In a busy summer in which the World Cup has dominated the headlined, West Ham United have quietly been taking serious steps to show that the beleaguered club once again means business. The first move involved securing the signature of a vastly experienced and successful manager in the form of Manuel Pellegrini. Next, the London side brought out the cheque book, breaking club transfer records to bring in a number of high-calibre players. The question, however, remains as to whether the club’s productive efforts in the close season can translate to a step change in its fortunes on the pitch.
Could this time be different?
From signing Fulham right-back, Ryan Fredericks, to young French sensation, Issa Diop, and Brazilian central defender, Fabian Balbuena, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and midfielder Jack Wilshere, the club has made a strong statement about their intentions for the new season.
Add to that wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson from Borussia Dortmund and Lazio respectively and you can make of that what you wish. One thing is certain though, with seven quality additions to the team in every area of the pitch, led by an astute and experienced manager that has coached at the top level on different continents, the club’s hierarchy mean business about taking the club to the next level.
A decade of mixed fortunes
The last decade has been one of mixed fortunes for West Ham United. The club has been relegated from the Premier League, bounced back and gone on to break several club records in the following seasons only to struggle again. Relegated under Israeli manager, Avram Grant, in the 2010-11 campaign, Sam Allardyce was appointed to lead the club back to the top flight.
The experienced English manager did it at the first time of asking, as the club gained promotion in the very next season. He later secured a tenth-place finish in the first season back up. Next term, the club finished in 13th place, leaving fans largely unhappy with the team’s style of play. After the last game of the third campaign under Allardyce, the manager was let go.
The club’s former player Slaven Bilic was installed in his place and promptly led the team to a seventh place finish in the 2015-16 campaign. He broke several club records in the process including the highest number of points ever accumulated by the Hammers in a top flight season. The team also scored the highest number of goals ever scored by the club in a single campaign.
The club went on to qualify for the Europa League. But expectations of greater things to come were dashed as the team’s performance dipped in the following season leading to an 11th place finish in the league. This was despite making some signings to strengthen the team including club-record signing Andre Ayew from Swansea for £20.5 million. Marco Anrnautovic also became the new record signing later in a deal that could rise to £25 million — but that did not improve the club’s position. A downward tumble was now on as it was neck-deep in relegation battle from the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
After only 11 games into the new season, the Croatian manager was sacked with David Moyes taking over on an interim basis. A statement from the club at the Croate’s sacking showed the hierarchy was thinking bigger. After leading the club to another 13th-place finish in the close season, the former Everton and Manchester United manager vacated his post.
Pellegrini can be West Ham’s elixir
Pellegrini comes in as the man to take the club to new heights. Having manager Real Madrid, Villareal and Malaga in the Spanish La Liga, the Chilean is well prepared for the task at hand. He is even more so when you consider the fact that he he is a Premier League winner. Pellegrini led Manchester City to a Premier League and League Cup double in his very first season in charge, back in 2014. Before leaving the club two seasons ago, he also won another League Cup.
Spending a new club record £36 million for Brazilian winger Anderson shows the club is ready to back up the manager with the necessary players to translate his vision into success. He will be complemented on the other wing with Ukrainean Andriy Yarmolenko. The duo will provide enough supply for the club’s strikers to get the goals. Recall that the team’s biggest problem in the last season was the lack of goals.
With 34 goals in 177 games for Lazio, the former Santos man, who was also part of the Brazil’s Olympic gold-medal winning squad in 2016 can chip in goals of his own too. At 25, he is also at his prime. Jack Wilshere in midfield now has the opportunity to dictate play in the center of the pack. Federicks, who helped Fulham secure promotion to the PL, Diop and Balbuena who were both captains at their previous clubs will all provide solidity at the back.
These signings show that the Hammers mean business this time around. Expect big things from the club in the new season.