West Ham United’s season started worse than anyone could have expected.
With two wins in 11 games Slaven Bilic was handed his books after the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool. The final straw, and the Croatian was quickly replaced by David Moyes.
It’s hard to say things have improved, three games and two defeats for the Scotsman suggest it is going to be a bleak and long season for the Hammers.
Now, plans must turn not only how to get the best out of the current group of players, but where they could strengthen come January.
West Ham have had success from France in the past. Dmitri Payet, despite his exit, was a superb signing and the same can be said for Diafra Sakho in his first season at Upton Park.
Here are five Ligue 1 stars West Ham could target in January to help them beat the drop this season.
Diego Carlos – Nantes: Centre-Back
Moyes has moved to play a back four, with either four or five midfielders in front of the defence.
Moyes isn’t known for his flexibility in formations, but with 3-5-2 becoming the new tactic of choice, you may see the former Everton man dabble, so he will need centre-backs capable of managing in different formations.
This season in Claudio Ranieri’s stubborn Les Canaris defence, the Brazilian has been his leader. Winning 3.3 tackles per 90 minutes, he also makes 1.2 interceptions and 6.4 clearances.
Impressing as one of the better defenders in Ligue 1 this term, the 24-year-old looks a strong all-rounder and ready to take on the challenge of the Premier League.
Ramy Bensebaini – Rennes: Centre-Back
This 22-year-old Algerian international is as versatile as they come. Signed from Montpellier in 2015, he has shown his hand as a centre-back, full-back and a defensive midfielder. It was no surprise then when new Lille boss Marcelo Bielsa picked him out as a transfer target in the summer.
He wins 2.4 tackles per game, makes one interception and 5.9 clearances in ten appearances. He also wins 3.1 aerial duels per game.
Bensebaini is ideally made to suit any formation Bilic wants to play, either as a centre-back or left centre-back. He could even slot in to either of the midfield positions, with only Benjamin André seeing more of the ball during Rennes’ games this season.
Nordi Mukiele – Montpellier: Right-Back
Signing Pablo Zabaleta on a free was a great move for the Hammers this summer. It gave them an instant experienced upgrade in defence.
However, life as a wing-back hasn’t quite suited him, with the Argentine defender racking up four yellow cards already, two more than anyone else in the squad.
Options in the position are lacking and although the move to a back four suits the 32-year-old, reinforcements are needed.
No one at his club is fouled more than the defender, he completed 1.2 dribbles per 90 and attempts 3.7 crosses. Without the striking power of Steven Mounié this term, three of them are being recorded as inaccurate, but with only 12 goals scored this season, it’s clear there is a lack of fire power up front for La Paillade.
Add Mukiele’s creative spark from the back, his willingness to run up and down the pitch and Bilic would be adding another goal threat and a defender capable of playing at both ends of the pitch.
Malcom – Bordeaux: Winger
Have you met @girondins's Malcom?
— Football Whispers (@FB_WHISPERS) December 1, 2017
Although they lost 6-2 to Paris Saint-Germain last time out, Bordeaux are enjoying an excellent season so far. They have won four games and scored 15 goals.
With six goals and four assists, the play of Brazilian forward Malcom is a huge reason for their success.
Previously a Liverpool transfer target, he is fast becoming one of the most exciting players in France and teams are beginning to sit up and take notice.
Before the bidding war meets a frenzied state, West Ham could try and pounce this winter.
Capable on both feet, the 20-year-old could play on either flank, providing link up play with Chicharito or Andy Carroll and give the Hammers a better option on the flank than Marko Arnautovic.
Malcom is quick, direct, skilful and has a great eye for goal.
With 2.6 shots per 90, 2.7 key passes and 3.1 dribbles completed, he is the type of player you could build your whole attack around.
Plus, there is still time for him to get better. There’s an element of Dimitri Payet about him, but his ceiling is potentially higher than the France international.
Alban Lafont – Toulouse: Goalkeeper
Last term, a spectacular display by Lafont against PSG caught all the headlines and propelled him to the attention of on-looking scouts.
Linked as an Arsenal transfer target, he may have fallen off the radar a little, but that doesn’t mean he has struggled between the posts.
With two clean sheets in eight games for Toulouse, his record of conceding 22 goals this season is skewed by the six they lost against Cavani & Co.
Only two Ligue 1 keepers have made more saves than Lafont’s 47.
Signing Joe Hart on loan from Manchester City could be the Hammers long-term solution, but a move for the 18-year-old would give Bilic a phenomenal talent who has long been touted as the heir to Hugo Lloris’ throne in France.
Lafont still has everything to prove in his career, but he’s a commanding presence a good sweeper and has wonderful reflexes, not qualities you can always see in the England international.