West Ham have just signed Joe Hart on a season-long loan deal. Do you feel Joe Hart will be a good signing for West Ham? It didn’t quite happen for him in Serie A…
I think we need to look at the positives; Joe Hart could have sat around at Man City and seen how it goes, but he wanted to play football so I’ll give him credit for that.
There are question marks over Joe Hart’s England future so he will be coming to West Ham very motivated and with something to prove. West Ham are clearly targeting players who have experience of English football and it can only be a good thing for West Ham to sign motivated players.
West Ham have announced they’ve agreed a club-record fee for Marko Arnautovic. Do you think this is a good deal? Is he a good replacement for Dimitri Payet?
Arnautovic knows the Premier League, having had a few years at Stoke City, and it’s very good that West Ham are taking key players from competitors at a similar level or where the club is aiming to be.
He’s a different player to Dimitri Payet. He’s got pace, he’s got power and he’s just as silky – I think it’s a good signing. Arnautovic can play up front on his own, he can play out wide or he can play in behind, so it gives the manager plenty of options too.
West Ham have activated Javier Hernandez’s £13million buy-out clause. Do you think the club still needs a proven goalscorer? Are you surprised that he’s available so cheap in today’s market?
You can look at his goal-scoring record wherever he has played and £13million is a snip. Even at international level, he’s scored nearly 50 goals in less than 100 appearances so he definitely knows where the back of the net is. He was harshly treated at Manchester United and Mourinho has repeatedly said he wouldn’t have let Hernandez leave the club.
Hernandez is only 29 and he knows the Premier League – for me, clubs have got to be signing these players. If West Ham got someone like Javier Hernandez, it would be a great, great signing.
There’s been a lot of talk about West Ham signing attacking players, but they only conceded five less goals than Sunderland last season. Do you think this is an area that the club needs to strengthen?
West Ham clearly prioritised a new right-back and they were quick to sign Zabaleta. Though he’s 32, I think he has a lot to offer. Like Hart, he joins the club with something to prove and brings a winning mentality. I think he’ll prove to be a good signing.
I think West Ham lacked consistency in their team selection in defence and that’s always a sign that things aren’t going well. West Ham suffered from injuries to the likes of Ogbonna and Reid, but when everyone’s fit, they’ve got four central defenders who have a lot of experience so I don’t think it should be a priority.
Andy Carroll has been plagued by injuries since he joined West Ham. Do you think he’s still a critical player or is there a case for him to leave the club?
When fit, there’s no doubt that Andy Carroll is a great asset to West Ham, but unfortunately you can’t rely on him to stay injury free. I would still keep him around in hope the club can find a formula that will see him training regularly and playing 30 matches per season. When he’s on the pitch, he’s dangerous – his bicycle kick last season was astonishing.
What West Ham do need is more options because they lacked a plan B last season. I think that’s why Bilic is targeting players with pace – the likes of Arnautovic and Hernandez to boost his options.
West Ham have just finished their first season at the London Stadium. It’s a great move for financial reasons, but atmosphere has been questioned. Does that affect performances at all?
It was always going to be difficult to move from Upton Park, where the club has so much history and were playing well. They had so much tradition with the fans right on top of the players, but I don’t think there would have been as many gripes about the stadium move if West Ham were playing well. West Ham just didn’t play well last season – it’s as simple as that. The new players brought in were poor signings and the club suffered from injuries to key players like Carroll and Sakho.
I think there have been a lot of positives from the move to the London Stadium. The Tottenham game showed that there can be a great atmosphere and the stadium will do a lot to finance the club, which the fans will benefit from. The club has helped their loyal support with cheaper tickets and kids are coming into the ground. Children are the club’s future and to get them tickets for the price they’re paying now is fantastic.
Bilic is heading into his third season at the club following a mixed couple of years. What does a good season look like for West Ham next season?
West Ham need to be pushing for the top half of the table. We definitely want to be looking up rather than down when you look at the squad that we’re assembling. A cup run would be great, but the fans want to see more positive and attacking football – definitely at home. It’s important to keep the fans on side by giving performances like we did against Tottenham last year.
There was a lot of expectation when Guardiola came in but he ended last year without a trophy. Do you think he can afford another trophyless season?
Guardiola knows that the pressure is on. He’s already said that he would be out of a job if he was trophyless at Barcelona or Bayern Munich. He’s been given the benefit of the doubt because he took over an ageing squad so there was always going to be a transitional period as players were signed and sold. Guardiola spent £230 million at the start of last season and he’s putting his own stamp on the squad now.
Guardiola made his stamp on the club by signing Claudio Bravo and shipping out Joe Hart. What did you think to the move? The club has just spent nearly £40million on Ederson…
The move definitely hasn’t paid off. Bravo’s weakness is crossed balls and this wasn’t tested in La Liga the way it has been exploited in the Premier League. I always liked a big goalkeeper, someone who can be physically imposing on the opposition. Bravo isn’t big in stature and it was exploited, targeted by the lesser teams.
