How West Ham's Strongest XI Could Look by the Start of Next Season

As it stands, the dream for West Ham supporters is survival in the Premier League. Yes, they sit in 16th place, but that is just three goals away from the drop zone in one of the closest relegation dog-fights the top flight has seen in recent years.

However, there is a feeling that the Hammers have the squad depth needed to find a way out of this mess once the Premier League season resumes - even if their fixture list is the stuff of nightmares.

Should the Hammers remain in the division for next season, the squad will need some more bolstering. But only a bit. For the most part, there is quality throughout the squad, but too many of their players blow hot and cold.

Here's how they could look next season with a few tweaks here and there.

GK - Łukasz Fabiański

It hasn’t been the best season for West Ham goalkeepers. Fabiański, David Martin, Darren Randolph and Roberto have all made costly blunders while keeping goal for the Irons.

But David Moyes’ Polish number one is far and away his best shot-stopper. He may have just turned 35, but if a goalkeeper doesn’t one day become a veteran, are they even a goalkeeper? Formerly of Arsenal and Swansea, Fabiański has represented his nation 52 times, but many forget this is only his second season in east London.

West Ham had a tough run of fixtures following his return from a hip injury in December, but Fabiański is largely free from blame since making his way back into the side. A clean sheet against Manchester United and a penalty save from Leicester City’s Demarai Gray are undoubtedly his highlights so far this term.

RB - Nathaniel Clyne

One day, Pablo Zabaleta will stop being 35 and start being 36, which is where it starts to get a bit silly. Zabaleta has been a brilliant import to the Premier League, but he and Ryan Fredericks have both struggled to make a palpable impression on the right back berth. Reserve player Jeremy Ngakia came in for an injured Fredericks before football’s break and did as well as either of them.

A product of the Crystal Palace academy just down the road, Clyne made his name as England’s big hope down the right side for Southampton, Liverpool and Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions. Injuries have plagued his trajectory though, and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s startling emergence hasn't help.

The Bournemouth stint didn’t work out perfectly, but then the south coasters aren’t as expansive and progressive as the Hammers in their playing style. Jürgen Klopp has admiration for his professionalism and talent, but it needs to fit a system that’s fluid. West Ham would seem an apt fit.

CB - John Stones

A teammate of Clyne’s for England on five occasions, it’s hard to know whether Stones’ career has even progressed since his big money move from Everton to Manchester City in the summer of 2016.

How much of a role has he played in winning two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two EFL Cups? Why hasn’t he continued his incredible form from the 2018 FIFA World Cup for Gareth Southgate’s England? Why does he seem to take six weeks longer than other players to shake off minor injuries? So many questions with so few answers.

But a number of teams have set their sights on Stones. There is a terrific player in there somewhere and it would be worth taking a punt on him.

Alongside a more solid, bulldozing defender in Issa Diop, perhaps Stones could enjoy the more adventurous role that he most loves to play. And if it didn’t work? He’s got enough on the highlight reel to be easily sellable come next summer.

CB - Issa Diop

What a player this 23-year-old is turning out to be. Capped at every age group besides senior level by France, Diop is one of the biggest aerial threats in the English game. With strength and stamina in bucketloads, selling Diop now would be two things: lucrative and ludicrous.

His discipline has also improved since he moved to England. Then again, it’s not hard to improve on a record of 25 yellow cards in just three seasons. That was his record with Toulouse in France, before arriving in London in 2018.

A partnership with Stones would, on the face of it, be well-balanced, but Diop would likely partner up well with almost any centre back. He has a big future ahead of him, so much so that he has frequently been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham.

LB - Aaron Cresswell

Capped three times by England, Cresswell has been a consistently hard worker defensively and a capable crosser in attacking areas since swapping Ipswich Town for West Ham back in 2014. A technically good full back who would also flourish in a more advanced wing-back role, West Ham fans know all too well of his secret talent - sterling free kicks. Manchester United are also fully aware...

