Pub talk

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights

West Ham made a fast start to the transfer window with the acquisition of veteran full-back Pablo Zabaleta from Manchester City. What do you make of the deal?

Lucy Woolford: I’ve always liked Zabaleta. Despite a few murmurs of having signed another aging player, I think if he’s refreshed enough next season he’ll bring a wealth of experience and footballing prowess to London Stadium. Nice to see we’ve gone in for someone that we wanted and got him too — hopefully a sign of things to come.

Geoff Hillyer: Great deal. Just the player we need. Someone with experience, a fantastic footballing brain and a mentor for Sam Byram. From what I know of him, he’s a class act both on and off the pitch.

Kiran Moodley: A great start to the summer transfer window. At last we have a right back but more than that, one experienced enough to add composure and advice to a defence that has been all over the place for the last two years.

Holly Worthington: Zabaleta will be the perfect addition to the defence and, I agree with Geoff, will also bring experience to the likes of Sam Byram who can learn from him and take our defence to the next level. Losing so many points from winning positions last season, we needed to shake it up and I reckon he’ll make the team work for their place in the starting line-up.

Greg Richardson: Very happy. He’s an experienced Premier League player, has good leadership qualities and above all, judging by the response of Man City fans, someone who gives 100% every game. He will hopefully solve our right back issues whilst also guiding Sam Byram for the long term.

Who else would you like to see the Irons bring in before the season starts?

LW: A proven striker at least. If we’re going to be promised high-profile strikers, I don’t want it to be a Snodgrass or a Sakho, no offence intended to either! If we want to be a top six club, we have to start spending like one. Lukaku would be a luxury, if I were to name names.

GH: I wanted to see changes in the medical staff, and to the club’s credit, we’ve already done it. Getting the highly-respected Gary Lewin on board is a fantastic bit of business. I now want to see a striker or two – Kelechi Iheanacho would be a great signing, but there’s stiff competition for his signature.

KM: A striker and a playmaker in midfield. And a young defender wouldn’t go amiss too. Oh, and why not Joe Hart while we’re at it?

HW: I too would like to see Iheanacho at West Ham. With an injury-plagued attack, we need somebody to bring some goals in and I reckon he’s the man for us. And, like Kiran, I’d like to see Joe Hart given a contract to see how he can do.

GR: Well a striker or two is the key position now and I am excited with us being linked with Iheanacho because he’s exactly what we need. Strong, fast, young and with a bit of experience in the division already. I just fear another Bacca saga! After that I’d like another creator to ease the burden on Lanzini, we’ve been linked with Tadic and Barkley, although the former is much more likely given our budget.

Which players should we try and get off the books this window?

LW: I guess the players that were supposed to set our new home alight and just haven’t really done so. They’ve already been let go so now it comes down to letting players go who don’t pull their weight. I don’t think I’d single too many out, I think we need strengthening and motivating, but that’s about all.

GH: We sold Dimitri Payet and replaced him with Robert Snodgrass. Let’s just cut our losses and start again, shall we?

KM: I would not be upset to see Robert Snodgrass, Andre Ayew and Havard Nordtveit leave.

HW: I’d get rid of Darren Randolph if we can get a new keeper in. I do like him, but I’d choose Adrian over him any day and unfortunately there isn’t room for three of them. I’d also cut our losses while we can and get rid of Sakho who doesn’t seem to be able to come back from injury, which is a huge shame.

GR: Well Tore, Calleri and Arbeloa have already gone which is good and I’d happily drive Sakho anywhere that’d take him. Other than that I don’t know really as our squad is what dragged us through last season and we will need it again next season I’m sure. We have decent back up options but need to improve the overall quality of the first 11.

West Ham didn’t give a single minute of playing time to a teenager this season in the Premier League. Does this bother you?

LW: Not really, because it’s not something that I tend to think about too much. Having said that, we have some promising youngsters that could have filled occasional voids. In modern football with expectations as high as they are, if a 19-year-old isn’t good enough to represent your club in the Premier League, they might be sold or let go.

GH: Normally I’d say yes but to be honest, I think not playing a teenager has been the least of our problems this season. I want to see players breaking through to the first team, but if they have to go out on loan to gain experience and then break through slightly later, I’ll take it.

KM: I disagree. It bothers me, and the words tweeted by David Gold really upset me, especially given the atrocious performances from nearly 30 of the 38 games this season, why shouldn’t teenagers come through? Teams like Tottenham mix big money signings with youth talent and it works – most of the time it’s the academy players that do better anyway. That was what West Ham has always been about, and it’s what we should continue to be about.

HW: It is a shame that we didn’t play any teenagers this season, but at the same time, with the amount of pressure on the team to perform and the very few points separating the bottom half of the table, we couldn’t risk anything as the season went on. Next season, I’d like to see more time given to the youngsters, bringing them on in winning positions.

GR: Yes it bothers me because of what we see at Everton and the Spurs. But both Fernandes and Fletcher are 21 so it’s not like none of our younger squad members got game time. Also Quina and Reece Oxford played in our ill-fated Europa League campaign and I’m sure the plan was for them to get more minutes had we qualified so I don’t think there is an aversion from Slav towards playing the youngsters, just last season wasn’t the best time for it.

What are your expectations for next season?

LW: As always, the aim should be to improve on last season in the Premier League and to finish at least a place higher. Th at should be our focus and then any good runs in the FA Cup or League Cup will be a bonus and can serve to boost confi dence and morale. It’s still early days in a new stadium aft er all.

GH: I don’t expect us to finish above 7th. We need another ‘Leicester’ season to bridge that gap. I would take a top-half finish, but more importantly I want to see better home performances, less goals conceded and less injuries. Oh, and the FA Cup please.

KM: It’s a half and half season for me. I think Slaven Bilic has until the New Year to prove that his first season wasn’t a fluke and that last season was an anomaly. I’m hoping for at least a top half finish. I’m also excited to visit Brighton away!

HW: I reckon we’ll have some luck next season. Signings will pay off , we’ll score more goals, settle into the new stadium and finish around 10th, if not higher.

GR: To be comfortably in the top 10 all season and knocking on the door of the top eight, and no relegation worries! I think we have to accept that the gap between us and the top six is huge but if Everton lose Lukaku, they are catchable and that has to be our aim; to be the ‘best of the rest’ as it were. If we can do that and have a really good cup run, I’d be a very happy Hammer.

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