How happy have you been with West Ham’s summer transfer business so far?
Brian Williams: I’m delighted that they’ve got rid of some of the dead wood, and this summer’s signings are definitely an upgrade. But they’re hardly the players to take us to the fabled ‘next level’ are they?
Matt Santer: The summer started off well with the Zabaleta signing, which I think was a fantastic bit of business. He’s an experienced, hungry, and versatile defender and only 32. Obviously there was a quiet period during most of July, but then the Joe Hart, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez signings came pretty much out of the blue, owing to the board’s uncharacteristic radio silence. It’s, without doubt, one of the best windows we’ve ever had.
Marcus Johns: All business so far has been good. Hernandez is the obvious standout choice but in every area we’ve needed to improve, we’ve improved. I do worry about Hart only being here for 12 months though – especially if we get rid of Adrian.
Holly Worthington: I’m absolute ecstatic! I think we’ve gone for quality over quantity unlike last year, buying four players who can easily walk into the first 11. The signing of Zabaleta has almost been forgotten about with all the excitement since, but this is definitely one of our key transfers as right-back is a position we’ve massively struggled with.
What do the Irons need to do before the window closes at the end of this month?
BW: Identify and sign the player who will give West Ham a modern identity in the way that the likes of Trevor Brooking and Paolo Di Canio once did. Seem to remember we had a French fella at the start of last season who tried something along those lines, but we don’t talk about him.
MS: The attacking options are now pretty much where I’d want them but we just now need to keep them fighting fit! I’d imagine that Slaven Bilic might want another creative central midfield player to provide ammunition for Chicharito and co. There has been talk of signing Jack Wilshere, but he’s so under-played because of injury that I fear it would be a waste of time and money. If the window closes with Chicharito being the last signing we make, I certainly wouldn’t be distraught.
MJ: I think a top centre half might not be a bad thing – Jose Fonte hasn’t cut it for me yet. Having Chris Smalling competing with Angelo Ogbonna and Winston Reid is much healthier. I’m a little bit concerned about our central creativity if Lanzini ever got injured, so Wilshere on a loan might not be a bad thing.
HW: I’d be happy with the transfer window exactly how it is, however, with Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho constantly injured, we may want to bring another striker in potentially on loan as a back-up. There’s also been rumours about bringing another midfielder in, however I’d like to see Josh Cullen given a chance rather than spending on another midfielder.
West Ham play their opening three games away from home this season. How much of an issue is that?
BW: It never would have happened if we’d stayed at Upton Park, would it? That’s the sort of thing that happens when you are not in total control of your own stadium.
MS: On last season’s form, it may well be a good thing for the club and the team. The pressure of the stadium and the desire to right the wrongs of last year might be better tempered if we can get a run of away results before playing our first home game. The new signings will be itching to make an impact and secure a starting spot for the first home game, which is only a good thing. With the fixture changes, the first game is now on a Monday night of course, which might again add to the atmosphere.
MJ: I agree. I think this team is set up perfectly for the counter, so having that put to the test so early on will be a good thing. Plus, it’ll build the excitement ahead of Huddersfield under the lights – where I expect an atmosphere so good, it’ll be one of those classic games we look back on.
HW: I don’t think it should be an issue. I like to think the new additions to the team will have settled and the quality of players we have should be able to deal with any situation. It does involve a lot of travelling but I reckon we can pick up early points and it’ll give us a good confi dence boost to start the season with.
The Hammers start the season with a tricky trip to Old Trafford. What is your favourite memory from Manchester United away?
BW: Has to be the Tevez goal that sealed the Great Escape. Yep, avoiding disaster by the skin of our teeth counts as a favourite memory. How West Ham is that?
MS: The first one that comes to mind is the Di Canio / Barthez goal, but in terms of important goals and wins, it would have to be Tevez slipping the ball majestically past Edwin van der Sar to keep us safe in 2006/07. Paolo definitely a close second though.
MJ: The cup game – Di Canio vs Barthez, despite me having to sit in the Stretford End that day.
HW: It’s a tricky one between the famous Paolo Di Canio goal against Barthez in the FA Cup and the 1-0 victory where Carlos Tevez scored the winning goal to save us from relegation, but I’d have to go with the latter. Things would have been so different if we went down so it’s a no-brainer for me.
Slaven Bilic’s side finished seventh and 11th in his first two seasons at the club. What would represent a good season this year?
BW: Finishing in the top half is the absolute minimum. It will be interesting to see how we compare in the final table with Everton, who are now showing the sort of ambition we were promised by our owners. Of course, a Wembley final would make up for any shortcomings in the league.
MS: After the signings we’ve made it would be nice to emulate our last season at Upton Park, but there has been a great deal of money spent elsewhere in the league so it will be the most competitive season for years. I’d say a top eight finish marks progress, but if history repeats itself we’ll be struggling with injuries by October! Hopefully the new medical team will make a huge difference to that as well. But it looks like we have got goals in us this year, and anything better than last season will be well received.
MJ: I think realistically, we’re looking at 8th. But a challenge with Everton for seventh, maybe even sixth if Liverpool’s squad is stretched too far with Champions League, and they fall down the table. Either way, I’d actually much prefer a cup run and day out at Wembley and come 10th than finish 7th and go out in the third round.
HW: After the amount of money we’ve spent this summer, I’d say anywhere lower than 10th wouldn’t be good enough. Personally, I’d like to see us challenge Everton for that seventh spot and a cup run. Slav has finally been given the tools that he’s wanted for so long including a proven goal-scorer, so I’m excited for the new year. Depending on our injury curse, of course.