After a less than pleasing debut season at the London Stadium last year, West Ham fans may be surprised at suddenly being quietly hopeful about the new campaign after their recent summer business.
The arrival of Manchester City duo Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart has added much-needed Premier League experience to the ranks in east London, whilst Marko Arnautovic will add attacking impetus.
But it’s a man in the shape of a pocket-sized forward that is the real marquee signing as far as the Hammers are concerned this summer, with boss Slaven Bilic well and truly pulling a rabbit out of the hat to beat off competitors and secure the signing of ex-Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez.
To think that West Ham have managed to secure a player of Hernandez’s talent for just £16 million defies belief given the current state of the market, but supporters certainly won’t be complaining.
The 29-year-old, who has been on extended summer break due to his involvement in the FIFA Confederations Cup last month with Mexico, was awarded his first taste of football in a West Ham shirt last night as the Hammers almost came unstuck against German fifth-tier outfit Altona 93.
Although he only came on in the 70th minute it’s fair to say that he gave a glimpse of what he will bring to the Premier League, showing some sharp passing and playing Edimilson Fernandes through on goal – to fire wide – before nearly winning it himself with an effort expertly cleared off the line.
For a first game back, and for a friendly, his movement and tenacity in the opposition half was very impressive, constantly sitting on the shoulder of the last defender and looking to exploit the space in behind.
This productivity up front will be a breath of fresh air for West Ham – who struggled for goals at times last year after Mikhail Antonio’s untimely injury – and at last they have a renowned, proven goal-scorer.
And perhaps one of the reasons that Hernandez will be successful this season is his never-ending desire to succeed at the highest level. Speaking to the Evening Standard just last week, he insisted:
“For me it is the most competitive [league] in the world.
“There are no easy games, you can see that the top 10 can change a lot. The Premier League challenges you and that is why I am here – I want to improve.
“I’m very desperate for the season to start now, and help the team to achieve their objectives.”
He became a cult hero during his five-year spell at Old Trafford, scoring 59 goals in 157 appearances for United, and it is fair to say that he played an influential part in winning two Premier League titles there.
It seems highly appropriate then that his Premier League debut for his new side is likely to come against his former side, with West Ham travelling to Manchester on August 12 for their new season opener, and it’d be a brave man to bet against ‘Chicharito’ showing his old side what they’re missing out on.