For the past few summers, transfer windows have come and gone with some fans disappointed by the time the new seasons had kicked off. Last summer, we had brought in four seasoned Premier League players to varying degrees of success. Marko Arnautovic ended up as Hammer of the Year, whereas Joe Hart ended the season on the bench and back to City with his loan expired. But, with Manuel Pellegrini in as the manager and seven summer signings so far, Hammers fans will hope to be looking up the table, instead of over their shoulders every week.

A lot of the failed transfers have been big money targets that have fallen through. When we needed a striker, we always failed with a big bid for one. The same must be said with a defensive midfielder. £40m had been set aside for William Carvalho, a player we were once again very keen to sign. But, as with those strikers, claims of difficulties with the owners and supposed phantom bids meant that as the deadline passed, we were still without a player for the position we craved. Would he have been a successful signing? Would we have wasted the money? We will never know. Leander Dendoncker was the next name thrown out and the fans latched on again, hoping he would be signed. The weeks dragged on again, the deadline arrived and still no signing. Carvalho again cropped up when he cancelled his contract but surprisingly, a player we chased for so long was not seen as a priority. Things change over the space of a year though, so it could be that he now didn’t fit the vision.

Pellegrini came into the club promising attacking football and has so far delivered on that promise (yes, only in a few pre-season friendlies, but the difference is already noticeable). The signings he has made are clearly ones that fit his vision of the team. But the position we are crying out for some fresh blood in has been left untouched for yet another window, as of writing. A defensive midfielder is apparently on the agenda, but it should surely have been a priority. If Pellegrini does plan to buy a new midfielder its likely he will have to sell to buy unless he and Husillos can find a cheap yet viable alternative.

Two of the main options over the last few years, Pedro Obiang and Cheikou Kouyate, are two players who could be used to raise funds. Unless Obiang kicks up a fuss however, he is likely to stay as Pellegrini is keen to use him in this upcoming season. That could prove to be a moot point, if Obiang decides he wants to go back to Italy. A reported fee of £8.5m is insulting and should absolutely be rejected. Kouyate on the other hand, is potentially closer to the door. Talks appear to be ongoing with Palace regarding a transfer, so it remains to be seen how that will go. If either go, or even both, we will require not just a new midfielder but another one as a replacement. Everyone has a price, but we need to stand firm and not sell on the cheap as we seem to usually.

As things stand, the transfer budget has pretty much been used. Any incomings will have to be offset by player sales. As already stated, talks are happening about Obiang and Kouyate, but other areas could be used to raise funds. Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio are other players who have been linked away but as I said in my previous blog, Snodgrass has been very impressive in pre-season and seems to have forced his way into the managers plans this season. There are players that seem surplus to requirements, such as Jordan Hugill and Sam Byram, that some money could be made from. £10m for the pair should see them go and somewhat boost the club coffers. Reece Oxford may fetch around £15m so maybe those players’ fees could go towards the midfielder we need.

The answer to the question could already be at the club. Declan Rice has been used there already in pre-season and did an impressive job there. Fans have been calling for him to have a decent run in the role as far back as the middle of last season. A very composed centre-back, he can step forward into defensive midfield. For such a young player, his reading of the game is already at an exceptionally high level and sitting in front of the back four Pellegrini wants to play would suit him down to the ground and let any players in front of him thrive doing what they can naturally. He is young enough to fill the role for years to come as well and his potential is boundless. With the club reportedly looking to sign another centre-back, this could be the plan.

Whether it ends up being Rice or someone we end up signing, the role in the team is a vital one. We leaked goals left, right and centre last season. Along with Stoke, we had the worst defence in the entire league. A player who can sit and screen or cover the defence is what we have been missing. If Pellegrini also plans to use his full-backs to attack, a player in this mould is a necessity. In an ideal world, the player in question should be able to break up the play and get their head up to start off the next phase of play. That would be amazing, but the defensive steel would be nice on its own. If they could even just get the ball and pass it on to any of the forward players we now have, things would start to look up for us on the pitch.

By the end of the season, we could be looking at a successful season with all and sundry hailing Rice as the new Kante (other world class midfielders are available). Or we go into the season without that new signing the fans have been banging on about for the last few years. Whatever happens when the window ends, I’ll look at the squad and be content. With the thought of how they could play once they gel, it would be a shame to let one signing put a downer on the players we have signed. Personally, I would put Rice in that role and see how he gets on. I think he will make it his own and will fully get behind him and the team. He made his mistakes last season but that is how he will learn, and it has already made him a better player. If a new player does come in, the same will apply and could give Rice someone to learn from. Either way, it’s a win-win situation and its good to see West Ham finally having those. COYI.

 

Written By Stephen | @stephenbarrows

Jon Pope

By Jon Pope

Use to sit in the BML for 10 years, been a West Ham fan all my life, and my great grandfather was a founder member of the TIW. I also help run the Hammer Chat website.

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