Not since Upton Park have West Ham United finished in the top half of the Premier League table, but after three years the Hammers have returned to English football’s upper reaches.
Under Manuel Pellegrini’s experienced watch, the east London club managed to banish a number of demons from the tumultuous 2017/18 season and placed a considerable 10th – all while playing some entertaining football along the way.
It has not been all sunshine and rainbows for Pellegrini, however, with the Chilean at times struggling for consistency, and of course, having to cope with West Ham’s annual injury crisis.
There have been signs of vast improvement from the days of David Moyes and latter stages of Slaven Bilic’s tenure, but of course, an unprecedented level of spending last summer certainly helped.
Naturally, there is now scepticism from some supporters that the £90m spent last summer will not be replicated this time around, but the club’s hierarchy have suggested there is a “great anticipation and excitement” for 2019/20 – well, for West Ham fans, that will come in the form of a sizeable transfer kitty.
With that in mind, we’ve had a look at five different sources to suggest some of the signings the club are expected to make. But who are the sources, and what did they recommend? Read on to find out!
1. What the manager wants
Unlike some of the top flight’s other high-profile managers, Pellegrini has been rather tight-lipped when it comes to potential ins and outs over the next few months.
What West Ham’s budget will be for this transfer window remains to be seen, but there are some suggestions it won’t come close to the £90m dished out last year.
However, Pellegrini is a progressive coach and will want to put up a sustained challenge for European qualification next season, the question is: can the owners match his ambition?
The South American recently reflected on a ‘positive’ maiden campaign in the London Stadium dugout, but has called for “further improvement” to top 2018/19’s achievements.
He said: “Naturally, such progress gives us hope and belief that – if we continue to work hard together and focus in the right way – there will be further improvement next season and we can achieve our targets and objectives and find ourselves in a higher position this time next year.”
2. A view from the press box
With concerns over the fitness of both Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez, who both missed the majority of the season through injury, Pellegrini is expected to make a move for a new central midfielder.
One player who could be on his way to the capital is Marseille’s Kevin Strootman, an all-round midfield enforcer, who has also endured his fair share of injury problems over the past few years, but an elite-level athlete on his day nonetheless.
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Sky Sports are reporting the Ligue 1 club have offered West Ham – along with Everton and Manchester United – the chance to sign the Dutchman on loan as they look to balance the books after missing out on European competition. But given his injury history, it would certainly be a gamble for a club whose players have seen far too much of the operating table in recent times.
Further forward, with Andy Carroll expected to leave upon the expiration of his contract next month, as well as uncertainties over the futures of both Javier Hernandez and Lucas Perez, the Evening Standard believes West Ham will make a move for two new strikers this summer.
The Hammers could be set to renew their interest for Celta Vigo forward Maxi Gomez, who they bid for in January, and Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, though the former is believed to be Pellegrini’s top priority.
3. An ex-player’s thoughts
Carlton Cole is a West Ham legend, with the former England international having spent nine years in east London, and he has tipped big things for some of the club’s academy players.
Instead of looking to splurge the cash on marquee signings and huge gambles, Cole believes the club should look at some of the talent they already have on the books, hinting that a big season awaits for starlet Joe Powell, who recently signed a new deal with the club.
This season, youth players Declan Rice and Grady Diangana have made considerable noise in Pellegrini’s XI, with the former earning international recognition with England as a result, and Cole is hoping for a similar outcome with Powell.
He tweeted: “Joe Powell is a player with Great potential, big season ahead of him. Hard work starts now son.”
@JoePowell_10 is a player with Great potential, big season ahead of him. Hard work starts now son ????
— Carlton Cole (@CarltonCole1) May 21, 2019
West Ham skipper, Mark Noble, has also urged the club to recruit more “hungry young players”, either from within or elsewhere, but as an academy product himself, he will no doubt want to see some of West Ham’s graduates follow in his much-revered footsteps.
He wrote in his Evening Standard column: “There will be some players leaving — perhaps four or five — and others coming in.
“I think it’s needed, if I’m honest. We need some more hungry young players who want do well for the club.”
4. Squawka predicts
With four to five high-profile players expected to leave the club in the coming months, including Adrian, Pedro Obiang and Samir Nasri, West Ham once again look set for a summer overhaul.
Pellegrini has made no secret of his desire to improve the squad, and with several areas potentially needing renewed energy this window, the Chilean may look from within the borders to plug the forthcoming gaps.
Mitrovic and Gomez have of course been mooted with potential moves, but there is one player Pellegrini knows particularly well, who has also been linked with the club: Salomon Rondon.
The Venezuelan played under Pellegrini during the pair’s time together at La Rosaleda Stadium with Malaga, where the 29-year-old formed an impressive component of the Boquerones’ strike force, as the club finished fourth in La Liga during the 2011/12 season.
This season the South American marksman has thrived on Tyneside, scoring 11 Premier League goals for Newcastle as Rafa Benitez’s side finished 13th. And with parent club West Brom failing to gain promotion from the Championship, Rondon’s signature will certainly be up for grabs this summer.
As previously mentioned, West Ham are also in dire need of a central midfielder and there are two names that have cropped up in recent weeks, one being Victor Camarasa, who was a consistent player in a very inconsistent Cardiff City side.
The 24-year-old was an ever-present in the Bluebirds’ XI this season, and while his exploits failed to keep Neil Warnock’s side in the promised land, he hugely impressed in Wales, and finished as the club’s joint-top scorer.
Currently on the books at Real Betis, the Hammers could make a move in the coming weeks, though they potentially face stiff competition with Wolves, Everton and Brighton also linked with his services.
Another name being bandied about is Colombian international Gustavo Cuellar, with the Flamengo anchorman reportedly the subject of fervent interest from London.
Director of football Mario Husillos is a man who specialises in South American football, and he pulled off a real coup last summer after identifying relative unknown Fabian Balbuena. So could he work his magic once again?
Cuellar is a tough-tackling, deep-lying operative, and would certainly beef up West Ham’s midfield should a deal transpire, brining an aggression and tenacity that was solely missed this season through the absence of compatriot Sanchez.
5. The fans’ view
Centre forwards are certainly a hot source of debate in east London, with Porto’s lethal goal-getter Moussa Marega the latest name the club are reportedly tracking.
The 28-year-old struggled on the domestic front for the Dragons but flourished on the Champions League scene. Having never previously scored in a European competition before this season, he bagged six goals as Sergio Conceicao’s side reached the quarter-finals, though his goalscoring exploits have not been enough to convince some West Ham fans…
— Fred Cutler (@fredcutler) May 20, 2019
People voting Marega need to give their head a wobble and get off fifa.
— Rob Bryan (@RobBryan1987) May 19, 2019
Absolutely reeks of 4 goals in 31 apps before a loan move to Fenerbahce.
— eh? (@KeIvinGasteIum) May 18, 2019
Hopefully not true! Marega is not what we should be aiming for!?♂️
— Thomas Knoop (@ThomasKnoop3) May 17, 2019
Anyone but Marega
— Hugo Daniel (@DanielSLB_23) May 15, 2019
Mitrovic, Rondon, Marega in that order. Marega £35M at 28 from Portugal is the riskiest which is why he’d be my third choice
— Jack (@Jvckzini) May 15, 2019