Another English Premier League season is in the books, which means it’s time for everyone’s favorite offseason activity: speculation! As we know, silly season will soon officially be upon us as clubs from all over the world attempt to improve their squad for the upcoming campaigna��whether through addition by subtraction or the more conventional route: spending that sweet, sweet Premier League money.
Over the next couple months we’ll go through each EPL side, identifying their strengths and weaknesses while pointing out which player(s) they likely cannot afford to lose. Will the names always be notable? Perhaps not, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
West Ham have never won England’s first division title. The highest they ever placed was third (1985). They haven’t won the FA Cup since 1980 or the League Cup since ’81. At this point, it could go without saying that they’ve never accomplished anything of merit in Europe either. Not since 1965, anyway.
Fast forward to the present, and it looks as though the future has never looked brighter. I wasn’t around for the West Ham clubs of the 60s, 70s, and so on, but I imagine I’ll be around for the next few decades. Right now, West Ham poses trouble for numerous Premier League clubs.
Slaven BiliA� Righting the Ship
In his first season in charge, BiliA� led West Ham to their highest point total of the century (62) as well as a seventh-place finisha��good enough for Europa League qualification thanks to Manchester United’s FA Cup victory. Keep in mind this is a club that’s been relegated twice since 2000, including as recently as 2010.
They may not be as big as they once were, but BiliA� has them on the right track.
Shaping the Squad
To be clear, the following was simply a post-match press quote, but after Swansea City took West Ham to task by a scoreline of 4-1, BiliA� remarked:
a�?We had too many passengers relying on other players to do the dirty jobs.a�?
That was on May 7, just 10 days before the 2015-16 Premier League season concluded. As the summer window approaches and West Ham look to hold onto what got them here as well as build on their success for the future, one name comes to mind: 29-year-old Frenchman Dimitri Payet. Obviously, do not sell him. But who else? Who else will step up? More appropriately, what else is needed?
A goal-scorer up top, for starters.
The majority of West Ham’s goals came from their midfield, as Payet (9), Michail Antonio (8), Mark Noble (7), Manuel Lanzini (6), and Cheikhou KouyatA� (5) combined for 35 of the club’s 65 league goals. That’s great production from midfield, but what about their strikers?
Andy Carroll equaled Payet’s mark with 9 goals of his own while Diafra Sakho chipped in 5. For as great as their midfield production was, West Ham’s threat up top was severely lacking. And while several clubs cannot assume their striker will bag upwards of 20 goals in the Premier League on a yearly basis, West Ham isn’t just another club anymore. Not right now, anyway.
Europe, New Stadium, and Beyond.
West Ham find themselves in the Europa League again next season, the same competition they were bounced from in the qualification playoff this past season.
They’re building for the future, as evidenced by their new stadium. But with the recent EPL television deala��one that’s been referenced numerous times in this spacea��not to mention additional funds because of the UEL, there’s no reason West Ham cannot splash the cash on a promising striker. Will they land a top name? No, not right now. They’d likely need the lure of Champions League football, but even that’s not necessarily the end-all.
Perhaps the route BiliA� and the board could takea��keep in mind these are just rumorsa��should be similar to Tottenham Hotspur under Mauricio Pochettino and company: buying young, relatively cheap individuals and molding them into integral parts of the squad. Think Eric Dier or Dele Alli.
The gems are out there, one just needs to know where to look.
The only word of caution I leave with West Ham supporters is this: don’t expect too much too soon. Your club is coming off a wonderful campaign and with the right moves, we could even see them move up a spot or two in the table. Hope for that, but don’t expect it.
This season showed us how crazy the Premier League can sometimes be, but winning the league or jockeying for a Champions League spot isn’t always everything. How about challenging for a trophy for the first time since the 80s? How about showing you belong in Europe?
Slaven BiliA� did a fine job in his first season, and with BeAYiktaAY he was up to the challenge against multiple English clubs across Europe. We saw what happened with Everton under Roberto MartA�nez’s not-so-watchful eye in years two and three after a bright start, but with BiliA� I don’t imagine the same happening to West Ham. With BiliA�, the Hammers appear to be in very steady hands.
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