Transfer Talk: West Ham's summer so far
With the transfer window in full swing, ESPNFC's West Ham blogger Peter Thorne discusses how Sam Allardyce's side are shaping up ahead of the new season.
IN -- Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, undisclosed), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, seven million pounds), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, 3.75 million pounds), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, free agent), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, 12 million pounds)
OUT -- Joe Cole (released), Matthew Taylor (Burnley, free), Jack Collison (released), George McCartney (released)
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West Ham's close season transfer activity has mirrored the promises made by the board at the end of the 2013/14 campaign, with a significant move to try and ensure the team has a more attacking edge to take into their penultimate season at the Boleyn. No budget has been announced but significant funds have already been released and more is promised.
Rate your business so far
This has been an impressive summer of business so far by West Ham. With a slight reservation of the amount of money spent on Enner Valencia -- 12m is a lot for a club like West Ham and there must be questions over whether or not the player can settle in the East End; a major cultural change from Ecuador and Mexico! -- the club is obviously trying to ensure the mistakes of last season are not repeated.
Argentina's Mauro Zarate is a striker known by Chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan from their days at Birmingham when Zarate was on-loan to the club. The Argentinean's 4 goals in 14 games was not enough to save the Blues from relegation in 2008, but his efforts apparently impressed the pair who sanctioned his transfer from Velez Sarsfield on a three-year contract.
Zarate had a good season for Velez -- the club at which he started his career before stints with Lazio and Inter. In January he was a member of the side which won the Supercopa Argentina, finishing the season with 13 goals in 19 games.
The signing of the highly-rated Cheikhou Kouyate from Anderlecht is a major coup as the Senegal player was being chased by a number of major clubs. Strong and pacy, it is hoped that Kouyate will solve some of the problems surrounding the Hammers midfield where the side looked one-dimensional last season, lacking a cutting edge that put extra pressure on an injury-hit or out-of-form forward line.
Kouyate won four league titles with Anderlecht but was keen to join a Premier League outfit and may have been influenced to join the Hammers by fellow Senegalese international Mohamed Diame. Sam Allardyce seems to have done well to acquire a player from whom much is expected.
Diego Poyet, the 19-year-old son of the Sunderland manager Gus, was Charlton's player of the year last season but left at the end of his contract stating that he wanted to 'pursue other opportunities', and his decision to sign an initial four-year deal at Upton Park is seen as an affirmation that the Hammers are beginning to attract players who feel they have a better opportunity to play in the Premier league rather than kick their heels in a larger squad at a Champions League-chasing side.
Having been born in Zaragoza to Uruguayan parents, Poyet is eligible to play for three different countries despite stating earlier in the year that he considers himself English, and Roy Hodgson will surely be monitoring to see if Poyet can continue to emulate his father -- particularly as world champions Germany have successfully shown the benefits of utilising the skills of second generation players, born of parents from another country.
Aaron Cresswell -- a highly-rated left-back who was named in the Championship Team of the Season last year -- was signed from Ipswich Town for a fee of 3.75 million pounds; a fee that could rise to about 7 million if certain appearances clauses are met.
Although perhaps lacking the glamorous aspect of some of the other signings, the purchase of Cresswell nonetheless has excited the Hammers faithful, the 24-year-old being the type of promising English defender that the club have liked to nurture in previous times.
Apart from the fact that Cresswell fills a problem position for the Hammers -- allowing the club to release dependable George McCartney at the end of his contract -- the Liverpudlian who started his career at Tranmere is also a player the fans can relate to. If his growing maturity continues for his new club, Cresswell's signing could be good news for Roy Hodgson as well as Allardyce.
Transfer Rating: 8/10
Who should be sold?
The release of George McCartney, Matthew Taylor and Joe Cole is an obvious attempt to move the club on. While McCartney and Taylor were always dependable -- and statistics last season showed the team played better when they were in the side -- there was an obvious need to strengthen for the future and reinforce the depth of the squad.
Joe Cole's return to the club never really worked as all had hoped and it was best for all concerned to release the former captain.
Looking at the squad now, it's difficult to see anyone who needs to be sold but much may depend on the club not getting tempting offers for a player like Matthew Jarvis -- the former Wolves winger has never really shown any consistency and the club may be tempted if there is any chance of recouping a large slice of their 11 million pound outlay.
Who should be signed?
In many ways most of West Ham's targets have probably already been met, but the addition of another centre-back wouldn't go amiss assuming that contract negotiations with Winston Reid are successful and the Hammers lose no one before mid-August.
Problem solving: What do you need?
West Ham's major problem last season was the lack of strike opportunities once Andy Carroll was injured. A fully-fit Carroll playing a large percentage of games would go a long way to alleviate the criticisms of the 2013-14 campaign.
But greater strength in depth was required in case of injury and also to give the side a Plan B if things weren't working out, and the signings of Maura Zarate and Enner Valencia would seem to have done that.
The strike rate from midfield should be improved if Ravel Morrison can be bought back into the fold, while the signings of Kouyate and Poyet give Sam Allardyce another outlet from the centre of the park.
Once Big Sam accepted the need to work with an attacking coach and Teddy Sheringham returned to the club he graced from 2004-07, the whole focus of the club appears to have changed.
It may appear ironic but West Ham's greatest signing this close season may be the acquisition of Sheringham, and if the former England striker can add any of his own experience and ability to the Hammers new-look forward line, then West Ham could start to become a handy little outfit.