West Ham United look to be turning to an Italian duo to rescue what has become a dire campaign.
Matters at Upton Park have seemingly been dour since an opening day victory over Cardiff gave false hope of a successful season.
Even a brilliant comeback against Tottenham in the quarter-finals of the League Cup was spoilt in the most disheartening way possible – a thorough 9-0 aggregate beatdown at the hands of Manchester City in the following round.
The path to any sort of glory seems completely blocked for Sam Allardyce’s men, and so far in the January transfer window any sort of relief is yet to arrive, providing you discount the loan of Roger Johnson.
But hope looms in the form of Serie A pair Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino – both of whom have been tipped for an imminent arrival in east London, even if Allardyce has downplayed reports that they will soon join up.
The two would provide reinforcement in two areas where West Ham have struggled mightily – in front of goal and the centre of the park.
Fitness issues have forced the Hammers to rely heavily on Carlton Cole, brought in as an emergency addition, up front.
Borriello could supply a steady finishing touch that’s been lacking. Having shown for a trio of Italy’s most illustrious clubs in AC Milan, Juventus and AS Roma, he has a firm grasp on what it means to be under pressure.
And he knows how to succeed with the underdog as well. Indeed, two of the 30-year-old’s three best seasons came on loan at Genoa – for whom he struck 31 goals in 63 league appearances.
A traditional target man, Borriello is a physical presence that has the tools to do the business as part of Allardyce’s rough-and-tumble system.
Further back from the man leading the line, Nocerino would be tasked with bringing industry to a midfield that has been overrun all too often over the campaign.
The greatest knock against the 28-year-old – now a fringe figure at San Siro in the aftermath of a career-year in 2011-12 – is that he lacks the technical skill to exist in a free-flowing side.
Yet, a silky midfielder isn’t what West Ham need – solidity is what’s required, and Nocerino is a tireless runner that doesn’t give adversaries a moment’s respite.
Like his countryman in Borriello, the Italian boasts Champions League experience but has also shone in less glossy environments – most notably an overachieving Palermo side.
Both players have become marginalised by their current employers – Borriello as part of Rudi Garcia’s high-flying Roma and Nocerino in a Milan outfit overloaded with midfield options.
But Upton Park looks an ideal destination. They’ve adapted to new surroundings before and aren’t the type of temperamental players that take long spells to settle in.
A new challenge would offer them plenty of motivation with West Ham in a difficult situation, shocking life into the two prospective additions and their lacklustre suitors.
One thing is certain for West Ham – things need to change if circumstances are to improve, and a couple of solid signings could do just that. Signings who’ve been under duress before, are desperate to get minutes and are suited for the harsh state of affairs they’d be thrust into.
image: © Ben Sutherland