Can West Ham United Repeat Last Season's Performance?
After earning a trip back to the Europa League and finishing seventh a year ago, the club’s highest finish since the 1998-'99 campaign, West Ham United are now moving into the massively magnificent Olympic Stadium at the perfect time.
Manager Slaven Bilic not only impressed in his first season, he made West Ham a squad no one wanted to face, especially the six biggest clubs in England. Against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham, West Ham took 25 points (out of a possible 36) in 12 games.
|Points Taken (Matches Played)||16 (10)||14 (8)||16 (10)||16 (10)|
After an unusually down season from the Premier League's giants, what do the Hammers have to do maintain their lofty position in the top seven, especially after an offseason where most of the Premier League teams splashed a bunch of cash?
West Ham has taken advantage of the transfer window and brought in depth and potential game-changing weapons. They signed wingers Sofiane Feghouli and Gökhan Töre, as well as young forwards Ashley Fletcher and Toni Martinez.
But the fact of the matter is that nearly every club is pushing forward with big signings, and West Ham is just keeping up. Their pursuit of various strikers has fallen short so far, and rumors have seen several forwards mentioned, from former Hammer Carlos Tevez to AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca.
However, West Ham hasn't been able to seal the deal on any headline moves. One sensible transfer that may be on the table, as reported by express.co.uk, would be for Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic.
|Carlos Bacca||20||1||40||Serie A|
|Mario Gomez||26||5||36||Super Lig|
|Mario Mandzukic||11||4||31||Serie A|
The 30-year-old Croatian international has starred at top-level clubs like Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus, but the recent arrival of Gonzalo Higuain in Turin likely means that Mandzukic’s wages and contribution will not match up.
A deal for Mandzukic would benefit both sides, allowing the Hammers to get their coveted striker and Juventus to recoup most of the transfer fee they paid to Atletico Madrid last summer. West Ham will face heavy competition for an established forward like Mandzukic, but they do offer the chance to play European soccer as well as a shot to team up with superstar Dimitri Payet.
While all the talk has been around West Ham’s search for a high-profile striker, the Hammers are in stronger need of help at the back. When you compare their defense to that of England's other top clubs from last year, it simply doesn't stack up.
|Place||Team||Goals For||Goals Against|
|7||West Ham United||65||51|
As you can see, the Hammers can put the ball in the back of the net, but they're also pretty adept at retrieving it from the back of their own net.
Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna and James Collins are serviceable on the back line, but bringing in an immediate starter to pair with Reid could give West Ham's defense a big boost. The departure of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace for a cool £10 million opens up space for a signing, and dropping the money for a first-team defender could be as useful as signing a top striker.
Big-time signings are typically make-or-break actions for most clubs, but in West Ham’s case, they have a legitimate foundation to build on. A mid-table finish should be the bare minimum for a squad like the Hammers, but if they can add a top talent at the back to pair with their potent attack, West Ham could reach European play for a second straight season.