Nathan Ake and Jesse Lingard can help West Ham as clubs circle Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen – Inside Football
Eurosport's football insider Dean Jones takes an in-depth look at West Ham United, who are in a strong position to challenge for a place in the Champions League next season. Signing Nathan Ake and Jesse Lingard in the January transfer window could boost that bid, and also convince Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen to stay. Eden Hazard, however, does not fit the club’s profile in terms of new signings.
Nathan Ake warms up ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain
It’s been quite a year for West Ham United. Qualifying for the Europa League, then establishing themselves in the competition, and now breaking new barriers to put themselves into contention for next season’s Champions League.
David Moyes is riding a wave at the London Stadium as the success brings joy to fans yet also promises new challenges.
In the New Year the immediate goal is to ensure the squad is fully prepared for the second half of the season. Is the depth there to ensure they can beat Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal to fourth spot?
Doing so would mean they can not only hold on to the talent currently in their squad but also build on it. Failing to do so will mean the vultures begin circling in hope of taking away the star names.
In January, full focus is on smart recruitment as they strive to find new additions that complement the current squad.
'I thought Chelsea played well' - Moyes after West Ham's 3-2 win
Traditionally this is a club that always reaches far and wide in searching for new signings. Typically, they are linked with more players than most other clubs in the Premier League.
Yet this time there is a definite feeling of caution about the profiling involved.
There is a bid to uncover young, hungry talent that can adapt to what has already been unfolding in east London. Players like Nathan Ake and Jesse Lingard are being linked with good reason - they are wanted for being exactly the type of player that can fit the design.
Injuries to Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna mean there is increased pressure to sign a centre back next month, even though there is a feeling that short term the club can get by. Issa Diop and Craig Dawson are going to step up while young defenders Jamal Baptiste and Ajibola Alese are knocking on the door and have been given an opportunity in the Europa League. Alex Kral and Declan Rice could also both move into the back line in case of an emergency.
Manchester City’s Ake is being explored as a potential signing though and is believed to be keen on the prospect if City show they are open to a transfer. Newcastle are keen to reunite him with his old Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe but given the choice between fighting relegation and challenging for the Champions League places, it’s seen as a no-brainer.
Jesse Lingard, «West Ham United»
Image credit: Getty Images
The situation for Lingard is similar. He was excited by the prospect of a fresh start Manchester United yet the arrival of Ralf Rangnick appears to have brought nothing but false hope.
Insiders around West Ham are being led to believe the chance to move for Lingard is back on and they intend to open discussions as soon as the January window allows.
Lingard has other clubs watching his situation but likes the set-up at West Ham and, following his loan spell last season, knows he would fit in.
Ake and Lingard are viewed as the right personalities and quality needed for this next step in the season. And if it plays out as they are hoping then it will persuade star players Rice and Jarrod Bowen not to jump ship.
Rice has admirers across the Premier League with Manchester United, Man City and Chelsea all keen. He has a price-tag of £100million but also needs his contract to reflect that in terms of salary.
Two attempts by the Hammers to extend his deal have now passed by and it is almost impossible for them to satisfy him financially. Reaching the Champions League is their best - perhaps only - chance of keeping him.
Bowen’s case is not quite to the same extent but his performances have caught the attention of various clubs, though Liverpool are most heavily linked.
It is thought the Reds see him as a perfect solution to taking on their front line as they begin to think about life after Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. They believe he has still not reached his potential but that he could be moulded and improved further to make the step towards genuinely being one of the best forward players in the league.
West Ham realise that too and love his progression. But they also realise they must keep showing the ambition and success that can keep him happy.
Plenty of big names will be linked with West Ham in the coming weeks but most should be taken with a pinch of salt. One name doing the rounds recently has been Eden Hazard yet some sources say he is pretty much the exact opposite of how they are trying to recruit right now.
Image credit: Getty Images
This is a period in the club’s history that needs careful planning and very good profiling of signings. An opportunity to break into the top four is extremely rare and making the most of it would have huge benefits.
At the end of this season several players are out of contract and while most are not too significant - see Ryan Fredericks or Andriy Yarmolenko - there are players like Mark Noble also set to leave.
Noble is expected to retire and if that is the case then a key leadership figure would be gone. It’s another reason West Ham could not bear to lose Rice at this moment.
These are heady times in claret and blue and while more neutral onlookers will still be expecting their European challenge to fade and die, you get the feeling that if David Moyes and the recruitment team can deliver in January a very bright future really could lay ahead.