West Ham United have endured a tumultuous start to the season, losing seven of their opening twelve fixtures. With life in the Premier League shrouded in doubt heading into the January transfer window, here's five players that we here at Brace The Hammer think West Ham could use heading the second half of the campaign. (Within reason, of course...)
BRANISLAV IVANOVIC (RB)
None come wilier and more experienced than Chelsea FC right back, Branislav Ivanovic. During his 8-year tenure with the West London club, Ivanovic has developed into an extremely versatile full-back, showing off his abilities both offensively and defensively. He boasts an impressive goal tally as well, netting 22 in 256 games, which, for a defender as you know is considered to be extremely useful.
Ivanovic holds NINE major honours to his name, including winning the Premier League twice, the FA Cup three times and owns both a UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League winner’s medal.
Why would he benefit West Ham you ask? If having to watch Michail Antonio play in an unnatural role for the past year hasn't been painful enough for you, here's some other reasons to note.
West Ham as a club offer no real leadership at the minute and with Bilić somewhat losing the dressing room this season, a lot of the work lies with leader Mark Noble. Unfortunately for the Canning Town captain however, his performances haven't matched the same ferocious intensity of last season and therefore potentially could find himself on the fringes of the first team squad.
Step in Branislav Ivanovic, with the Serbian currently not sitting in Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 system, it's been almost confirmed he'll depart in the January transfer window. It allows Slaven to revert back to his old formation of 4-2-3-1, and have Michail Antonio on the wing. Yes you've read that correctly, it enables Michail to finally play wide and offer his full potential threat when going forward.
Having someone of Ivanovic's quality and calibre in a poor defensive team can only strengthen an already weakened back four. He adds leadership and a sense of security, often times in the last season we've been caught napping and have paid for it on the break, but Ivanovic is a defensive minded right back by trade and his positioning is fantastic. The only downside to signing Ivanovic would be negating the natural width he can offer on the break, but it's something I'd gladly see if done properly.
Although at the sprightly age of 32, he still has a lot of experience to offer. It's something that potential future full back Sam Byram could benefit from, seemingly having failed from the tutoring of tearaway Álvaro Arbeloa.
With Ivanovic's price plummeting, could you see the Serbian in a West Ham Shirt this January?
JORDAN PICKFORD (GK)
Sunderland have been awful this season; let's not beat around the bush. However if there has been one glimmer of hope in the Wearside team, it's been 22 year old English goalkeeping sensation - Jordan Pickford. Sunderland, like West Ham, haven't been shy letting in goals this year, 21 in total in the Premier League.
Pickford however, has made numerous outstanding saves this season, especially in pivotal moments. He's second only to Tom Heaton of Burnley in the saves department, with an impressive 46 made this season alone. He was rewarded during the international break with a call-up to the England U21's and has received league wide plaudits along the way. In particular on Match of the Day after Sunderland's win against Bournemouth, Jermain Jenas said:
“The one thing I don’t think they quite expected was the inspired form of Jordan Pickford, he was absolutely sensational."
Sunderland's potential relegation counterparts West Ham have also been struggling with someone in between the sticks, Adrian's usual unflappable confidence has wavered this season and he's been at fault for a number of embarrassing howlers. Even Slaven Bilić recognised something needed to change when he awarded Darren Randolph the starting spot for last weekend’s match against Tottenham.
Although West Ham don't need to build for the future as such, they do need a fresh start in goal and this is why they should look no further than Pickford. Young, agile, with fantastic reflexes and razor sharp concentration, he could be the long term solution to West Ham's problems in goal. Former player and now goalkeeping coach Chris Woods could really help the young prospect deliver and with the interest hotting up around him, it won't be long before this youngster has his turn in the spotlight.
REECE OXFORD (CB)
Okay yes, you've caught me out. I know this technically isn't a new signing; it's a curve ball to get you thinking. Would you be completely against seeing Reece Oxford consistently start week after week in a West Ham shirt?
Little over a year ago we got the first glimpse into what our bright sixteen-year-olds future looked like against Arsenal on the opening day of the season, few would have predicted the outcome of the match itself, but to see Oxford hold his own on one of the biggest stages in world football, definitely caught our attention.
For whatever reason Slaven hasn't favoured him since and he's fallen down the pecking order, with fans left questioning, why? We've seen him pick up the odd cap in Europe, or a meaningless third round EFL Cup tie, but we know deep down he's hungry for his chance to make it count on a consistent basis in the Premier League. A series of cryptic tweets posted by Oxford makes you realise how frustrated he is with his lack of first team opportunities.
