West Ham United have nine league games left to play this season and European football is on the horizon.
The transformation in David Moyes’ team from the brink of relegation to the edge of Europe in little more than a year is remarkable.
Brilliant coaching, a fit team, and one of the lowest injury rates in the league have all played their part, as has excellent recruitment.
But if the club wish to keep on progressing then the squad overhaul will need to continue. The likes of Andriy Yarmolenko, Fabien Balbuena and Manuel Lanzini would free up funds for wages and space in the squad for younger players.
For much of this season that particular trio have had to make do with spots on the bench and have often been unused substitutes. All three have played a part for West Ham during their time at the club but it is time for some fresh blood.
Balbuena’s squad place is likely to be filled by young Dane Frederick Alves graduating to the first-team squad.
Yarmolenko and Lanzini will need replacing with the club aiming to sign Jesse Lingard on a permanent deal and another as yet undecided target to take their spot.
But the key decision Moyes will have to make is upfront. West Ham simply cannot afford to let this season’s progression go to waste and a striker is the priority.
Michail Antonio has scored or assisted 12 goals in 20 league games this season, a solid if unspectacular return. He has also been unavailable for one-third of the Hammers matches this season due to injury and at 31 needs to be looked after.
Signing another striker should not be seen as a threat to Antonio but a player to compliment him as well as challenge him for a starting spot. With Antonio wanting to add international football with Jamaica to his calendar, West Ham have no option to buy a new striker.
Sebastien Haller did not work out at the London Stadium and has not been replaced, he will be this summer and the man heavily linked with the club is Ivan Toney.
The 25-year-old is the Championship’s top scorer this season with 28 goals in 36 appearances and, whether it is with Brentford or elsewhere, is destined for Premier League football next season.
The Bees are currently seven points off the automatic promotion spots but look set for a play-off place. Having lost in the final last season should Thomas Frank’s men fail in their promotion bid once more, Toney will be a wanted man by many in the top tier.
Toney would fit into West Ham’s plans nicely – young, hungry and desperate to prove himself in the Premier League following just two appearances for Newcastle in 2016 in the league. His transfer would follow the path of Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma from Championship teams to West Ham and Ollie Watkins from Brentford to Aston Villa.
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And it is Watkins’ example Toney will wish to emulate, a big-money move followed by Premier League goals and an England call-up inside one season. Watkins transfer fee of £33million also gives a benchmark of the money Toney would cost.
For Antonio, Toney could play alongside him in a two, replace him when the striker needs a rest or even see Antonio play in his previous position as a wide-attacker. Toney, unlike Antonio, has always been a striker and is the more natural finisher of the two.
Toney could be a long-term replacement for the 31-year-old, but for the immediate future, a move to West Ham would not only benefit the Hammers but Antonio as well.