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Looking forward to next season

Filed: Wednesday, 17th May 2017
By: Jamie Norwood

I am sure I am not the only one who is relieved that the season is over on Sunday.

It has been a real struggle and we have limped over the line to Premier League survival. This season there have been nothing but problems and it will be good to see the back of it.

Slaven Bilic’s job has come under question many times throughout the season, but I actually think he has done a good job, considering what he has to deal with:

1. The stadium move. Going from Upton Park to the London Stadium was never going to be easy.

2. The Payet situation. It doesn’t help when your best player wants out and is causing unrest in the squad. (Bilic dealt with this brilliantly, in my opinion.)

3. No (little) investment in the squad. After finishing 7th last season, we had a good opportunity to push on and improve on that, instead we ‘stood still’.

4. Injuries. I’ve lost count how many injuries we’ve had this year. Reid, Antonio, Ogbonna, Carroll, Sakho to name a few…

I'm not saying Bilic is perfect, he’s far from it, some of his substitutions and team selections are bizarre, but I still believe he is the man for us and deserves time to turn it round.

After such a great season last year we had a real chance of pushing on and consolidating a comfortable top half finish. We missed that opportunity with a terrible transfer window in the summer, doing it on the cheap and scrimping and scraping around for loans and free transfers.

We all know what we needed in the summer - a proper goalscorer. The owners knew it too, they just failed to act on their words. They promised a '20-goal-a-season striker' and we ended up with Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri on loan deals. Not backing the manager going into the new stadium was a massive error.

For me this summer is huge for the club, a last chance for the owners to put the money where their mouth is. We have increased stadium capacity by 20,000, the TV money is higher than ever, they really have no excuses to do it on the cheap again.

We don’t need ‘squad players’ or ‘stop gaps’ – we need first team players who will come straight into the team and improve us. Not only that but it will give us a better chance of keeping players like Manuel Lanzini at the club.

One thing this team really lacks is pace. The only two players I can think of who possess genuine pace are Michail Antonio and Arthur Masuaku. How many times this season have we seen the opposition come to the London Stadium and rip us apart? Most of the games I sit there watching and the players look like they are ‘knackered’ – at the start of the game! We are crying out for some pace.

Potential targets? We’ve been heavily linked with Pablo Zabaleta. Now that's not particularly an exciting signing but I wouldn’t be too disappointed with him. He would bring leadership (something we lack) and he could be a good mentor for Sam Byram.

I would like to see us go for Joe Hart or Jordan Pickford, both commanding goalkeepers and Premier League proven. Darren Randolph isn’t good enough for the league and Adrian looks to be back off to Spain.

Other areas I feel we need to improve is on the wings. This is where pace is essential. I watch a lot of La Liga and think ex Arsenal man Carlos Vela would be a great fit for us. He has a very impressive record at Real Socidedad both with goals and assists.

I would also look into the Championship, as we have a fairly good record signing players from that division (with Antonio and Aaron Cresswell). With Fulham losing in the play-offs, I wouldn’t mind seeing us go for Tom Cairney who has had a really good season. He has good technical ability and I think he would link up well with Lanzini.

On to the strikers - and this will be our most important acquisition this summer. One player I would suggest is Kelechi Iheanacho at Man City. Rumours are they are prepared to let him go and I really think he would be perfect for us, he has pace and from what I have seen of him, a real goalscoring instinct.

We’ve been linked with Jermain Defoe again, after trying to sign him in January. On a free transfer and given the history of his departure from West Ham previously, would you take him? I probably would, he’s proved he still has got that ‘eye for goal’.

Going back to La Liga and another player I think we should be looking at is Sandro Ramirez, who is a striker for Malaga and ex Barcelona. He is skilful, strong and has scored 14 goals this season in a struggling Malaga team.

With our current strikers being Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Jonathan Calleri and Ashley Fletcher I can see us needing three 'proper strikers'. It is time we stopped relying on Carroll’s fitness. Valencia isn’t good enough, Calleri isn’t good enough and I think Fletcher could do with a season long loan to a Championship side.

So I think we need to plan for a major overhaul of our squad in the summer. I really hope the owners back Bilic with funds and get business done early and not leave it until the last minute to try and get a better ‘deal’.

It has been a very disappointing season but with a good summer this year there is no reason why we can’t push on.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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