To feel success you got to struggle— Ox (@Reeceoxford_) October 17, 2016
Reece has shown great aptitude to developing fast and is incredibly versatile in working at both centre back and as a defensive midfielder. Combined with his quick flair and natural calm passing ability he seems to understand the game a lot quicker than others give him credit for. After all, Angelo Ogbonna hasn't achieved the same standards that we've come to expect of him, and looks a sure fire accident waiting to happen in the box this season.
Much has been spoken about the current state of Reece's contract at West Ham, will he potentially move to Manchester or is home truly where the heart is? According to Sky Sports this month, he is in fact ready to commit his future to the club and sign a new long-term deal. This surely means that the board have offered him assurances with shot at the first team sooner, rather than later. Fans surely aren't about to see history repeat itself once more, and let the next Rio Ferdinand slip through their fingertips, are they?
CESC FÁBREGAS (CM/CAM)
Cesc Fàbregas, another Chelsea snub on the fringes of first team football, who also happens to be a realistic target for West Ham heading into the January window. A few years ago, had the words Fàbregas and West Ham been brought up in the same sentence it would usually be due to the fact he'd have broken our hearts the weekend before. Now, with West Ham seemingly pushing for success, they want to be able to offer players of Cesc's ability a lucrative package to be the main attraction along with Dimtri Payet in East London.
Let's not forget, in Chelsea's last winning title season back in 2014, this man racked up a league best 19 assists. He had Chelsea playing some of their best ever football and elevated the game of Eden Hazard to breath-taking levels. This is the exact reason why Cesc would be a perfect fit at West Ham.
Nobody could replace Dimtri Payet as the main figurehead at West Ham, not in a million years. However, with not a single striker scoring this season and Manuel Lanzini not at his potential best it's been mainly left to Payet to drag us back from the depths on more than one occasion. Cue Cesc Fàbregas, if we can find someone with as much talent, as much creativity and an incredible footballing brain, we should look no further than this man.
Sometimes we have to understand as great as Dimitri Payet is; he can't bail us out every single week. Having someone of Cesc's ability on the team would alleviate that pressure, and allow Payet to attack more and not look to supply others first. Although he creates an awful lot, he must get tired of being the one to do everything going forward.
Given a main role in the starting XI, I can only dream of the damage these two could do in the Premier League and with Cesc almost crying out to be saved from his Chelsea nightmare, could West Ham be in pole position to land him this January?
DANIEL STURRIDGE (ST)
Daniel Sturridge is world class; I don't care what anyone says otherwise. I've had this debate numerous times, with numerous different people and they all seem to get one thing, the season he had when playing up front with Luis Suarez. He was a complete and dynamic forward, an incredible finisher and a natural poacher, a striker that West Ham haven't seen since the days of Carlos Tevez.
I realise that his injuries have unfortunately shrouded his sparkling career, and he hasn't reached the heights that he possibly could have two seasons ago, but we're talking about a striker that netted 22 goals and 7 assists in one season and that was playing second fiddle to Luis Suarez, who by the way also managed to net 31 on the way to finishing 2nd in the table.
Valued at a measly £25 million it's a far cry from a player who a few years ago was on the radar of Paris Saint Germain for almost double that. I can only imagine that if we were to target Sturridge in January that it would be for a loan deal with a chance to sign him on a permanent basis, however I can't help but feel if were to sign for us the ever likely injury crisis would return.
It's a risk that I'm sure a lot of fans would love us to take; on the one hand you could have a player that does nothing for six months, side-lined with a broken toe nail. Or, you could have the world class Daniel Sturridge that will score you 20 goals a season, period. I think a lot of fans today think that buying proven strikers from abroad is the way forward, however other than Thierry Henry, Sergio Aguero and Robin Van Persie; would you pay more than £30 million on someone that might be a bust? Sometimes staying in England for your home-grown talent is just as important.
Although we may never get anyone near the players I've mentioned above, you can’t help but wonder how successful we can be after the January transfer window if we do. To see the likes of Payet, Fàbregas and Sturridge together in a team might be a pipe dream. I certainly think it's the right mentality if we want to get up back on the horse and actually show a bit of fight for the second half of the season.
Do you agree with our selections? If you do let us know down below! We'd be interested to hear your view on who you think West Ham should look to sign and tell us if you think we're talking rubbish!