Firstly, the Premier League fixtures were announced on Wednesday morning, where the dates of the biggest matches could be found out and possible away trips planned. Having Tottenham Hotspur at home on the opening weekend was also a cause for great excitement, with a very early opportunity to record a 4th successive victory over our London rivals. Then, later in the same day, confirmation was made that the Hammers had signed Cheikhou Kouyate from Anderlecht for a reported £7.5 million pounds.
He joins Argentine striker Mauro Zarate, who allegedly cost in the region of 6 million, as the newest recruits to Upton Park. These transfers are real sign of intent from the owners, and that amongst all else has made me much more excited about the upcoming campaign than I thought I was going to be. I haven’t seen either player in action, but from what I have read and heard, both have good pedigrees, and are quite highly rated. Above all else, it is pleasing that the club have realised, and acted quickly on the need to improve the squad this summer, learning from the mistakes of last season where the squad was left pretty threadbare after limited signings the previous summer – the transfer budget effectively spent on two players. This to me was the main reason for the poor first-half of the campaign that we had.
Whilst last season was a somewhat disappointing one, the main thing was that relegation was staved off. With that survival, it means the club have now been in the Premier League for two-years which in turn entails a more stable playing squad and management, as well as the club being on surer financial footing.
Hopefully summer signings can build on such stability and supporters will be able to see a real improvement in the playing style and results of the team. This was always the most important thing to be done for me, rather than constantly reviewing the future of manager Sam Allardyce, who has undoubtedly built a solid and reliable team, capable of getting results at this level already.
I think that both Zarate and Kouyate can really add something to the team that we lacked last season. With Zarate, West Ham have a smaller and quicker striker who can play off a target man like Andy Carroll, and potentially score lots of goals. Then, with Kouyate, a powerful, dominating midfield player who can help us keep possession and create more going forward in those midfield areas. With both of these players signed so early in the transfer window, there should be plenty of time to bed them into the team.
Clearly the summer activity should not stop here, as there are still areas of the squad that need improving, most notably the full-back positions, and probably another striker and central midfielder. However, it is pleasing that the owners and manager have already been prepared to spend big money to secure two high profile signings who should improve the squad considerably. It has certainly made me much more optimistic for the coming campaign.