COMMENT By Matt Farr
Slaven Bilic is growing under increased pressure. The January transfer window was a mild success for him, bringing in Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass, but it could have been a lot better.
With West Ham 11th in the Premier League, the expectation is that Bilic’s side can rediscover some consistency and push for European qualification – just like last season.
However, if that does not happen in the next six months, West Ham have reportedly lined-up ex-Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini as their chosen saviour.
The Italian would bring fresh ideas and a fresh approach to the Olympic Stadium for next season, but he would also look to put his own stamp on the West Ham squad.
With that in mind, here are three players that Mancini could look to sign in the summer, if he takes over in east London.
One of the main problem areas for West Ham is right-back. Bilic went looking for reinforcements in the position last month, but came away with nothing. However, Mancini – or whoever it may be – would have much more luck in the summer.
One area that West Ham can look to exploit will be the free-agent market, with a host of quality Premier League names set to be available in six months’ time. Among those names is a former Mancini favourite, Pablo Zabaleta.
The pair worked together during Mancini’s four-year spell at Manchester City, and the 32-year-old was a regular part of his plans.
However, his days at the Etihad appear to be numbered, with negotiations yet to begin over extending his current deal beyond the end of the season.
West Ham would likely have to subsidise a hefty wage demand to land the Argentina international, but he would be a fantastic asset.
An experienced customer and two-time Premier League champion, Zabaleta would solve many of West Ham’s defensive problems. His leadership and tenacity would also be of great value, and despite his advancing years, still has the ability to perform at the top level.
Another right-back option could be former Newcastle defender Davide Santon. Mancini worked with Santon at Inter Milan, and could look to bring him back to the Premier League.
The 26-year-old could be available in the summer after falling down the pecking-order at San Siro under current boss Stefano Pioli.
He began the season as first-choice, but has played just 13 minutes of Serie A football since November 6; and West Ham would be able to offer him more regular action.
Santon’s versatility could become the greatest asset to West Ham, as he could be an option on both sides of the defence, meaning he could also provide cover for Aaron Cresswell at left-back.
He is also a fairly adept crosser of the ball, which meets many of West Ham’s current full-back/wing-back criteria.
The 26-year-old was a solid performer in the top-flight during his days at Newcastle, and Mancini would be able to rely on him to do the business once again.
A second potential Inter Milan raid could be for Gary Medel. The Chile international is a no-nonsense defensive-midfielder, and could help West Ham in their midfield battle.
Cheikhou Kouyate has been fantastic as a ball-winning midfielder, and Medel could provide another top-class option.
He has often been deployed more recently as a central defender, but that can only be of benefit to the Hammers, because he can perform both roles exceptionally.
The 29-year-old has previous Premier League experience with Cardiff, but brings much more substantial international and European experience to the table with Inter and Sevilla.
He does have a tendency to let his aggression take charge, but it does make his tackling and ball-retention skills more worthwhile.
As of the summer, Medel with have just one year left on his contract, providing Mancini with a decent opportunity to seek a reunion with one of his former players.
In other West Ham transfer news, Slaven Bilic has admitted he would welcome the return of this club legend to West Ham.