When West Ham United moved from Upton Park to the London Stadium in 2016, vice-chairwoman Karren Brady boldly proclaimed that the Hammers’ vision was to become a top-six club that regularly competed in Europe.
Fast forward almost four years and it’s fair to say( those ambitions are some way from being realised. West Ham have finished in the bottom half of the Premier League in two out of their three full seasons at the new stadium and have changed manager three times since leaving E13.
Now with David Moyes back for a second spell in charge, the experienced Scotsman has the task of avoiding relegation from the top flight – only goal difference separates his side from Bournemouth and a place in the drop zone.
West Ham have dramatically underachieved this season and a significant revamp of the first-team squad will be needed in the summer, regardless of which division the East Londoners find themselves in.
Colombian central midfielder Carlos Sánchez is out of contract at the end of the current campaign and will Pablo Zabaleta and potentially by hot prospect Jeremy Ngakia – the young right-back is yet to agree a new deal after breaking into the first-team in late January.
Slavia Prague loanee Tomáš Souček may remain with West Ham beyond this season. The Hammers have an option to buy the 6ft 4in Czech international for around £13million, but that transfer is unlikely to take place if the club are relegated.
Of the players out on loan, Queens Park Rangers could be keen to keep hold of Jordan Hugill after the striker scored 13 goals in all competitions for the Rs, while calamitous goalkeeper Roberto will presumably be made available to any interested party.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a major impact on which other players are sold this summer. Ideally Arthur Masuaku, Albian Ajeti and Fabian Balbuena would all be moved on, while Manuel Lanzini has struggled to find his best form since suffering a knee injury in 2018.
Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko’s ongoing fitness issues mean they are surely on the chopping block too. But finding buyers for some or all of those unwanted players could be challenging, in a financial climate where teams are tightening their belts.
On the plusYs side, it’s hard to imagine any of the ‘big six’ forking out the kind of fee needed to secure star midfielder Declan Rice in the next window, so he is likely to remain at the London Stadium if Moyes can secure the Irons’ top-flight status.
Key areas to strengthen
The Hammers are lacking depth at centre-back beyond regular starters Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna, while there’s also a dearth of quality in both full-back positions. A left-back to compete with Aaron Cresswell is an essential addition, as is a right-sided defender – especially if Ngakia, as looks likely, departs.
Michail Antonio has the potential to complement Sébastien Haller up front, but realistically West Ham need a more established striker to pair with the Frenchman.
Interestingly no team has hit a greater percentage of their shots on target than Moyes’ men (44.8 per cent), but they’re in the bottom five for shots per 90 (8.98). A forward willing to pull the trigger in attacking areas could make a significant difference to West Ham’’s chances of success in 2020/21.
Nottingham Forest right-back Matty Cash and central defender Joe Worrall have both been linked with a move to East London, with Moyes believed to be focusing his recruitment around acquiring some of the Championship’s top talents.
The club are also believed to have Queens Park Rangers’ star playmaker Eberechi Eze on their hit list, as well as 19-year-old Reading striker Danny Loader who is available on a free transfer.
Further forward, a whole host of Premier League clubs – including West Ham – will surely be targeting out-of-favour Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi now that Timo Werner is believed to be on his way to Stamford Bridge. But more ambitious deals could include the £22million-rated ‘Iranian Messi’ Sardar Azmoun and Brentford’s in-demand attacker Saïd Benrahma.