Feghouli, Tore arrivals in attack make West Ham worth a wager for success
Holly Thackeray | July 11, 2016
Coral have ambitious West Ham United priced at a princely 7/1 to crash the Premier League top four this term, odds that should be snapped up swiftly after the Irons’ excellent work in the transfer window so far, just 11 days since the summer market officially opened.
The English top-flight has never looked as competitive as in the coming season, but the Hammers hierarchy have been eyeing a return to the elite for some time and appear well positioned and prepared for an assault.
Using now Sunderland boss and vacant England role linked Sam Allardyce to steady the ship and build a stable side, namesakes and co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold jettisoned the Englishman in the name of higher heights and also implementing attacking football.
Croatian coach Slaven Bilic, once famously the architect of the Three Lions’ failure to reach Euro 2008, was parachuted into the vacant managerial post last summer and so the story begins in earnest.
A savvy Dimitri Payet signing, seventh placed league finish, big scalps collected, entertaining 65 goal haul ride later and now the Hammers are working hard to be winners in the transfer window again.
Feghouli and Tore transfer teases
West Ham’s hitlist, if the tabloids are to be believed, includes a star striker signing, with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Carlos Bacca among those tipped as targets.
While a statement signing would be a tantalising way to get the term underway, it is arguable that the Hammers have already completed their best work on the sly and under the radar – just like last off-season.
In the summer of 2015, the Irons acquired Payet for a pittance, nabbed Argentine attackers Mauro Zarate and Manuel Lanzini on loan, swooped for Italy international Angelo Ogbonna, acquired smooth engine operator Pedro Obiang and added British Isles duo Darren Randolph and Michail Antonio among their business.
But this spending spree has the potential to prove even more prudent. Lively prospect Lanzini has already been announced as a permanent addition, joined by deep-lying Norway midfielder Havard Nordtveit from Borussia Monchengladbach, free agent and Algeria international Sofiane Feghouli plus Turkey’s Gokhan Tore on loan from Besiktas.
Having hardly dipped into the coffers to capture those intriguing additions, they appear but tantalising appetisers teasing a much bigger main event, as West Ham seek to make the most of moving to the grand setting of the Olympic Stadium and the new Premier League TV revenue.
Still, it could be the case that one from this understated trio turns out to be the true star turn. Yes, we’re looking at you Feghouli.
West Ham’s wings look menacing
Bilic’s full throttle football philosophy certainly thrilled fans last Premier League season, though their showings understandably took a back seat to English champions Leicester City, especially when the season stuttered to a seventh place finish after the promise of much more.
One of the key issues seemed to be over-reliance on playmaker Payet once his powers were revealed, but as the recent Euro 2016 revealed – the Frenchman is only human and could not carry the creative burden for the whole campaign, with his partners and stand-ins rather inconsistent.
So, up former Valencia threat Feghouli can step. The prospect of the unsung and adaptable Algerian pairing up with Payet in attack is more than a little exciting.
Coming off one of his less effective seasons in Spain, Feghouli should have a point to prove and has had his eye on a new challenge for some time. Punters should not expect a goal return similar to Payet, but for the Algerian to slot in seamlessly on the right flank and add directness, assists and intent.
With mercurial talent Tore, a former charge of boss Bilic in Turkey, also to be given the chance to stake a claim, Payet should have plenty to push him for a place.
Former Chelsea youth player Tore, still only 24, said: “He [Bilic] is the main man and knows me very well. I could not have said ‘no’ to him. He is like a father to the players. You feel like you are family.”
The Germany-born wideman has seen some off-field allegations followed by hot and cold form and a suspension ahead of Euro 2016 rather derail his international career for Turkey, but Bilic seems to posses the tools to tame his talent, which could be good news for West Ham fans.
There is little to lose with this loan punt, but again supporters should not expect goals galore, as Tore has tucked away only four goals in each of his last three Turkish Super Lig seasons.
Still these two additions, added to existing options in attacking midfield plus the threat of Aaron Cresswell, Sam Byram and utility man Antonio from the defensive flanks mean backing the Hammers for a successful season seems a no-brainer. Though, all this swift business looks to indicate interest in Norwich City’s reliable Robbie Brady may be over.
Few departures expected at Olympic Stadium
As West Ham adjust to their first season away from long-standing home Upton Park, everything has to be about progression and progress.
This means the Irons, regularly plundered for academy talents like Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand over the years, must maintain their seeming stance of no longer being a selling club.
With their attacking identity restored under their Croatian coach, it may be wise to turn attention to defence. It was undoubtedly West Ham’s weakness last term, with Bilic’s boys going gung-ho to sink the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
It was the smaller games where motivation seemed to be lacking and backline slackness took hold, however, with losses to Swansea City, Bournemouth and Stoke City not quite tallying up alongside the giant killings.
Improved organisation perhaps needs to come from Bilic, as each of Randolph in net and first-pick defenders Winston Reid, Cresswell and either of Ogbonna or James Collins have proven themselves capable.
Clinging onto Leeds United academy product Byram, amid apparent interest from Arsenal, is a must though injury limited the full back to just four outings after signing last January.
While, James Tomkins is the only big backline name to have sought pastures new, departing for free-spending Crystal Palace. The 27-year-old played 25 times in the Premier League season, so a new addition to rotate looks a cert, unless daring Bilic wishes to blood top youth prospects Reece Oxford and Reece Burke for the role.
Striker search continues
With a whopping 51 goals conceding in the league season just gone, ignoring the rearguard would seem foolish. Though it is the striker situation which seems to have most enthralled both club and press so far this summer.
The Irons (22/1 to lift the FA Cup) have so far reportedly failed with bids to bring Lyon sharpshooter Lacazette and former Hammers hitman hero Carlos Tevez to the Olympic Stadium.
AC Milan and Colombia goal-getter Carlos Bacca has been a mooted target for some time, with reports rearing their head of a fresh deal over the past few days – and catching the prolific Coffee Growers marksman would be a real coup.
With Enner Valencia seemingly set to exit, a top class competition or thrilling foil is required for dangermen Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho, who are difficult to rely upon due to fluctuating form and injury issues.
Spanish youngster Toni Martinez and former Man Utd starlet Ashley Fletcher, who both penned deals this summer, will not fit the bill alone either due to their young years. So, sit back Hammers fans and expect big things. This main trio of transfers look only to be the beginning…