Manuel Pellegrini’s side finished in a slightly disappointing 10th, having been in the race for seventh place in the Premier League for much of this season. However, Durham believes they could go much further next term.
“Those teams that are in the top six, I don’t think four of them are that great,” he told talkSPORT, before being asked by Darren Gough whether he thought West Ham were great: “I think they’re improving at a dramatic rate, yeah,” he replied.
“I think with a super-human effort, if they do keep [Declan] Rice, if they do keep [Issa] Diop, if [Felipe] Anderson stays – [Marko] Arnautovic is an interesting one because I think the fans want him to go, but actually he is a very good player…
“There’s another key element to this that I just want to throw in, and that’s Jack Wilshere. If he stays fit – and I know it’s a big if – but just imagine if he stays fit. We all know what he can do, we all know how talented he is. Could he be that difference – if he stayed fit in that midfield, running things, orchestrating things – could he be that difference between maybe finishing eighth or ninth or actually pushing for the top four?”
Wow, this is quite the take from Durham, isn’t it? West Ham are the pre season darlings of the Premier League right now after splashing out on a very talented playmaker in Pablo Fornals. They made noticeable progress under Pellegrini this season and are clearly determined to improve even further this time out. Fornals is a step in that direction, of course, but it’s going to take more than that if the Hammers are to overhaul the established top six and break into the top four. Durham is right, four of the top six aren’t great – although Tottenham Hotspur are undoubtedly the best of them all things considered. Now is as good a time as any for anyone to break into the established order, and perhaps Wilshere could be the key. He needs to stay fit first and foremost, and that’s a big ask given his history, but he does have the talent to take this Hammers team to the next level alongside Rice in central midfield.