They say, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,’ and that stands here. Cresswell is among the better left backs in the Premier League and West Ham’s higher forces would be doing a needless thing if they went bundling into the transfer window to replace a well-established full back.

Can they improve on him and keep it within budget? No, probably not.

CM - Declan Rice

Those who feel Declan Rice has not only had a poor season but is a bad player in general - and there are lots of them - are just plain wrong. Not since Mark Noble have the West Ham faithful been able to watch such a classy midfield operator strut around the senior team of the club he progressed at.

Chelsea have been heavily linked - and of course Mason Mount is his lifelong best friend - but Rice is expected to remain in the east London claret and blue for a season longer. While developing alongside Noble has been both career-forging and character-building, the Hammers legend is likely to be gradually phased out of the first team in the next couple of campaigns.

West Ham and England have a new Michael Carrick in the making, and the Irons would be crazy to let him leave anytime soon.

CM - Tomáš Souček

He only joined on loan in January, but in his four league appearances so far Souček has looked very handy - just as he has done for Slavia Prague since 2014 and the Czech Republic since 2016.

The loan deal does have an option to buy at the end of the season, though his contributions so far have been limited due to the coronavirus outbreak. But David Moyes may not need to see too much more of him. In the Czech Republic, they’re as excited about Souček as they have been about any export to Europe’s top five leagues for a long time.

He would only cost £13m, a fraction of what they could sell him for, even if he hit a spell of lacklustre form. Not only is he a trustworthy defensive midfielder or number eight, he has a commendable goalscoring record. 11 goals in 24 games combined for Slavia and the Czech Republic this season before hopping on the plane to the London Stadium ain't half bad at all.

RM - Jarrod Bowen

Hull City fans will tell you that Jarrod Bowen has the world at his feet. They’d be right, too. Not only does Bowen offer a regular spree of goals, but he is very adaptable. Hull got success out of him on the right, through the middle, and even as the sole focal point up top.

In their headline signing of the most recent January window, West Ham prised him away from Yorkshire for around £20m. He has already impressed, scoring in the Premier League against Southampton on his debut.

England call-ups are never too far away for players who possess this sort of talent. If Bowen makes an impact on the right for the Irons next season, the phone might just start to ring.

AM - Pablo Fornals

Possibly the most crucial role in making this 4-2-3-1 system work, the number ten position should go to Pablo Fornals. The diminutive Spaniard honed his skills in La Liga with Málaga and Villarreal, before the Hammers forked out a sizeable £24m for his obvious promise last summer.

Manuel Lanzini does still exist, yes, but Fornals has scored four times for West Ham this season., which is four times more than the Argentinian. Fornals, a Spain international, could grow into quite some player if Moyes offers him the freedom of the London Stadium's final third.

LM - Felipe Anderson

He has been worse this season compared to last, granted, but Felipe Anderson has way too much raw ability to simply be sold or condemned to the bench.

In that pocket behind the centre forward that creative players love, he has admittedly struggled. Out wide on the left though, his pace, drive and skill can expose and embarrass top full backs and covering centre halves.

On an off day, he can look lost, frustrated and similar to an out-of-form Dimitri Payet - sorry for bringing him up - but when he’s firing on all cylinders, like he was during the 2018/19 season, Anderson is one of the Premier League's most entertaining wingers.

ST - Michail Antonio

Would it be a waste to shove a rapid, energetic and powerful winger into the number nine role? No, not if they have taken to it as well as Michail Antonio this season.

West Ham fans have come to consider Antonio as one of their favourite players, partly because of his bizarre celebrations but mainly because he lives up to his reputation as a big game player and an impact man.

Called-up to the England squad by both Sam Allardyce and Gareth Southgate but never capped, Antonio was injured earlier in the season but came back to perform well before football was abruptly halted.

Antonio should be given the trust to lead the line on his own, and if that doesn’t work out, Frenchman Sébastien Haller could certainly come straight in as a useful deputy.

Source : 90min