So, the new Premier League season is starting to draw ever closer and things seem to be shaping up well for West Ham, minus the little blip losing 4-1 to Mainz as part of the tour of Germany the other day. I look across the pitch and I’m feeling pretty confident on all areas of the pitch, with decent players and a team that I feel can achieve a lot next year. All areas but one. The wing.
Having two good wingers is vital if we want to do well next year. Both in a defensive way, by covering their full backs when needed, and mainly in the attacking third, attacking the opposing full backs and getting a good quality ball in for Big Andy to either attack it or knock it down for the onrushing midfielders or his strike partner, if we do get that other striker we want. Wingers with speed, skill, good quality crossing and a high work rate can be absolutely vital in the Premier League.  You only have to look at Gareth Bale, as much as I detest him, and how much he did for Spurs last year. And you look at Manchester City shelling out about £15 million to get a top class winger in Jesus Navas from Sevilla. Top class wingers are essential in building a solid team, and with the way we play, it’s almost more vital for us.
With a lot of our play going down the wings, and emphasis on pumping balls into the middle for Andy Carroll to attack, good quality wingers are vital in our squad. But unfortunately, I feel that’s the one area of the pitch we are lacking in.
We do have one winger who will fill a place in the team next year, though. Despite getting off to a slow start last season after being brought in from Wolves, Matt Jarvis really started to perform towards the end of last season. He is incredibly quick, has a good work rate, is skillful and has a very good cross on him too. If you watch Ricardo Vaz Te’s goal at home to Man United last year, Jarvis combines all of these aspects while playing a large part in the goal. After busting a gut to keep up with the breakaway, Diame spreads the play out to him before Jarvis attacks the defence. As he square up to Ferdinand, he uses a bit of trickery to get the yard he needs, and then while slightly off balance knocks the ball in the box, on a plate for Carroll to attack, who knocks it down to Vaz Te and we’re all happy. I still feel like he hasn’t hit the heights he hit at Wolves with us yet, and is questionable defensively. Also, maybe a couple more goals could be welcomed having scored just two last year, an attempted knock down at QPR and an attempted cross at home to Wigan! Still, Jarvis is the best winger we have currently.
Then you have Ricardo Vaz Te. I want to like him, I really do. After all, he was excellent in the Championship, scoring the fantastic hat-trick against Brighton, scoring plenty of crackers and of course scoring the winner against Blackpool that sent us back to the Premier League. Last year though, that wasn’t really on the same level. Scoring just three goals, Ricardo had a bit of a nightmare season. After a very slow start, and then an injury at home to Arsenal, he never really got going. He just seemed almost afraid, not attacking the full backs like he was in the Championship, and therefore not looking half as threatening or frightening for the opposition. He just didn’t look up to it, he got all moody when the crowd got on his back, had a poor work rate and looked disinterested. I took my brother, who doesn’t even watch football, to the United game, and despite his goal, even my brother noticed how Vaz Te wasn’t even trying. He was throwing all sorts of abuse at him by the end! Sure, he had a couple of flashes of genius, but they were extremely occasional. Overall he didn’t look Premier League quality, and was a weak link in the team. And that miss down at Reading, don’t even get me started on that! I still believe Vaz Te can play in the Premier League, but he needs to prove himself fast, and I would definitely look to replace him in this window. He visibly looked worse than the rest of the team in the friendly down in Bournemouth, so it doesn’t look like he’s come back a changed player this season.
Then you have Matty Taylor. I rated Taylor, right until he signed for us. He seemed like whenever he played against us, he was brilliant. He scored a tremendous free kick for Bolton at Upton Park about 5 years ago, from about 30 yards out, created numerous other goals against us over the years, scored those screamers from about the half way line while at Portsmouth and just generally looked a very good footballer. So when we got him, I was quite excited. Since then, he’s just been extremely average every game. Never done anything exceptionally good, scored two goals, been very average with what were supposed to be his trademark set pieces and finally, in front of goal, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat at times. He’s alright, but not what we need in our team.
Then you have Joe Cole and Jack Collison, who are played more in the middle than the wings, but have been played there. Jack Collison just seems to disappear when he’s on the wing to me, and Joe Cole will do something pretty decent but for the rest of the game is largely missing too. So, I wouldn’t give them permanent spots in the team either.
We have been linked with players like Stewart Downing, Salomon Kalou and Shaun Maloney to fill the other place on the wing, and any of them would be a decent addition to the team. Downing may have been extremely average at Liverpool, but was good at Villa before that. I would still go for one of the other two though. Kalou provides more options, as he can play just about anywhere in the attacking third, but personally, as I’ve said before, I’d go for Shaun Maloney. We should be able to get him reasonably cheap, is brilliant with a dead ball, has a good cross, is very skillful, and proven in the Premier League. So that’s who I would choose to fill the gap, but one thing is for sure. Sam needs to get someone to fill it before the start of the season.