It’s with lofty ambitions that West Ham United attack the 2016/17 season. A 6th place finish in the campaign just gone sees Europa League football pending for the Hammers, meanwhile the transfer window supplies a few more Dimitri Payet-esque signings for West Ham to parade around the new surroundings of the Olympic Stadium. Here’s how they could line up:
Back five: Adrián; Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell*
Perhaps the greatest blemish in one of West Ham’s finest seasons for decades was the amount of goals shipped in throughout their league campaign. Conceding 51 times in their 38 games, the Irons’ defence leaked in at least 10 more goals than those directly above them in the table.
With the partnership between Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna growing stronger and the injured Aaron Cresswell excelling at left back, the most flagrant reason for West Ham’s defensive shortcomings points towards the vacancy left at right back by Carl Jenkinson’s lengthy injury last season. West Ham boss Slaven Bilić turned to backup centre back James Tomkins, now at Crystal Palace, to occasionally fill in the gaps, as well as January signing Sam Byram and, eventually, Michail Antonio.
Although Byram’s performances proved to be satisfactory when called upon, the 22-year-old’s arrival mid-season complicated his trajectory to the starting line-up. With a full season now ahead of him, the hope is that Byram will now undergo a smoother transition into the first XI, which should in turn see him stand as the preferred option at right back over the adapted Antonio.
Cresswell is widely expected to return to the first team once fit, but the Hammers will be keen to make amends for his four-month lay-off with an additional signing at left back, meanwhile further depth at right back is sure to be recommended in order to avoid the back four inconsistencies experienced last season.