Pub Talk: Exciting signings, Rice position, Kouyate gone, and season hopes

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

West Ham have splashed the cash this summer. What would be considered a successful season?

David Bowden: Just when we thought David Sullivan’s pockets were as deep as Peter Crouch’s legs he has surprised us all. A lot will depend on how all the new boys gel, but the good thing about the business was that it was done early so many have had a lot of pre-season around the club. We have got to be aiming at a top eight finish with this squad and this manager.

Emily Pulham: Correctly using the players we’ve purchased – and having a season that looks positively toward the top of the table rather than desperately tries to get away from the bottom of it. Top half of the table and a decent cup run are the minimums for a successful season.

Greg Richardson: Like Emily says, I think a season of looking up rather than down would be a success. For the last two years we’ve been in and around the relegation battle so to not be part of that will show progress. If we can do it playing decent football and maybe give the cups a proper go then that will be even better.

Lucy Woolford: Anything higher than last season would be successful because it shows progress. I think we’ve got more under our belts though and the ability to finish top half, which I’d be more than happy with. It’s a marathon not a sprint though, so no need to panic if we don’t get off to a flying start.

Which of West Ham’s summer signings excites you most?

DB: Felipe Anderson. If he can settle and handle the Premier League physicality, he will prove to be an outstanding signing. Having seen bits of him during pre-season, he looks quick, intelligent with the ball and can pick a pass, everything that West Ham have lacked on the wing in recent years. Controversially though, I believe Fabianski will prove to be our most important signing of the summer.

EP: This is like picking a favourite child – but I’m with David on Felipe Anderson. He brings a different class of professional to our new-look squad and I think he’ll have an amazing impact. I’m also excited about Yarmolenko, and interested to see how he and Arnautovic link up.

GR: For me our best signing is probably Pellegrini if I can say that. He’s record for playing attacking football and turning middling clubs into contenders is really encouraging. If I’ve got to name a player I’d actually say Perez but I can’t explain why, just have a feeling he’ll be a fan favourite.

LW: I’d have to agree with David’s two picks — Anderson is an exciting prospect, as long as he slots in quickly. And having initially not been bothered by Fabianski joining us, I’m coming round to him being the kind of solid ‘keeper we need. Sorry Adrian!

It looks as though Declan Rice is going to play as a holding midfielder this season. Do you think this will be his best position or would you rather have seen him in defence?

DB: Deccers has all the potential to be a top ball-winning midfielder. He has shown in his early stages of his career that he can pick a pass, and he reads the game exceptionally well too. I had my doubts about him at the back so I think the natural progression to fully reach his potential was in that holding role as successor to Noble in the coming years.

EP: I think given his youth and the strength of our squad, this is a good opportunity to get him familiar playing in multiple positions.

GR: He’s shown for Ireland he can play there and put in Man of the Match displays for them in that position so he’s very capable and has all the attributes, he probably offers more there than Obiang too. But I’d rather see him at centre back in the long run. I think him and Diop could form a great partnership.

LW: I think he can adapt well as a holding midfielder for us given what we’ve seen him calmly handle as a defender. It might also balance his Premier League inexperience a little as he’ll have a full line of backup behind him. As Greg rightly says, some of his international performances there have been memorable.

Kouyate was the only first team regular to be sold this summer. Were you happy or sad to see him go?

DB: I’ll miss Kouyate around the place. His bubbling personality was infectious, however, on the field the Hammers needed to improve. He’ll do well at Palace, but his laziness at times has cost us dear and if that also means the likes of Rice and Josh Cullen get a go in midfield too that can only be a good thing for the club moving forwards.

EP: I feel like he left a couple of seasons ago. He seems like such a nice guy, but he’s already dead to me.

GR: It’s sad that actually I was happy to see him go. He was an absolute favourite a few years back and he has given us some great moments but his form over the last two years has been patchy at best. He’s been a shadow of himself recently so I’m happy we managed to get any money for him at all. I wish him all the best though.

LW: The consensus here is that we’re sad to see him go on a personal level, but not a professional one, and I’d have to agree. It’s been so nice to have him around and the players clearly loved him off the field, but he’d become too clumsy and a liability on it.

Where will we finish this season?

DB: Seventh and a good cup run. We’ll start off slowly as the players gel and get used to our new style of play but as the season gets going we’ll really start to kick on and push for those European places. I have not been this excited for a season to start for a long, long time.

EP: Between sixth and eighth. We’ve got such a strong side and for the first time in years we’re bursting with potential and positivity. I’d love to see us capitalise on this and push as far as we can.

GR: I’ll be happy with anything from tenth upwards. I think we’ve got enough on paper to finish in the top eight but depends on how the new boys settle in, and obviously how others do. Everton have spent well, Wolves and Fulham seem well equipped too so it will be an interesting season outside the top six.

LW: I’m going to go for it and say top half — I’m not getting more carried away than that!

Who will win the title and who are your three to go down?

DB: Manchester City will win it but they’ll be pushed all the way by Liverpool — who I think have had another solid transfer window. As for the three to go down, Cardiff, Huddersfield and Southampton. All three have had pretty poor windows in my opinion and I think they’ll struggle.

EP: Liverpool have a real opportunity this year – they’ve addressed their goalkeeping weakness and strengthened it by signing a super expensive goalkeeper. On the other end of the table, I’m concerned for Palace given their manager has publicly stated that their lack of funds will lead them to struggle. Huddersfield could run out of steam, and I’m not certain Cardiff have bolstered their squad in the same way Wolves and Fulham have.

GR: I can’t see beyond City for the title. Liverpool may run them a bit closer but I just think the points gap might be narrower more than an actual title race. Going down I think Cardiff, Newcastle and maybe Burnley. Cardiff have a Championship squad and haven’t added much and Newcastle’s off-field disharmony could kill them. Burnley – just because of Europa League commitments – may struggle.

LW: I’m surprised the bookies haven’t already paid out on Man City winning and we’re clearly all struggling to see past them being champions again. Can’t see Cardiff surviving the season. I think Huddersfield will struggle and I can’t imagine Brighton will match their successes of last season.

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