Winter window manifesto for West Ham to pinch Europa League place
Holly Thackeray | December 14, 2015
If one club are in need of a festive spending spree to regain momentum, then it is Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United, who have dropped off the pace after a bright start and injuries to key players.
Despite defeating the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea, the Hammers are priced at just 14/1 with Coral to cement a top six Premier League finish plus a potential Europa League place if domestic cup competitions are captured by elite teams. Two successive stalemates and no win in six will cause your odds to tumble, of course.
Such a long price could be prudent to pounce on now, before Bilic fills his stockings in the sales, but he must certainly be backed as the Irons have a unique opportunity to impact the race for continental competition.
Co-owner David Gold famously called West Ham’s quest to win the Premier League the “impossible dream”, but here is what we reckon the Londoners must do in the market to take baby steps towards the reality of at least European football…
Attacking edge out wide
As number one Adrian told press, the Hammers have struggled to make games count at home, taking just 10 points from 24. The Spanish stopper said: “When we play away, the other team start with the ball and try and attack, which allows us to counter-attack, and we are very dangerous playing that way.
“Here at home, we have the ball and play out from defence and sometimes the other team are really narrow and defend well.”
With that in mind, plus an abundance of players, including currently injured chief playmaker Dimitri Payet and South American pair Manuel Lanzini and Mauro Zarate, able to assist and pull strings, the Hammers should steer clear of stars who will gravitate centrally.
Instead, real class out wide is needed to stretch teams who will not be picked apart by a smart pass, with perhaps someone a little more contemplative than the raw pace of on-loan Victor Moses, who tends to work best on those famed counter-attacks.
Someone who can stay wide and put in a peach of a cross, with under-utilised pair Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho (when he returns) would not impede Bilic’s pretty play but instead give it another dimension, and reduce the need to splurge on a new frontman. These two have goals galore in them, and can help take points from tough matches.
Valencia wingman Sofiane Feghouli, one of the current crop from Algeria’s attacking ensemble, has previous with running down contracts and is reportedly snubbing new offers from Gary Neville’s Bats.
A free agent in summer 2016, the 25-year-old would surely represent a bargain. Currently linked with Manchester United, for whom it seems an unlikely transfer, Feghouli might do better to follow in Payet’s footsteps and taste the Premier League with an ambitious club with whom playing time is almost guaranteed.
As a cheaper alternative, Norwich City’s oft underrated Robbie Brady is no speed merchant, but could put pinpoint crosses atop Carroll’s head all day long.
Alternatives for attacking depth
The recent spate of injuries show West Ham lack depth, but only quality should be used to fill this squad brimming with potential.
Competition would surely be created by a much-mooted move for AC Milan star Keisuke Honda, and the Japanese icon should be top of the Irons’ Christmas list. Able to add a sprinkling of silk where there is already much steel in Bilic’s deep midfield, or fill a variety of positions up front, Honda is the versatile schemer required at Upton Park to ensure such a dismal run does not reoccur.
Though, another playmaker would currently be overkill, should Liverpool’s reported interest in vying for the permanent services of Lanzini prove a battle West Ham can’t win, a January swoop for struggling Bordeaux’s adaptable Wahbi Khazri could be just the tonic.
Fresh from previous Ligue 1 plundering success with Payet, Khazri could be a coup in a similar vein. Still just 24, the Tunisia international has six goals and four assists in France already and, most crucially, can also play wide as well as central.