Kyle Walker has just signed for £50million, the third English player to join Manchester City for a massive fee. What do you think of the signing?
There’s no doubt it’s a lot of money for a right-back, but I think that’s just the market we’re in now. Walker is a good, attacking full-back and it was an area Guardiola clearly had concerns about when he released Zabaleta and Sagna. Walker is a good player, but he’s going to a different level now and he needs to win trophies because he’s cost an awful lot of money.
Do you think it affects young players when they’re signed for such huge sums? Stones and Sterling have struggled to recapture their form at times…
Of course a price tag affects players, it puts a spotlight on you and the likes of Stones and Sterling are still developing. It’s all about the learning process, but they still need to perform consistently to avoid the intense scrutiny.
It has affected John Stones badly not having Vincent Kompany beside him. Stones needs to be looking at the way Kompany plays, he needs to learn how to prioritise defending first. Kompany doesn’t need to look flashy, he doesn’t want to look good at the expense of defending first. Stones wants to play out and be comfortable on the ball, but he can definitely learn the importance of efficiency from Kompany.
Do you think Manchester City can plan a team around Kompany, considering his injury record? Does he need to prove his fitness this season?
It’s very difficult because he makes such a huge improvement to the team when he’s back, he settles the players around him and he’s clearly a leader. There’s a lot of pressure on the physios to keep him fit. It’s soul destroying as a player to be travelling around the world, seeing specialists and undergoing rehab, only for your fitness to not get better. My fingers are crossed that Kompany can get a good season and for Stones to learn besides him.
Alexis Sanchez has strongly been linked with Manchester City and working with Guardiola again. What do you think will happen to Sergio Aguero if he signs?
I think Guardiola would still keep Aguero because Sanchez is so versatile, while Aguero is basically a middle man. I think an issue is there because Guardiola wants him to work harder for the team, but Aguero is a sensational finisher and it would be a huge call to let him go.
Sanchez would be a huge statement signing. Add Sanchez to the likes of Aguero, Jesus, Sane, De Bruyne, Sterling and Silva, and Guardiola really does have an unbelievable squad. If Manchester City sign Sanchez, Guardiola would need to win the Premier League, it’s as simple as that.
Queens Park Rangers
What’s happening with QPR? It has been a slog for the club since being relegated from the Premier League and it’s hard to know if they’re more likely to get promoted or relegated…
I think QPR are at least two or three years away from being promoted to the Premier League again. I look at the squad and I wonder if they will get enough goals. They’ve got Smith, Washington and Mackie, but I don’t know if they have enough goals beyond those three to secure a place in the play-offs. I can see it being another tough season for QPR and their fans.
What do you think to the turnover of both managers and players since Tony Fernandes took ownership of the club? It surely can’t help…
Every manager is different, so every time a new manager comes in there’s a new turnaround of players. It’s key that they choose the right manager and stick with him for at least two or three years. The club needs a long-term plan to move them forward, with small steps over a period of time rather than a new manager coming in and just signing players for the next 12 months.
I do feel that the club is going to move forward with a long-term plan. With the money now, they can compete to sign the level of players that is going to get them to the Premier League, regardless of who is in charge.
Northern Ireland’s next qualifier is away against Czech Republic. The group is shaping up nicely, do you go for the win or aim for a draw?
I think the super thing with Northern Ireland is that we’ve got a small squad and it works to our advantage. We play the same way most of the time. There is a slight variation on formation, but otherwise we keep it tight and aim to nick something on the counter attack. It will be no different away from home against the Czech Republic – we’re very good at set-plays with McAuley and Evans attacking Brunt’s dangerous deliveries. With tight groups, it’s important everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
Does it help Northern Ireland to have such a strong contingent from West Brom? They must know each other inside and out…
That’s a good point. Brunt, Evans and McAuley all know each other’s roles. I think it also helps that we’ve only got about 25 players to pick from; maybe only 18 or 19 we would realistically say are competing for 11 starting positions. We’ve got a great team spirit and camaraderie, and you come into the job without any superstars.
How good a job has Michael O’Neill done at Northern Ireland, considering the resources available?
Michael O’Neill has done a fantastic job, there’s no doubt about that. Michael had a tricky start but the IFA backed him and he has definitely benefited from that. They were probably within their rights to get rid of Michael at the time, but they stuck with him and they’ve been rewarded for it. It’s been great to see how the players have responded to him.
We’re giving away €100,000 to the players who guess the exact time of the first goal in a selected match each week.To get started, first login or register at bwin. You can then make your first attempt, using your free prediction, before receiving more predictions for every €10 staked with us!
Every €10 staked on sports at minimum odds of 1.70 will accumulate you an extra prediction. You can get up to 100 predictions every day. All bets must start and settle on the same day to qualify for the Predictor and you will receive your predictions the following day after your bets settle. If your prediction is correct, enjoy your prize of up to €100,000 cash!
Stay close to the action with the bwin Sports app. Access more markets than any other betting provider and scan our in-depth football statistics menu to find and make your bet selections fast. Download now.