Written by Rhys Paul
The 2015/16 season exceeded even the most optimistic of West Ham fans’ expectations. As such, the upcoming season will see the supporters expect far more from the team than this time last year. With Bilic at the helm and with one of the strongest squads in the clubs history at his disposal, West Ham are in a great position to push on from the encouraging strides they made last season. As with any club, there will be certain players that were key to the teams performance and I have identified the three who I believe will play a vital role in our campaign come August.
I was tempted to exclude him simply because his inclusion goes without saying, but he really will be key to the Hammers 2016/17 campaign. He has translated his good form from last season into his performances for France at the Euros, but hopefully he will be rested in time for the new season. Euro 2016 has propelled him to the forefront as one of Europe’s best players and it is genuinely exciting to know he is a West Ham player. The current ‘Hammer of the Year’ is a game-changer – as shown against Everton and Bournemouth – and he does tend to raise the performance of the entire team when he is on-form. His injury lay-off towards the end of 2015 saw a slump in form which saw the club win only one in eight and register five consecutive draws in the period. I would say that only Antonio came anywhere near matching Payet’s impact on turning one point into three last season. His prowess from set-pieces could again prove the difference in some games next season. Dimi is the club’s talisman and if the club achieves more than last season, he will be at the heart of its success.
Antonio’s inclusion on this list rests on how Bilic intends to use the former Nottingham Forest winger. If Antonio continues to operate as a right-back, his contribution to making the 2016/17 season special will be minimised. If he is allowed to push up to his more favourable position on the wing, Antonio will be one of the club’s most dangerous weapons once again. 8 goals in only 23 league appearances last season marked a very successful rise through the divisions for Antonio and he ably covered in defence towards the end of the season. Had it not been for Payet, Antonio would have been hailed as the club’s signing of the season, but instead of being overshadowed by Payet, it is a credit to the player that he grabbed headlines of his own. He is a handful for defenders and his unique, restless style continue to make him a breath of fresh air. Even if Antonio only repeats scoring the winner against Tottenham, he will still play his part in a special moment next season.
Having turned his loan into a permanent signing, Lanzini’s first full season as a West Ham player will be full of promise. At only 23 years old, the Argentinian is still capable of becoming an even better player despite having already established himself in the first team. Completing an impressive 89% of attempted passes in the league, Lanzini also showed he is capable of scoring (6 goals in 23 league apps), including a fine curling strike against Chelsea. Like Payet, he is a very special player and usually one that comes in once in blue moon for West Ham fans, so it is definitely something to look forward to once again. He certainly holds the most potential in this list and if he continues linking up with and learning from Payet, he could be a big player for many seasons to come.
West Ham, do you agree that these 3 will be key? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by joshjdss