Author: Alex Dudley
The 2018-19 campaign was just what was needed to settle the nerves at the London Stadium. It finally feels like Manuel Pellegrini and his team are building something that the Irons faithful can boast about. The club finished five points off a place in Europe in the end, with a disappointing final two games of the season meaning that the Hammers were left with a tenth-place finish.
However, by no means was that a disappointment. It was a slow start to the season with four defeats on the bounce meaning that fans were anxious that the Pellegrini reign was going to end in tears. His faith in the team was unwavering, and the form in December was a highlight of what this team could achieve.
The transition was undoubtedly going to take time, with the additions of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko proving risky to say the least, but that run of five wins out of six was an excellent example of the plan working.
Not only that but the London Stadium is now starting to feel more homely; although of course it will never be Upton Park. Nine home wins this season was more than the six recorded last year, and that is progression, with the club entering their last couple of home games as favourites in the football bets. But, what will Pellegrini be looking to do over the summer?
The big question heading into the summer is the future of Marko Arnautovic. Should the Austrian decide that he still wants to leave the club in this window, then it would be a great time to cash in on the 30-year-old. He has been an excellent servant for the club and finished every season he has been at the club as the top scorer. A miss? Of course. Irreplaceable? No.
Declan Rice’s future isn’t as clear as Irons fans would be hoping and he could still have his head turned by one of the Manchester clubs, but you can’t help to think that would be a terrible decision. The Hammers will ensure that he gets minutes, and should he stay with the club he could write himself into the history books. The start he has made to his career has been impressive, and he should stay at least one more season to assure he won’t be a wasted talent in one of the top 6 EPL clubs.
Players such as Pablo Zabaleta, Andy Carroll and Lucas Perez could all be shipped out due to age or quality issues. Pellegrini is clearly opting for a youthful view on the squad, and that’s how the club will excel next season.
There will be crucial areas that will need strengthening over the summer, and the board will happily back any more within reason. A striker must be at the forefront of the manager’s mind; mainly should Arnautovic depart the club. The ideal replacement was identified in January when the Austrian nearly left for China as Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez.
At 22-years-old he certainly fits the age requirement, and his stats for the past La Liga season aren’t anything to be ashamed of. He scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for the Spanish club last season, while he also made five assists. It would take around £30 million to prise him away from Spain, but it could be a great move. The club had allegedly also been interested in a while in Malian forward Moussa Marega, from FC Porto, who netted 21 goals this season, including 6 in the Champions League campaign. Still, the heavy price tag on an already 28-year-old player apparently made the Irons step out.
Barcelona’s Andre Gomes is another player that the club is looking at, and should the Hammers be realistic about reaching Europe then he is a player of the quality needed. He enjoyed an excellent season with Everton last term, and it’s likely that the Irons will have to fight off competition from other Premier League clubs to get their man.
If they fail with a bid for the Portuguese international, then a move for former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa could be the route the club takes. Still, he is a significant step down from Gomes.
The summer will be vital in ensuring next season continues the progression that has been made, but one thing is for sure Pellegrini will do everything that he can to ensure that West Ham has a fruitful season.