A busy summer is seen as a good thing in football. When your side brings in the £43 million man along with a multitude of others to surround a core of players that embody what a club is, it can never be a bad thing.
Yet, West Ham faithfuls have seen their side get into a fair share of trouble doing this for the past three years, buying with no means of justification, building upon Mark Noble and company, hoping everything else will fall into place.
Nothing has gone The Irons’ way though, managers and signings alike. Slaven Bilić had West Ham believing they would break their label of a “mid-table” side with a 7th place finish and some good football coming out of the camp. That was quickly countered with the loss of their star Dimitri Payet and the lack of talent brought in to replace the Frenchman’s contributions, relying on a young Manuel Lanzini and a not-so-good Andre Ayew.
Blaming it on Slaven Bilić seems too easy now, as he was gone for almost a whole season, and the Irons still finished 13th under David Moyes, and in unconvincing fashion. Now, West Ham have to build again, this time with more rubble to sift through after being near the relegation zone most of the season.
Enter Manuel Pellegrini.
The Chilean manager brought Malaga, a club with a number of financial troubles at the time, into the European lights, boosting them to 4th place in La Liga and the knockout stages of Champions League a year later. He was then brought into Manchester City where he won the league and a League Cup trophy to boot. He was then somewhat unfairly dismissed two years later, due to Pep Guardiola’s interest and eventual appointment, but Man City was still performing as European and Premier League contenders.
There was an heir of calmness and confidence Pellegrini engrained in that Man City side. Sergio Agüero and Edin Džeko were a perfect partnership, with Alvaro Negredo slotting in for either one of the two off the bench. Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and James Milner were incredible in midfield and Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zableta the same in defense. They looked so assured, so calculated in every move they made.
That will be exactly what the former Malaga manager will want to bring to West Ham, a group of players that will not only set a new standard for this standard-less side, but will also uphold excellence through and through.
Pellegrini has already got a couple of important pieces in his squad with Marko Arnautovic, Manuel Lanzini, Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell and even the young Declan Rice. These are all West Ham fan favorites, while also embodying the best of what the club offers, grit.
Jack Wilshere then becomes one of the most important signings for the Hammers – never thought that would be said. Although not always playing well consistently, the former Arsenal man is known for his persistence, both in games and in training. The 26-year-old always forced his way back into Arsenal and England sides a like because of his commitment and professionalism to always strive for greater heights.
On top of what can be called the “new” core, comes a couple of extremely talented individuals in West Ham’s summer signings. Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko could be perfect attacking compliments to Lanzini and Arnautovic, both being creative and direct in their play from the wing. Anderson, fancying himself as a more creator, will often cut in, leaving space on the left for Lanzini to slot into and deliver that final ball to the large figures of Yarmolenko and Arnautovic, or take a shot on himself.
In the back, Pellegrini has added to their shaky center backs with the physical Issa Diop and Brazilian Serie A standout Fabián Balbuena. Angelo Ogbonna and Declan Rice are very capable center halves, but Diop and Balbuena are ready made replacements for the Premier League, allowing for rotation and maybe even seeing Rice back in midfield where he can guard his backline better.
The addition of Ryan Fredricks was also vital to West Ham’s defense as they were short handed last season and Pablo Zabaleta cannot be expected to play as many minutes as he used to. Fredricks had a phenomenal season at Fulham last year and learning under the experienced Zabaleta can only benefit him in his transition from Championship to Premier League.
This remains cautious tale to tell, but sailing into the European football sunset has never seemed closer for the Hammers. Manuel Pellegrini still has a tremendous amount of work to do, rebuilding this unenthused and unconfident side. But, his past accomplishments with some less talented footballers make this look promising, and although we’ve seen this before from West Ham, this time does feel entirely different.