It’s been a tough season for the Hammers as they face a battle to remain in the Premier League.
Coming out of March they were one of four teams separated by just two points, desperate not to face a season in the Championship. With the uncertainty over the season their vice-chairman Karen Brady claimed the season should be voided, an unpopular call that perhaps pointed to the struggles the club has faced.
Earlier in the season, we suggested they should be hunting for a striker, but as the campaign has progressed their defensive woes have become increasingly evident. Only three teams had conceded more than the Hammers going into April, two of those in the bottom three. Southampton have only conceded more by virtue of their freak 9-0 hammering at the hands of Leicester City.
There’s been an unsettled feel to the Hammers defensive unit if it could be called that. Experienced professionals have sat on the bench and seemingly talented footballers have failed to stem the flow of goals. A feature on benchwarmers by Bwin Sports shows that Pablo Zabaleta is one of the players who has spent the most time on the bench in the Premier League this season despite the 35-year-old having two Premier League titles to his name. He looks to be on his way out and he might not be the only one.
The Daily Cannon reveals that Issa Diop is a player admired by Arsenal and he also looks likely to leave the London Stadium this summer. The 23-year-old was signed for a fee thought to be around £22m in 2018, but despite his burgeoning reputation he hasn’t been able to help solidify a porous back four.
His replacement could be another 23-year-old, Unai Nunez of Athletic Bilbao. One Football reports that he has a release clause of around £25m, but the Hammers might need significantly less than that as he’s only made 12 La Liga appearances for his club this campaign. Adding to the Hammers’ chances of signing the centre back is the fact HITC believes he’s turned down two new contract offers, although Arsenal are also thought to be in the hunt.
Of course, if the Gunners did land Nunez then it’s likely they wouldn’t be in the market for Diop, but David Moyes would surely still want to add to his back four even with the recent form of Angelo Ogbonna. In the event of that happening, it’s believed he’s also got an eye on Brazilian defender Marcao.
He’s reported by Team Talk to be happy at Galatasaray, but the summer window offers up an opportunity for Premier League teams to throw around some of their significant spending power, generated by the bumper TV deal. Whilst Marcao is settled right now, attempts to prise him away from Turkey are sure to at least test his resolve.
There’s even a suggestion that Moyes could look to resurrect the career of Phil Jones, the one-time England defender currently out in the cold at Manchester United. That could also add an interesting dimension to the Issa Diop deal, with some sources claiming United might offer the former Blackburn man as a makeweight in a possible swoop, gazumping Arsenal.
Whatever happens, if the Hammers do retain their Premier League status they’re going to need to work on their back four, even if it does mean cashing in on one asset to strengthen and solidify with a couple of new faces.