West Ham United 2019/20: Unexpected heroes, or a waste of space?
Author: ExWHUEmployee. Published: 10 June 2019 at 10:41pm
Written by Alan Rezpa @whuAIan
Last summer Manuel Pellegrini’s and Mario Husillos’ transfer recruitment was generally on point with the signings of high-profile players such as Felipe Anderson or Issa Diop, but it didn’t stop fans from doubting is the Chilean the right man for the job.
Along with the two mentioned above the club also signed players that instantly raised the question of “Are they good enough?”.
While Fabian Balbuena managed to prove himself as a first-team centre-back after his £3.5m move from Corinthians, the futures of Andriy Yarmolenko, Carlos Sanchez and Jack Wilshere still remain in doubt in the fans’ minds.
Yarmolenko, signed from Borussia Dortmund last summer for a high fee of £18m, already had a recent record of small injuries as he missed 136 days of football for both BVB and Dynamo Kyiv prior to arriving in East London. Although the goalscoring record of the 33-year-old, having scored 143 in 366 games played for club and country, made a lot of people optimistic, the transfer fee seemed a little bit unreasonable considering his age.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Ukrainian forward finally managed to hit the ground running, scoring a brace in a 3-1 win against Everton on September 9th. His form was only improving as he put on another good performance, this time in a 3-1 win against Manchester United, only two weeks later.
Unfortunately, his form got cut short as his injury problems continued, this time in a more serious matter. A ruptured Achilles tendon ruled him out for the remaining 32 games of the season.
Sanchez instantly became a criticised signing by nearly the whole West Ham fanbase, as pretty much everyone remembered his horrific 2015-16 season at Aston Villa, which the Birmingham club finished bottom of the Premier League.
The 33-year-old had a very tough start to the season with the Hammers, as he gave away a late goal in just his second league appearance in a 0-1 loss to Wolves. But in the next game, against Arsenal, after coming on from the bench, he was arguably one of the best players on the pitch leading the West Ham midfield with his experience and the captain’s armband.
But just like it was with Yarmolenko, the Colombian’s season was finished before it even properly started, as the midfielder suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear against AFC Wimbledon in the League Cup.
And then the arguably best transfer of West Ham’s transfer window happened, as Jack Wilshere joined his boyhood club on a free transfer from Arsenal. Everyone knew about his injury record, but the fact he’d been fit for the most of 2016/17 and 2017/18 season left people very excited of the prospect of the Wilshere-Rice partnership in midfield.
But as it was with the previous two signings, Wilshere’s season was also hit by a host of injuries. After starting all four opening games and looking actually decent as the Hammers lost all four of them, the inevitable struck. An ankle injury ruled him out for 69 days until a game against Newcastle in which the midfielder came in the pitch in the dying minutes of the game, somehow managing to get an assist. Unfortunately, five minutes were enough for Wilshere to suffer a setback of the injury, this time ruling him out for a good four months.
He did manage to come back for the last four games, giving the fans hope and a reminder what a player he is, when fully fit.
There’s one more player whose ability often gets forgotten about with people wanting to get rid of him as soon as possible.
And that player is Arthur Masuaku.
At only 25-years-old, the Congolese left-back is one of the most talented players in the club, but his inconsistency often gets him dropped for Aaron Cresswell, leaving the fans furious and wanting him gone.
Arthur is also often been mentioned to be a better winger than a defender, but that’s definitely not the case. While his defensive positioning isn’t the best, the technical ability crossing and 1v1 tackling required for a modern fullback are on a top level. His finishing ability is not impressive, which automatically disqualifies him from playing in a more advanced role than a left-midfielder in a 4-4-2 formation or a left wing-back in a three at the back setup.
All four players have the quality to become first team players, or in Sanchez’s case, important ones for Manuel Pellegrini’s team.
Andriy Yarmolenko’s finishing and technical ability could only be matched by a small number of players, most of them out of West Ham’s price range. While the Ukrainian’s pace isn’t the one of Michail Antonio, his ball control and vision comfortably put him ahead of the Englishman on that right wing spot.
Jack Wilshere, when fit, is the best midfielder the Hammers could’ve hoped for, and one of the best in the whole league. He’s a perfect fit for Declan Rice, complementing the youngster perfectly, allowing him to focus on his defensive duties while Wilshere could be the more creative one out of the two.
Carlos Sanchez might be the player for Pellegrini to park the bus, and hope to hold on to a result. A tall, physical and very experienced defensive midfielder that can lead the team with his leadership is definitely a player West Ham lacked against teams from the bottom of the table throughout the 2018/19 season.
And at last, Arthur Masuaku. Brilliant when on a form, diabolical when out of it, the wingback only needs trust from the manager as well as from the fans because he’s that type of player which needs confidence in his ability to perform on the highest level. At 25 he also has a lot of room of improvement we will hopefully see in his defensive department in the coming months, as Pellegrini seems to trust him enough to be one of the first names on the team sheet.