West Ham Transfer Rumors and Roundup
First things first:
Alright, now that we know West Ham is (pretty much) safe from the drop, let’s get down to business. Staying up was a long, drawn out affair that was buoyed by a brilliant run of form, but the fans all remember how we got in this position in the first place.
The 2019/20 Hammers struggled to maintain consistency at the back and suffered through goal droughts in between runs of amazing scoring form. Even the midfield is looking dicey heading into 2020/21, with Noble and his 500 appearances for the club looking like one of the few first team names in the middle, and even he can’t run forever.
But with Tomáš Souček hoping to stay in claret and blue permanently, there’s some good and bad to address with the future of the club. So let’s talk rumors:
The Pending Departure of Declan Rice
Best to start with the hard pill to swallow: Declan Rice may have outgrown West Ham.
It’s been no secret to West Ham fans over the past few seasons that Rice is one of the most exciting young midfielders in the Premier League. But the rest of the league seems to have finally woken up to that fact after he took it to another level this season to keep the Hammers up. Chelsea have been one of the most vocal in their interest in Rice, with some pundits now predicting a bidding war with Man U on the horizon.
With Lampard seemingly interested in reuniting off-the-pitch best friends Mason Mount and Declan Rice in his team of exciting young Englishman, I spoke with Alex Goldberg, Host of “The Byline” podcast and one of Chelsea’s most prominent online supporters, about the potential of a Declan Rice move to Stamford Bridge.
Throughout the 2019/20 campaign, Lampard has been shuffling his lineups game-to-game in a search for some consistency. Though Declan has made his name in the midfield for West Ham and England, Goldberg sees him being slotted into the Chelsea backline instead.
“If they would acquire him [Rice], they would start him. I mean, they would give him at least every opportunity to start… and I would envision him, unless they acquire another center back, which seems a little unlikely to get two, I would envision him at left center back because, yes, he is right footed, [but] he’s certainly very capable with his left foot. And many people have pointed out John Terry really worked on his left and it’s been done. And Declan is still young.”
When I followed up on what Goldberg envisioned Declan bringing to the back line for Chelsea, he highlighted his potential as a ball playing center back in Lampard’s attack-minded system.
“Even as the center back, he’ll take his dribbling ability, [though] you’re not going to ask him to do it as much as he does in midfield. But still, when you do, he doesn’t have a whole lot of experience playing the high line, but I definitely see that when Chelsea are in possession and he’s pressed, he has two ways to get out of it. He can dribble out of it, which is always a little bit riskier, but he can pass. He’s a very good and capable passer, which he’s not afraid to spray the ball.”
Though Declan’s defensive abilities and youth history as a CB could lead him to have success in the back, I pointed out that his skill set and recent success seems to lend itself to the lone DM or typical 6 role, something that Chelsea currently doesn’t really have in their stacked midfield. In some ways, Alex agreed.
“To be perfectly honest, if I never knew credibly and then if it’s been out there publicly now that Lampard was looking for Declan Rice as a centre back, I would absolutely think it’d be as a 6, to be perfectly honest, because he is exactly a 6 really.”
But he followed up that, with Mount, N’Golo Kante, Hakim Ziyech, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovačić, potentially Kai Havertz and the youngster Billy Gilmour in the middle, and even accounting Ross Barkley and Jorginho (who may be on their way out), there’s a lot more questions in the back line than there are in the midfield. As Goldberg summed it up neatly, “they just have so many other needs. And one of those needs, a long winded way of getting here, is center back. It’s a badly needed thing.”
Indeed even in the CB role, Goldberg made the point that you wouldn’t be getting a reduced Rice, but instead could see him utilizing his passing and defensive skills in a whole new dimension.
“And even at center back, you know Chelsea, they’re going to be a high possession team. And with those really good attackers like, Declan will pick someone out. And I think Declan, with the ball at center back for Chelsea, the defense is going to have to be on their toes when he has the ball. It’s not like it’s going to be this, like, slow stationary thing. He’ll have the talent and the ability.”
Though not necessarily the “next John Terry” Chelsea fans have been hoping for, it might not be long before we see Declan making a move to the other side of London to be playing in a different shade of Blue.
Transfer Ban on the Horizon?
According to reports from earlier in July, West Ham are looking down the barrel of a FIFA investigation that may have an impact on transfer dealings.
Eintracht Frankfurt, who West Ham acquired Sebastian Haller from last summer, lodged a complaint to FIFA about a £5.4m payment that they reportedly have yet to receive from the London club as part of the deal for Haller. Though the investigation is ongoing, and neither team nor FIFA have issued further comments, the potential implications could mean a snag for future transfer dealings, something that the club will be desperately looking to avoid ahead of an all-too soon Premier League campaign.
Potential Reinforcements along the wing? Anderson done in London?
Assuming that a transfer ban isn’t put into place, let’s talk transfer options. One player that the Hammers have reportedly been interested in over the past few months has been Werder Bremen’s Milot Rashica.
Rashica could provide a solution to a lack of creativity that seemed to plague West Ham in the final third at times this season, and could even slot in as a second striker alongside Haller to provide him with more opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, with Felipe Anderson most likely on the way out, Rashica could slot into the left side of midfield and create attacking opportunity, having tallied 8 goals and 7 assists in 28 appearances for Bremen this season playing along the wing and up front.
Another potential winger that West Ham could look into is Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser. Though not as productive this season as in his 18/19 campaign where he totaled 7 goals and 14 assists from the wing, Fraser could be worth taking a risk on, especially since he will be available for free.
After negotiations over a contract extension fell through ahead of the League Restart, Fraser’s contract officially expired at the end of June, leaving him as an interesting free agent target for clubs looking to add some pace to their attacking options. Though less of a creator than Rashica and Anderson, Fraser could be more of a potent goal threat along the wings if he can regain his form, an alluring idea for West Ham who seemed to struggle to get anything going against certain opponents (cough Wolves cough).