It looked like Michail Antonio was going to be used as West Ham’s starting right-back this season after he impressed there towards the end of the last campaign. However, he made mistakes against Domzale and Chelsea, which led to him being removed from the position. It was the right move as Antonio is much better when used on the wing and could have become a liability at right-back. He doesn’t have the defensive experience in terms of positioning and could be targeted by the opposition, as Chelsea showed last week. Also, he is needed on the wing after the injury to Andre Ayew.
At the weekend, West Ham fielded Sam Byram at right-back and he impressed in his first league start of the season. During the match, he showed his defensive qualities in terms of positioning and reading the game. He made six interceptions and worked hard, getting up to support his side’s attack. Byram may lack the attacking quality possessed by Antonio, but he certainly gives the side balance and won’t make as many errors defensively.
Although he played well against Bournemouth, he was unlucky not to be sent off. He made two poor challenges in one passage of play and could easily have been given two bookings, but he was lucky and received just one. The former Leeds defender lacks experience at this level and it would be a risk for West Ham to enter the season with him as their only natural right-back. He has lots of potential and could develop into a fine player this season. However it is unlikely he will be able to play in every match and as such further reinforcements are required.
West Ham are likely to be playing in the Europa League group stages this season and need to have a squad deep enough to deal with that. They need to bring in a right-back ideally otherwise they will be asking too much of Byram or playing Antonio out of position. Slaven Bilic needs to let Antonio focus on playing as a winger and bring in another natural right-back to compete with Byram.
They have been linked with a move for Daryl Janmaat, which could be a shrewd move by the club. He has experience in the Premier League with Newcastle and is a great option going forwards. His defensive contribution is questionable at times, but if utilised correctly, he could be one of the better full-backs in the league. As Newcastle are now in the Championship, Janmaat would be available for a reasonable fee, making him a good option for West Ham.
It will be interesting to see how West Ham approach their transfer business before the deadline as it is clear that they still need to strengthen in a few areas. The injuries to Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll leave a gaping hole in attack. They may view striker as a position that needs strengthening ahead of right-back, despite them clearly needing to buy another player there to support Byram.
At the moment, they are one injury away from having to field somebody out of position. They were in that situation when Aaron Cresswell got injured, but luckily the transfer window was open, which allowed them to bring in another left-back. Squad building is crucial, especially for a club in the Europa League. In the past, clubs have suffered in the league due to injuries picked up in Europe. West Ham need to learn from the mistakes of others, which makes signing a right back a priority.