West Ham: Julen Lopetegui has clear summer to get new regime up and running

One man’s post-season is another man's pre-, and as Tottenham and Newcastle's players attempt to muddle through the fog that lies between, at West Ham there is now rare clarity of focus on the campaign ahead.

For all the public pursuit of Julen Lopetegui in the final weeks of David Moyes's reign played badly from a PR sense, the eventually-decisive move to appoint the former Spain and Real Madrid boss as successor means West Ham start their summer without the managerial wonderings that look poised to affect at least a quarter of their Premier League rivals.

Lopetegui, whose arrival on an initial two-year contact was confirmed on Thursday, has already been at the club this week, meeting members of staff and assessing the lay of the land as he prepares to launch into a near-three-month run-up at the new season, which starts on August 17.

No one knows the importance of this summer more acutely than the Spaniard, who walked out of Wolves on the back of a bad one 12 months ago, not sticking around long enough to see the campaign's first ball kicked, having grown frustrated by a lack of backing in the transfer market.

That is unlikely to be an issue this time around. West Ham have invested significant sums in each of the last two summers, but after securing one windfall with Declan Rice's sale, and in anticipation of another should Lucas Paqueta leave now, they are ready to do so again.

How Lopetegui aligns with Tim Steidten will be key to the window's success, with Moyes and the German technical director having clashed over transfer targets behind the scenes.

It is notable that the new man's title is head coach, rather than manager, and Lopetegui has consented to operate under the kind of structure that brought him success at Sevilla. Co-chairman David Sullivan remains a hands-on influence when it comes to transfers, but it is hoped that in giving Steidten increased responsibility, and with the exit of head of recruitment Rob Newman, a crowded process has been streamlined.

"Julen is highly experienced in the way we will now work at West Ham," Steidten said, in a telling line in this morning's announcement.

For all West Ham's season ended with the warm glow of an appreciative Moyes send-off, Lopetegui inherits a team that has taken a downward turn, one that reached the midway point of the season with its highest Premier League points tally, then won only four of its last 19 games.

To halt that decline, there must be a major refresh of an ageing squad this summer.

Julen Lopetegui has promised to make a ‘big noise’ at West Ham (West Ham United)
Julen Lopetegui has promised to make a ‘big noise’ at West Ham (West Ham United)

Of the 15 players to make at least 15 league appearances last term, just one — Mohammed Kudus — is aged younger than 26, and there may be tough calls to be made over some of the stalwarts who have served Moyes so well over the years.

New blood is needed (for the sake of the quota, some of it homegrown) and numbers, too, given how badly West Ham's lack of depth has been exposed since Christmas, albeit with a balance to be struck, since there will be no European football to spread minutes around.

Some solutions may lie within, and Lopetegui, who once coached Spain's Under-19 and U-21 sides to European Championship wins, is likely to be judged at least partly on how he integrates the crop of exciting young players that won the FA Youth Cup 12 months ago, something Moyes struggled to do.

More immediately, though, chief focus will be on fixing a defence that conceded more top-flight goals last term than all bar the three relegated sides.

Centre-half has become a problem position and at least one marquee signing is expected, as well as a new right-back, but there is also a lost collective resilience to be restored, following tame thumpings at Crystal Palace and Chelsea in the season's final month.

At the other end of the pitch, a proper centre-forward to ease the scoring burden on Jarrod Bowen is a must, while a verdict over Paqueta's betting investigation cannot come soon enough. Should the Brazilian be cleared and sold to Manchester City, it will likely take two signings — a left-winger and No10 — to fill the void.

Ultimately, though, this will all be preamble, and what Lopetegui will need above all come the start of the season to appease the underwhelmed is simply to start well, with the kind of snap that breathed swift life into Ange Postecoglou's Tottenham tenure last summer and has Palace full of optimism under Oliver Glasner now.