- Expected formation: 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1
- Expected line-up: Hart; Zabaleta, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell; Obiang, Noble; Antonio (Ayew/Snodgrass whilst injured), Lanzini, Arnautovic; Chicharito
- Penalties: Noble, Lanzini, Carroll, Arnautovic
- Direct free-kicks: Lanzini, Arnautovic, Cresswell, Noble, Snodgrass
- Corners: Lanzini, Noble, Arnautovic, Snodgrass, Cresswell
- Indirect free-kicks: Lanzini, Noble, Carroll, Arnautovic
- Opening fixtures: Mun (A), Sou (A), New (A), HUD (H), Wba (A), TOT (H), SWA (H), Bur (A), BRI (H), Cry (A)
Coming off the back of a successful league campaign in 2015/16, waving goodbye to the Boleyn Ground with a 7th place finish and a place in Europe, Hammers fans moved to their new home in Stratford with hopes and dreams for taking that next step as a club.
After an early exit from Europe, and a defeat on the opening day to eventual champions Chelsea, it all looked rosy with a 1-0 win in their first league game at the London Stadium. Then it turned ugly – they would only garner one more point in the following five games, that being a 1-1 draw with struggling Middlesbrough, a run that included conceding four goals in back-to-back games against both Watford and West Brom.
The 2015/16 bubble had well and truly burst. In what would be a turbulent season for West Ham, filled with fighting in the stands, contract disputes, and injuries to key players at key times, they finished in the bottom half of the table, 17 points adrift of the previous season’s total.
But this season will be better, right? So, let’s have a look at some of this year’s crop of Hammers.
The New Boys
I feel West Ham have done some excellent business this summer. They have brought in players with Premier League experience and a guaranteed goal scorer, at a mere snip of the huge figures that have been thrown around Europe.Embed from Getty Images
I was expecting Joe Hart to be more expensive than the £4.5m that he is, especially as a four-time winner of the Golden Glove award (for most clean sheets in a PL season). He certainly has the Premier League pedigree to be one of the high ranked keepers, or at least middle of the road at £5.0m.
As the unchallenged No.1 for a Manchester City side that won two Premier League titles and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, Joe was a highly consistent FPL points scorer, scoring over 100 points in all but two of the ten seasons he’s played in.
With the sale of Randolph to Middlesbrough, and the increasing amount of speculation around a possible move for Adrian too, Hart could find himself as the unchallenged No.1 for West Ham this season too, and could thus prove a shrewd signing at £4.5m.
Chicharito (£7.0m) could prove to be one of the bargains of the season, with top clubs paying in excess of 50 to 80 million pounds on strikers this window, the £16m release clause on Little Pea’s Bayer contract looks a real oversight for many. Hernandez has been a goal scorer everywhere he’s gone, with a truly impressive scoring rate.
In the Premier League for United, Hernandez scored 37 league goals in 103 appearances (only 22 of which he went from first to final whistle), averaging a goal every 131 minutes, that’s less than a goal every 1 ½ matches. He is a player that craves game time, but he is potent with whatever minutes he gets.
Hernandez was born to score goals, netting 136 goals in 344 career appearances, that’s the same as scoring a goal every 2 ½ games. So, putting that ration to this season, you could expect him to bag at least 15 goals. Could be even better if he plays every game at his Man United ratio of a goal every game and a half, that could mean a whopping 26 goals! And for a bargain £7.0m, that’s exciting stuff.Embed from Getty Images
Having now moved to what he calls “a bigger club”, Marko Arnautovic (£7.0m) should now look to make that next step up to being a more consistent scorer in both goals and FPL points. The Austrian took a dip last season, only recording 6 goals compared to his 2015/16 tally off 11. Although he did improve his teamwork, delivering 7 assists for teammates, up from 6 the previous campaign.
Arnautovic was the main man at Stoke, although they had the likes of Shaqiri (£6.0m) and Bojan (£5.5m), it was usually Marko would look to control a game with dynamic runs forward into the opposition defence, as well as his duties on the set-pieces. He won’t find this upon his immediate arrival at West Ham, with the likes of talisman Mark Noble (£5.5m), marauding engine man Antonio, and silky boots himself, Lanzini, the Austrian will have to put in the effort and determination to be seen as the main man in Stratford.
As I write, Marko is only owned by 2.9% of managers which could find him in the differential category, especially compared to other £7.0m midfielders like Zaha (23.6%), Willian (14.4%), and Wijnaldum (7.5%). Though he is a doubt for the opening game, he could certainly be one to keep an eye on.
There were two standout players for the Boleyn boys last season, Michail Antonio (£7.5m) and Manuel Lanzini (£7.0m). With 133 points, Lanzini just edged out his teammate by a single point, although Antonio played six fewer games than the Argentinian.
Antonio was like a man possessed at the start of last season. He was the only bright spark in a team that lost 5 out of their first 6 games, with Antonio scoring 5 goals in that time. Although he couldn’t sustain that form, he remained an integral part of West Ham’s attack, providing a further 5 assists and 4 goals, from a mainly RWB position.
A hamstring injury prematurely ended his season, but with an expected return towards the end of August, and reinforcements in the right-back slot in the form of new signing Pablo Zabaleta (£5.0m), he could be positioned further up the wing with more freedom to attack, so could be one to drop into your team in a few gameweeks time.
As Dimitri Payet’s heir apparent, Lanzini was forced to step up when the disruptive Frenchman finally forced his way out of the club back in January. Hammers fans needn’t have worried, as Manuel went on to add to his tally of 3 goals with 3 assists and 5 more goals in the second half of the season. Including a memorable winner in the home game against Spurs to all but end their London rivals’ title challenge.
Lanzini always looks to control a game from his No.10 pocket in behind the striker, and now with a player like Chicharito in front of him looking to run in behind the defenders, the opportunity for insightful passes from the little Argentinian could prove very appealing for FPL managers. The only worry could be the resulting domino effect that Neymar’s transfer to PSG has caused, with Coutinho (£9.0m) strongly believed to be soon out the Anfield door, and rumours growing that Lanzini could be he replacement for the Reds.
Moving to a new home is never easy, and although they have not had the best pre-season (winning only won one of their six games), I feel they will do well this season. However, their new home is rearing a negative head again for managers looking to have West Ham players at the start.
Due to the Athletics World Championships running until the Sunday of GW1 in the London Stadium, West Ham won’t have their first home game until GW4 against Huddersfield, instead facing three tricky away trips to St Mary’s, St James’ Park, and Old Trafford on the opening weekend.
After the opening three fixtures, the games do look better, at least on paper. Besides from shutouts against Spurs and Everton, most of West Ham’s clean sheets last season came against teams in the bottom half of the league. So, with facing teams like Crystal Palace, Swansea, and Watford, you could see their defenders producing a good return by the time gameweek 15 comes around, and they face Man City (A), Chelsea (H), and Arsenal (H), in what could be a troubling couple of weeks for the Hammers.
All in all, they have done well this transfer window, making sensible signings either to reinforce positions where bodies were lacking (such as right-back, and up front), or improving upon the existing players (like Hart coming in for Randolph).
Now that they’ve had a year to settle in and having made some astute signings during the summer, I believe this season will be much better for the Hammers and the bubbles will float high above East London once again. Maybe even all the way over to Europe.