We know that West Ham have prioritised left-back as a key position that requires addressing in the summer transfer window. There have been reports that the club have been holding concurrent talks with up to four possible left-back targets. The best known of these is Norwich City’s Martin Olsson. However, latterly, another name has come in to the frame, Fiorentina’s Marcos Alonso. West Ham will recall Alonso on loan at Sunderland last season and him turning in some useful performances. The Black Cats are seeking a permanent deal for the player, but it appears West Ham could be looking to guzump them.
Indeed, the Mirror Sports are reporting that the Hammers are close to agreeing a bargain £1.5m deal for Alonso’s services, which represents very good value for money. It appears negotations with the player may be at an advanced stage and, all things being equal, a deal could be concluded sooner rather than later. It has been suggested that West Ham switched their attentions to Alonso after being priced out of a deal for Nice’s Timothee Kolodziejczak.
The Sports Mirror’s Darren Lewis has also published an interview with David Sullivan. In it, our co-owner confirms that Sam Allardyce was fully supportive of the idea of appointing an attacking coach and Teddy Sheringham was the manager’s choice; that a club like West Ham must have higher ambitions than just staying up and Hammers fans expect a concerted effort to break in to the top six, even if they do not actually achieve it next season; and Sam Allardyce knows that improvement is needed on the last campaign and the Hammers fans will not stand for a repeat. Finally, Mr Sullivan refutes the suggestion that the board are being overly dictated to by fans opinion. In fact, in response and by way of a rebuttal, he makes the point that the fans voted by c.80% to 20% in a poll to sack the manager, but the board chose not go down that road.
The club have not yet announced the deal officially, but a number of sources are reporting that the club have sealed a deal for Anderlecht’s Chiekou Kouyate on a 4 year contract. The reports state that West Ham beat off competition from a couple of Spanish clubs (thought to be Valencia and Seville) to secure the player for a fee of c£7m. If true, and there are conflicting views on this, it is excellent news for the club. The Senegal international is a towering 6ft 4 inch dynamo, who can operate both at centre-back and as a defensive midfielder. I personally hope that he gets the chance to play as a defensive midfielder, alongside Mark Noble. Whilst fans naturally respond best to the signing of players with silky, creative attacking skills, others who are powerful, industrious and facilitate the attacking play are equally as important within a team context. Think of players like Neill Orr in the 1985-86 team, who oiled the wheels of the team, won the ball and created the space for the Devonshires, Dickens, Cottees and McAvennies to attack the opposition. In that, and other key respects (he is a good passer of the ball and keeps possession well), Kouyate can be a major player for West Ham and a great addition for next season. Yes, fans are probably still looking to add another flair player or two, but that is no reason to under-value the significance of this deal. In fact, Kouyate can compliment those type of players and help them to maximise their performance.
Talking of players who are on the more creative end of the playing spectrum, it has been reported by some sources that West Ham might make a move for Newcastle Utd’s midfielder, Hatem Ben Arfa. Ben Arfa is thought to be unhappy at St James Park and nurtures ambitions to move to another Premier League side. He could even be available for a £5m fee, which is good value for money in the current market. However, there is likely to be fierce competition for his signature, with Spurs, Everton, Monaco and Dortmund all supposedly with an active interest in acquiring the player. On the subject of the bar codes, it appears that Alan Pardew is in talks to sign Hertha Berlin striker, Pierre-Michel Lassoga in a c.7m deal. Lassoga spent last season on loan at Hamburg and was prolific, scoring 13 goals in 20 matches. At 22 years of age, he seems a good prospect, although he did have some persistant injury problems earlier in his career. West Ham were linked with him at one point, and if they are still interested they need to get a move on, because Newcastle utd appear to have stole a march in signing him.
While the attention is naturally on incoming deals, there are some key players who entering the final year of existing contracts. This includes Winston Reid, Ravel Morrison and Mo Diame. The outcome of negotiations will be of equal interest to Hammers fans. Surely some progress/outcomes will be reported soon?
Finally, the 2014-15 Premier League fixtures are due to be announced at 9am today. The rumour is that we have drawn an opening, away day, fixture at Hull City. We will see soon enough whether that is true. What other key fixtures are fans looking out for? How kindly or otherwise will the fixtures treat us in the various phases of the forthcoming season? All will be duly revealed this morning!