This is the ninth instalment of my "Three Transfers" series, and today we shall take a look at Gianfranco Zola's West Ham.
Tipped to do badly under a rookie manager, West Ham have exceeded all expectations to finish in ninth spot in the league. That this was achieved without their star striker Dean Ashton, who was ruled out for the entire season through injury, makes the achievement even more admirable.
West Ham also had to sell another of their prized assets, Craig Bellamy, in January, so to achieve a top-half finish is really quite something.
However, I think that there are a few areas that West Ham could definitely strengthen, and I will discuss them in this article.
Without doubt, this area has to be strengthened. Currently, the players who can play there are Matthew Upson, Lucas Neill, James Collins, James Tomkins, Daniel Gabbidon and Jonathan Spector.
Of the six players listed above, only three can be considered to be good defenders. I am referring to Matthew Upson, Lucas Neill, and James Tomkins.
Matthew Upson's quality is undoubted. Strong in the air, good on the floor, he is one of the best defenders in the league.
James Tomkins has shown in the matches he has played, that he has the potential to become a good player, and as such, should remain at the club.
Lucas Neill is also a fine player, but unfortunately for West Ham, his contract is running out soon, and having recently rejected a new contract, he might not be a Hammer for much longer.
As the centre of defence is crucial to any team's chances of success, I think West Ham need to focus their summer spending in this department, by making a centre-back their top priority.
A possible target would be David Wheater from Middlesbrough. A commanding presence in the air, Wheater looks like he has the potential to be even better than Matthew Upson. With Boro relegated to the Championship, they might not be able to stand in the way of a move for Wheater from a Premiership club.
Another possible signing is Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra. He recently helped Rangers to pip Celtic to the domestic double, and is a quality defender. Not one to ever shy away from a challenge, Bougherra would definitely be a good partner for Upson. The problem here is that Rangers are in the UEFA Champions League next season, so it might be a little difficult to entice him to come to West Ham.
This season, Behrami, Neill, and Spector have been used in this position.
Behrami has performed well, but to me, his best position is right-wing, as he does not have the defensive awareness necessary to be a good right-back.
Lucas Neill, as mentioned above, is a fine player, but his contract runs out, and might not be there much longer.
Jonathan Spector is a decent player, but is not first-team material for a team that is chasing European football.
As such, a right-back is someone West Ham should be looking to sign.
In my opinion, the ideal right-back for West Ham is Gianni Zuiverloon. An explosive player with exhilarating pace, Zuiverloon seems tailor-made for West Ham's brand of slick, attacking football.
Valon Behrami did well at right-back, mainly because of his explosive pace, which also helped to cover some of his defensive deficiencies. With the signing of Zuiverloon, it will be like putting Behrami at right-back, except this time, the defending is better. An added advantage of this move would be the freeing up of Valon Behrami to play in his favoured wing position.
Unlike Newcastle and Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion probably do not need to sell all of their players, but they will struggle to hang on to Zuiverloon should an offer from West Ham come in.
Currently, the only natural left-winger in the team is Luis Boa Morte, who has never lived up to his transfer fee. He promised much with his arrival, but in reality, he has never put in a good performance since becoming a Hammer.
Junior Stanislas, Jack Collison and Savio Nsereko have also been used there this season. However, none of them are natural wingers, and besides, they are still young and relatively inexperienced, so they should be given time to improve themselves before being played in the first team regularly.
As such, I would suggest that West Ham attempt to sign Jonas Gutierrez. He loves to run with the ball down either wing, and has shown a tendency to cut in, and would be well-placed to do that on the left wing. The Argentine international would bring energy and flair to West Ham, qualities that Gianfranco Zola would definitely admire.
Once again, coming from a relegated club, Gutierrez would definitely be allowed to leave, as his wages are on the high side, and Newcastle aren't exactly rolling around in truckloads of cash.
Another suggestion for their problem left-wing area is Stephen Hunt from Reading. With manager Steve Coppell having left the Madejski Stadium, I expect to see quite a few players leaving Reading in the summer.
Hunt would be a good addition to West Ham, as they are a hardworking side that attack with flair, and Hunt definitely has the attributes to succeed there. He never stops running, and is able to come up with the occasional moment of quality to excite the fans. He would probably come a little cheaper than Jonas Gutierrez as well, although there is quite a clear gap in class.
So that's it - my suggestions for Zola next season. As an Arsenal fan, I can appreciate teams that like to pass the ball around with flair, and I hope whoever West Ham sign, they can continue playing with the same flair they did this season.
This article, and more, can also be found at thetipsters, a website set up by my friend Roland and I.
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