WHO Poll
Q: 2020/2021 Where will we finish up this season?
a. Top Four, Champions League here we come
b. 5th-7th Europa League is well within our grasp
c. 8th to 14th anywhere in mid table is about right
d. We're in a dog fight before a ball has been kicked and we'll do well to finish 17th or just above
e. GSB have derailed our season before a ball has been kicked, the Championship beckons

Alan 2:02 Wed Jan 8
Another West Ham article (care of Scouse Kid)
The Athletic

When Pablo Zabaleta walked back into the away dressing room after scoring West Ham’s opening goal in the FA Cup victory at Gillingham, there were chants of “one more year” from his team-mates. The 34-year-old, out of contact at the end of the season, scored his first goal as a substitute in English football before Pablo Fornals added a late second to see West Ham through to the fourth round.

Right-back, though, is just one area West Ham will look to strengthen this month, with the club also on the lookout for a back-up goalkeeper, a defensive midfielder and a winger.

The current board have often underspent at this time of the year, with the £19 million paid for Robert Snodgrass and Jose Fonte in 2017 their biggest outlay in the January window. But the club’s current league struggles mean forays into the transfer market this month are a necessity.

The return of David Moyes will see the West Ham boss work closely with joint-owner David Sullivan to identify players and get deals over the line, with many at the club keen to do their business early this month.

West Ham are expected to seal the return of Darren Randolph, 32, for a fee in the region of £4 million, which could be done within the next 48 hours. They made a similar offer for Cardiff No 1 Neil Etheridge but bringing Randolph back to east London from Middlesbrough after two-and-a-half years was the priority.

Against Gillingham we saw why Lukasz Fabianski is so reliable to this team, while it also says a lot that since his return against Bournemouth he has kept back-to-back clean sheets. But like all goalkeepers, Fabianski needs competition and the error-prone Roberto has shown he isn’t good enough to be his understudy. The club could yet explore sending the Spaniard out on loan, with David Martin reassuming his role as third-choice goalkeeper once Randolph’s move to West Ham is confirmed.

Jack Butland was also on West Ham’s radar, but The Athletic understands the club did not make an official approach and would have had to pay in the region of £20 million to lure him away from Stoke City. Even if he might be the better long-term replacement for 34-year-old Fabianski, Butland, 26, has struggled to find form in the second tier this season and was dropped from Gareth Southgate’s England squad in August.

Ryan Fredericks sustained a hamstring injury against Gillingham and Zabaleta performed well after coming off the bench. But with Fredericks now potentially sidelined, tougher tests await Zabaleta. His performances this season, notably against Newcastle United, have been those of an ageing full-back, so this is an area West Ham will look at strengthening.

When was the last time West Ham had a really good right-back? Joey O’Brien? Guy Demel? It is one of the weak areas in this team which needs to be addressed. Ben Johnson could be the answer but the 19-year-old is yet to show he can remain injury-free for large spells of the season.

Newcastle’s Javier Manquillo, 25, and Max Aarons of Norwich City are two of the names being weighed up. While the former isn’t much of an upgrade from Fredericks, 19-year-old Aarons is an exciting young player who has already been capped five times at under-21 level for England. Another player who has been linked with a move to West Ham is Jayden Bogle who, similar to Aarons, has plenty of potential and the 19-year-old excelled under Frank Lampard last season at Derby County.

As my colleague David Ornstein has reported, one of the areas West Ham are looking to strengthen in January is midfield. Jack Wilshere is pondering a move to MLS, which The Athletic revealed in November, and Carlos Sanchez has been a poor signing since his arrival in 2018. Although the likes of Joe Powell and Conor Coventry are promising academy players, West Ham need a holding midfielder who will hit the ground running. Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama and Genk midfielder Sander Berge are possible options.

If history is anything to go by, there is a tendency by the board to sign flair players when it comes to midfield. If you look at West Ham’s current squad, the likes of Felipe Anderson, Fornals and Manuel Lanzini are all very similar. There were torturous negotiations with Sporting Lisbon when West Ham tried to sign defensive midfielder William Carvalho in 2017. It is the one area of the team where the board have continuously been parsimonious — the most money they have spent on a central midfielder is £7 million when Cheikhou Kouyate joined from Anderlecht in 2014.

Gedson Fernandes, the Portugal Under-21 and Benfica midfielder, can operate in the centre or on the right flank, but The Athletic understands Everton are the favourites to sign the 20-year-old on an 18-month loan deal.

Hull City winger Jarrod Bowen has been heavily linked with a move to West Ham in January. The highly-rated 23-year-old has 16 goals and six assists in 26 appearances in the Championship this season and can operate in a playmaker role or on the flanks.

One of the main issues with Moyes’ team is their lack of pace and the age of some of the players who predominantly play on the wing. Andriy Yarmolenko is 30 and Robert Snodgrass is 32. The exuberance of youth is needed and Bowen most certainly fits that profile, although he is as yet untested at Premier League level and Hull will hold out for a fee in the region of £20 million.

In the 4-0 win over Bournemouth Moyes played a 4-4-1-1 formation and Sebastien Haller was one of the standout performers. For the game against Gillingham he rotated between a 3-5-1-1 formation and a 3-1-4-2 and, barring his two great chances in the second half, it was hard for Haller to get into the game.

If Moyes, similarly to Manuel Pellegrini, insists on playing one man up front then it will be difficult to attract a striker who will be largely limited to a substitute role. You only have to see the lack of minutes Albian Ajeti has had this season to know that being a back-up striker for Haller is a position no one desires. Anthony Scully, one of the stand-out performers for the under-23s, is one option under consideration.

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