’ money will be made available and who will be the manager? The transfer budget will be key here, as most fans will expect a sizeable treasure chest but many fear it will be once again vastly underfunded. The choice of manager will be key in determining which transfer targets will be chased in the summer and if needed, come next January too.
Whilst fans are in agreement that many new players are needed to bolster the squad, there are conflicting opinions as to which positions take priority! Do the Hammers need to strengthen in defence? Yes! Do they need a holding midfielder? Yes! Do they need to build a spine to the team? Yes!
The problem for any new manager, or even for Moyes, come the summer is that there have been so many deficiencies in all positions that the restructuring task is a mammoth one. However, the injury problems that the squad has faced this season and the last needs to be analysed more closely. Whilst the medical teams have worked wonders with some players to bring them back to match fitness quickly, there have been other players who have struggled all season. Some were possibly called back to the first team before they were even fully fit because of necessity…such as many believe was the case for Antonio all season, who has looked a shadow of his former self but is carrying a lot more weight too.
The malaise around the club has to be put to one side for now and during the rest of this season, as the priority will be to get a squad and first team that is firing on all cylinders and is singing the same tune. Whether in the starting eleven, on the substitutes’ bench or…as a squad or youth player, each and everyone must become part of a whole, must become an entity that is bigger than themselves.
This can only be achieved when the club address the major issues and start again with the training facilities and methods as well as the playing and coaching staff. It’s back to the drawing board, shed the players that are not the long-term solutions, retain the very best and bring in a new crop of seasoned professionals that will fit into the new paradigm.
Whether West Ham will lunge with purpose on big summer signings is yet to be seen, however, there are many players that will be available as teams get relegated from the Premier League this season…West Ham must exploit the fire sales from those unfortunate predicaments and find the players that may function better under a new regime and battle beneath new colours.
Whatever the solution, these are testing times ahead for the club, the management and of course the fans. There must be a clear focus on the future task, regardless of performances and results between now and the end of the season. The squad cannot fall on its sword before it has had a chance to mature…it must have all the right components to make it thrive and ready to enter conflict again next season…the young caterpillar must not be allowed to eat the butterfly it may try to become.