Could these five potential free agents complement our last season at the Boleyn ground?

Next season could define the future of West Ham United with the club set for their last season at the beloved Boleyn Ground, before moving to the Olympic Stadium and taking the club in a new direction. With the ‘managerial position’ up in the air’ David Gold and Sullivan will be looking for smart buys until they know who will be the manager will be. However, like every season many top players are available as ‘free agents’, but are any of them worth the punt?

There is no question that the Hammers lack depth in their squad and although the signings made last year have proven successful, with the likes of Aaron Cresswell, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Adrian, Alex Song and Cheikou Kouyate each delivering encouraging and consistent displays, injuries hindered the clubs ambition of securing a spot in Europe and additions need to be made.

Although players will need to be brought in, it’s important the club clear out the deadwood and free up some wage bill for the new flock of players to come in. One player who looks certain to move on is Carlton Cole after falling down the pecking order, ending his nine year spell with the club. Also likely to follow Cole out is the versatile Brazilian’ Nene, after failing to make an impact since his arrival in January.

The club also have to decide if they want to make Carl Jenkinson’s loan move permanent, however Arsenal could demand a double figure sum for the promising Englishman. The Hammers could also show the door to Joey O’Brian, Guy Demel, Mathew Jarvis and potentially Kevin Nolan (If Sam Allardyce leaves). Taking the potential departures into account its almost certain a new right back will be brought in, a holding central midfielder, an attacking midfielder, a winger and cover for Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll. But what free agents have what it takes to make it in the English Premier League?

One of the names that stand out on the list is Rafael Van Der Vaart, although he isn’t getting any younger (32 years old) and was once an influential player for bitter rivals Spurs (2010-2012) he has the ability to change a game in an instant either with a killer pass or a decisive goal. He’s currently under contract with German outfit Hamburger SV, managing 16 goals in 74 appearances in his second spell with the club since 2012. The worry is, he could he take a spot in the squad that a younger and hungrier player could fill and there is the possibility he will be just another Kevin Nolan with tiring legs.

Personally I feel he offers West Ham more finesse than Nolan and his experience and leadership could be an important component to lead the Hammers into their final season at Upton Park.

Another target could be Dnipro winger Yven Kanoplyanka and despite known interest from Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal he would be an exceptional coup for the Irons and a real sign of intent from the chairmen. He is a player blessed with close ball control and explosive pace off the mark. Kanoplyanka is a player who isn’t scared to run at the opposition (very similar to Jarvis) but with a great deal of elegance and flair to his approach play, not to mention an eye for goal or two. He is certainly not shy of interest and at the age of 25 the Hammers would certainly have a battle on their hands and would need to play on the clubs ambition to entice him away from Europe’s top clubs.

The right back position has been an issue for the Hammers since the days of Steve Potts, until the recent acquisition of Carl Jenkinson. But with the young Englishman potentially priced out of a permanent move to West Ham, the board could look elsewhere to feel the void if he returns to his parent club Arsenal.

One player, who could slot straight into the side, is AC Milan full-back Ignacio Abate whose contract runs out at the end of the season, meaning there is a window of opportunity to secure the services of an established talent (fitting to the standard of players the club want to sign before moving to the Olympic stadium). His gifted with pace (unlike Demel and O’Brian) and has a footballing brain which is a great advantage not only defending but attacking too, with modern football relying a lot on the movement of full-backs.

 

It could be argued that the club should go for an up and coming star or play the much admired Dan Potts (more in the frame of Jenkinson) however, if a player like Abate becomes available on a free it’s certainly worth an attempt to get him on the books.

At the centre of defence Winston Reid is dominant and will likely keep his place in the starting line-up, however, the right central defensive position is often rotated between James Collins and James Tomkins, with neither of them showing the consistency needed in the demanding Premier League; providing the opportunity for promising Reece Burke or a new signing to stake their claim.

In terms of available centre-halves the likes of Ron Vlaar and Sylvian Distin are both plausible targets with bundles of premier league experience, however it’s likely Vlaar will go to a team challenging for Champions League football, where as I wouldn’t be surprised to see Distin try his luck abroad. One player who should be considered is Inter Milan centre-back Andrea Ranocchia.

Ranocchia is the perfect personnel to play alongside Reid, providing height (6ft 5) and presence to cope with the power of Premier League strikers.  He would certainly prove to be a fine piece of business if he was considered and at the age of 27 he’s got years on Collins and more experience than Tomkins. After spending 4 years with the Italian side he could fancy a shot at the best league in the world and really test his ability as a footballer. Sure, it might be optimistic thinking we could get a player such as Ranocchia, but when you look at the players the club has managed to sign in recent years, I wouldn’t cancel it out – it’s not like his Paolo Maldini or anything!

In recent weeks the Hammers have been linked yet again with a move for Marseille forward Andre Pierre Gignac and with his contract running out this season, fans can finally see if there is any truth to the rumour.

Gignac has managed one of his most successful seasons for the French League 1 side (currently sitting in 4th position) managing 18 goals in 33 appearances. An important factor to remember is that if Big Sam was given the sack and West Ham went for a foreign manager, don’t be surprised if the club went for Marcelo Bielsa and Gignac followed suit and joined the east London club.

Personally, I can see him being a strong signing as he is a powerful player and has an eye for goal, however I couldn’t see him maintaining a starting place ahead of the strikers already at the club. Although his goal record isn’t the best, in the past three seasons his tally has increased and now might be the best time to sign him now that the goals are flowing.

The list of free agents is very impressive this time round and with the likes of Dani Alves, James Milner, Yohan Gourcuff, Luiz Adriano, Andrew Ayew (also a possibility if Bielsa was hired) and Danny Ings to mention a few – it could be surprising to see who will end up where.

Whether or not West Ham will sign any of the players mentioned is yet to be seen, but I for one
wouldn’t be surprised if West Ham signed more than one free agent this summer and I’m sure the board will sign the right players – if the last crop is anything to go by.

 

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