West Ham’s star man needs support, Man Utd can provide it
At this early stage of the summer transfer window, few clubs can claim to have done as good a business as regularly as West Ham.
Slaven Bilic has wasted little time in moulding the Hammers squad into his preferred shape. Darren Randolph has replaced the long-serving but ageing Jussi Jaaskelainen as reserve goalkeeper, while all-action Spaniard Pedro Obiang bolsters the midfield. Dimitri Payet covers Stewart Downing’s expected departure from the number 10 role and Angelo Ogbonna’s strength dovetails nicely with the three senior centre-backs the Irons already possess.
The re-signing of Carl Jenkinson on another season-long loan ensures further stability in a squad that seriously threatened the European places for the first half of last season. News of a continued strong fitness fight bodes well for the club’s attacking stocks too.
On the face of it then, West Ham have little else to focus on in pre-seasoning other than their conditioning and familiarity with Bilic’s preferred style of play.
However, if the club could add just one more piece to their puzzle ahead of the new campaign then they can consider themselves well-placed for a more concerted assault on the top six, currently priced at 16/1 with Ladbrokes.
Fans may not agree, as they pine for another striker to cover Carroll’s injury woes and support Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, but stats from last season suggest that signing some support for last term’s brightest button is vital.
Aaron Cresswell was the undisputed success story in what amounted to Sam Allardyce’s final term at the helm. The former Ipswich left-back started every single Premier League game during 2014/15 and claimed a hat-trick of gongs at the club’s end-of-season awards as recognition for his impressive displays.
While Cresswell’s omnipresent campaign was a testament to his consistency, it also highlighted the club’s lack of depth at that position.
West Ham do not currently have a back up left-back, with Joey O’Brien and Guy Demel – now released – able to fill in there despite being more natural right-flank operators.
Bilic will want to guard against the problems an injury to the Hammer, Player’s Player and Signing of the Year will cause by signing a reserve, but there is data to suggest that it should be a priority anyway.
West Ham conceded more chances down Cresswell’s left flank than any other side in the Premier League last season, allowing 166 from that area of the pitch, accounting for a whopping 38 percent of the total chances they allowed.
Cresswell’s plaudits largely came from the attacking prowess he showed during the campaign, and the 1178 touches he had in the opposition’s half put him fifth in the entire division’s defenders, but there is a case to either rest him or push him forward against prevalent attacking sides if a more defence-minded option can be bought.
One such prospect could be Frenchman Daniel Congre, reportedly a target of Crystal Palace’s and bit-part-player for Toulouse.
The 30-year-old made 4.1 tackles-per-90 minutes last season, more than any left-back to have played more than 15 games in Europes top-five leagues, according to Who Scored.
Congre has one year left on his contract in France and has rejected an initial extension as he weighs up his options. West Ham could swipe his services on the cheap.
Alternatively a loan move, so successful where Jenkinson and the right-back berth is concerned, for Manchester United youngster Reece James may bear fruit.
The 21-year-old split last term with spells at both Rotherham and Huddersfield and registered the second-highest tackles-per-90-minutes mark in just six outings with the latter outfit.
A spell gaining, albeit intermittent, first-team experience at a Premier League side could well benefit all parties as he no doubt seeks another temporary home this term.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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