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West Ham United Transfer Window Review

What ended on a sour note, by not signing Portugal phenom William Carvalho, West Ham had one if its strongest transfer windows in the teams history. Addressing areas of need, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic identified key players he wanted to bring into his squad to bolder both attach and defence. With the support of the board at the time, Bilic was able to sign Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Marko Arnautovic, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sead Haksabanovic, and Anouar El Mhassani. Despite these signings West Ham ended the transfer window without adding more attacking players which the squad needed, and missed out on defensive midfielder Carvalho.

The signings of Haksabanovic and El Mhassani are intriguing for the future of the club. Sead promises to get time on the first team this season as an attacking midfielder, perhaps to spell Lanzini in the central attacking midfield, or to replace Arnautovic on the left side. His dribbling ability and foresight allow him to create space out of nothing and his desire to finish propels him forward into the opposing teams area. He has spent his time with the Under-23 team for West Ham, but the lack of options in attacking midfield should promise him game time with the first team.

El Mhassani, being only 16 years old, has time to grow within the academy. With a loan spell almost certain in his future, his highly touted skills will still need to be proven at the highest levels of English football. Arriving from Ajax, a club known for uncovering and developing youth players, El Mhassani is a left footed attacking midfielder who is also comfortable playing the wing. His future is uncertain, however his skills are ever visible and are what attracted West Ham to the player. It is highly unlikely he will get a chance to play on the first team this season but time spent growing in the system and acclimating to English football could earn him team looks in the future.

Joe Hart signing on a season long loan deal from Manchester City was a polarizing move from West Ham. He is England’s current number one keeper selection, recently cemented in a 4-0 clean sheet victory over Malta in World Cup qualifying, but West Ham fans believed they had a number one keeper on the squad already. Long time player Adrian, who remains on the team after Irish International was sold to Middlesbrough, is left to fight for the starting spot he has grown accustom to. Now with all Premier League starts this season, Joe Hart is owner of the ten league goals against and no wins, while Adrian, who started in the League Cup, kept a clean sheet in West Ham’s 2-0 win over Cheltenham Town. Far from his fault on many of those goals, Hart was also hung out to dry on two penalty kicks against Southampton. Hart has looked an absolute leader on the pitch constantly ordering his players around and taking command in his box. If Hart does not sign with West Ham after this season his impression will be left on the squad. The decision to loan Hart without an option to buy is odd, however it will be a positive one regardless of where he plays next season.

Pablo Zabaleta much like Hart is a veteran player and leader on and off the field. His addition to West Ham came on a free deal after his contact with Manchester City ran out on July 1st. He was the teams first signing of the off season and addressed a glaring gap on the team at right back. Squad player Sam Byram who played well last year, was injured for a large part of the season and left a whole on the team that Bilic could not seem to fill. Byram, 23 years old, now plays behind Zabaleta on the depth chart and has the opportunity to learn from one of the best to ever play his position. Byram will play in Cup games ahead of Zab, but for now Zabaleta is the right back for West Ham and again adds experience to their back line.

Marko Arnautovic has been a target for Bilic this season and seasons before. The aggressive, moody, Stoke left winger brings physicality, size and attitude to the West Ham attack. However, as everyone now knows, this is a double edged sword. Arnautovic is set to miss West Ham’s first home game of the season against Huddersfield as he is serving his last game from his three game suspension for violent conduct. When in game, Arnautovic adds immediate threat to the opposing team. His speed is hidden by his physical stature and you can clearly see his desire to get the ball and drive the net. His height also makes him an aerial threat on corner kicks and set pieces. He needs to reel his emotions in to a level that does not threaten his own teams success and he will be an absolute fan favourite. He is what West Ham have been looking for, a legit left side attacker.

The crowning jewel of this off season for West Ham was the signing of Chicharito, a legitimate striker that the team has been searching for for years. He has scored the only Premier League goals for West Ham this season, doubling up on Southampton. In his “fox in the box” style, Chicharito banged in two close range goals for the hammers. He is extremely talented at being in the right position at the right time and having a nose for the ball in the box. What he needs is clarity in West Ham’s midfield to get him the ball instead of him having to retrieve and push the attack forward. There is not much to say about Hernandez, as he comes as advertised. A veteran goal scorer, proven in the Premier League, who will and already has increased offensive production for his new team. He has been a target of Bilic and the board retrieved him for their manager at long last.

What the board and Bilic did not do this transfer window is keep their word. Don’t get me wrong, the signings listed above are tremendous and needed, however they offloaded many more than they brought in. This means that West Ham is a string of injuries away from being pressured for Christmas overpriced buys (see Snodgrass, Fonte). Bilic promised a “one in one out” policy and that did not happen for the team even after Feghouli and Snodgrass left the team. This could be a risky gamble that could explode on Bilic at any moment, however I am not sure it is not on purpose. After a terrible start to the season the manager has lost the players and fans. The non-buying actions of the club to add depth have perhaps signalled the final days of Bilic as manager. Presumable the club will sack him if he cannot return success at the London Stadium and use the saved funds from the end of the summer transfer window to supplement their new manager in the January transfer window.

This is all speculation, however recent club news surrounds the owners throwing their manager under the bus by outing the players he did not want on loan for this season. It is unorthodox and disrespectful and could be the writing on the wall for Bilic in this season.

Adam Smith
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Adam Smith

West Ham United Writer at The Runner Sports
Proud supporter of the Claret and Blue, West Ham United!
Actively interested in transfer news, match reports, developing story lines, and all things West Ham United!
Adam Smith
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