David Moyes continued to rebuild a new West Ham United with four new first-team arrivals and a handful of youngsters coming through the door at Chadwell Heath before the transfer window slammed shut.
When the Scotsman re-joined the club in the winter of 2019, he stated that he had been following the ‘Red-Bull’ model seen at clubs like RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg.
Their model is to build a young, hungry, hard-working squad packed with potential, and of course, in turn, that creates a sustainable team for the future with the possibility of selling these talented players for big money.
This summer was no different, whilst frustrating at times, the club brought in Alphonse Areola, Kurt Zouma, Nikola Vlasic and Alex Kral to the club. All of whom are under the age of 30.
Moyes’ vision for the future is starting to take shape, and our days of buying players toward the twilight of their career, or players seeing the club as a big payday are gone.
The former Everton manager’s methodical approach has earned him the nickname ‘dithering Dave’ in the past but his plans and transfer business has to be admired.
He openly admits that he is careful when spending cash, perhaps still burned by the infamous Jordan Hugill purchase.
He is taking this club in a positive direction and away from David Sullivan’s little black book of transfer targets, which is in truth, Will Salthouse’s phone number.
If ever a manager deserved to be trusted and deserved to be rewarded with players of his choosing it was Moyes.
After taking us into the Europa League group stage for the first time in our history, he openly admitted the squad was a little threadbare in places and to his credit, he has identified the areas of weakness and bought in real quality.
There is a general consensus that we probably should’ve bought another striker, but Moyes’ record of converting wide men into strikers is second-to-none, so who am I to doubt him. After all, our current all-time Premier League goal-scorer is a converted right wing-back!
The summer transfer window itself was a strange one, we were promised our business would be done early to enable any new players to bed into the squad before the season started, and we did see a small trickle of early deals, albeit young players.
We snapped up Pierre Ekwah from Chelsea following a successful trial period at the end of the season, and if he turns out to be half the player we last stole from Chelsea’s academy (Declan Rice) we’ll be onto a winner.
A couple of young forwards were next through the door with the exciting pair of Theirry Nevers and Armstrong Oko-Flex. Nevers, in particular, comes with a high pedigree having impressed recently at the Reading academy, he has already bagged his first Hammers’ hat-trick in the 5-1 romp over Southend United in a pre-season friendly.
Oko-Flex was a little more of an unknown, joining from Celtic on a two-year deal. He has though impressed early on and does seem like a promising prospect.
He opened his West Ham account against his former club at Celtic Park with a cool finish in the Hammers’ 6-2 success in Glasgow.
I am sure he will be one of the few associated with West Ham that will be pleased Moyes chose against signing a backup striker. His time to shine may well come sooner than he thinks.
But time continued to tick on without a first choice signing, and naturally the West Ham faithful were beginning to get a little jittery.
Reports began to come out regarding an incoming goalkeeper, it was between Areola and Sam Johnstone of West Bromwich Albion.
Both of whom impressed in the top-flight last season, but the general feeling was that Areola’s pedigree having been at Real Madrid and PSG would make him the more astute signing.
So naturally, we all suspected that it would be Johnstone through the door, but much to our delight the big Frenchman signed a one-year loan deal with an option to buy at the end of the season, with the former Fulham man pushing for the move from West to East London.
We entered the final week of the window, with still just one big name through the door, it was all starting to feel very familiar, all the promises but nothing delivered.
Whilst the club were performing on the pitch with back-to-back wins followed by a draw against Crystal Palace, our defensive cracks were beginning to show.
Following the ultimate ‘will he, won’t he’ saga with Nikola Milenkovic, which ended up with the Serbian signing a new deal at Fiorentina, there were concerns the Irons might miss out on a centre back completely.
But here is where Areola and Moyes stepped in. Moyes, now desperate for a centre back option having lost Fabian Balbuena and seen a few sloppy errors against Newcastle and Leicester pressed ahead with his intentions to sign Kurt Zouma.
Rumours began to circulate that the Chelsea man had dodgy knees and the board were concerned about splashing the cash on the Frenchman with these supposed issues.
Zouma wasn’t totally convinced at first either, but following a chat with Areola, his mind was made up that he wanted to join the mighty Irons.
Personally, this is the signing I am most pleased about. For years we have been searching for a quality partner for Angelo Ogbonna, and with Champions League and Premier League-winning pedigree, Zouma is that man.
A danger in both boxes and reliable at blocking the low ball and with age on his side, this is a superb signing by David Moyes.
Zouma is also said to be a terrific character and at the heart of this superb squad at the moment is its team chemistry and you can only imagine the former Chelsea man will add his positive vibes to that.
It was then just a matter of adding Jesse Lingard to the band again and that was surely that in the mind of the Hammers faithful.
Lingard, who excelled at the club last season was the second ‘will he, won’t he’ saga of the summer.
Personally, I thought he would join, it was well documented that he loved his time in east London, and he had clearly developed a strong bond with the squad.
However, with just a year left on his deal, the price was always likely to be a sticking point. It was always likely to go down to the wire and I had kind of accepted it wouldn’t happen, then the transfer world was shook by the re-arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United.
Lingard, who by now was already on the periphery of the Red Devils’ squad was surely now well down the pecking order.
United continued to play hardball though, so the Irons looked elsewhere, and suddenly out of nowhere, we agreed a fee with CSKA Moscow for Nikola Vlasic, the 23-year-old Croatian international.
Lingard was no longer an option on the table. There was no way the Hammers would get both Lingard and Vlasic.
The Croat international is a player of great promise, one that will get bums off seats and at such a young age offers much better value for money than Jesse Lingard.
What has impressed me the most is that the former Everton man seemingly has so much passion for the Irons already.
In his interview with the club, he revealed that he has been avidly watching the Hammers and that he feels as though he is the perfect player to fit in with Moyes’ hard-working side, he even labelled Michail Antonio as a ‘Beast’.
He has already had a small taste of Premier League action during his spell as a teenager at Goodison Park.
The general word on the street from the Everton faithful is that he wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip and that he has untold talent that was misused by Sam Allardyce and Ronald Koeman. Promising signs indeed.
Then with the giant yellow clock on Deadline Day ticking down, West Ham concluded their business with the arrival of central midfielder Alex Kral.
Kral, who becomes the third Czech at the club, is again, another youngster with international pedigree and will provide much-needed competition for Declan Rice and international counterpart Tomas Soucek.
The Hammers have had a long-term interest in Kral and with the loan option becoming available, we swooped to seal the deal quickly.
He is another hard-working Czech who will prove crucial coming on late in games and providing cover when our schedule hits its busiest time. I think he will prove to be another shrewd signing for Moyes.
All in all, it has been a good window for West Ham, keeping hold of our prized asset in Rice, whilst adding some exciting-looking players.
For me, they were just a loan striker short of a great window, but I suspect Moyes will surprise us all and turn Vlasic into a Ballon D’or candidate in no time.