West Ham: 2018/19 Premier League Preview

West Ham have got a new manager and a lot of new players as they aim to break into the elite of the Premier League.


REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Manuel Pellegrini has already made some statement signings at West Ham as the club tries to break into the elite section of the Premier League. The club have spent around £100 million in search of stars and the fans must be delighted to see them spending money at the levels of those at the top of the division.

For West Ham, this is a real opportunity to lay foundations for the future as they truly make the London Stadium home after floundering since moving there a couple of seasons ago. They have spent the money; they have the stadium and now they have the manager, but can West Ham break into the Premier League’s elite?

2017/18 Season Review

13th place was hardly what West Ham fans were looking for last season after they spent big on players like Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez.

However, the club managed to avoid relegation after flirting with the drop zone for most of the season. The early days were clouded with speculation about Slaven Bilic’s position at the club and he was eventually replaced by David Moyes in November.

Moyes just about steadied the ship, but West Ham were still poor throughout the second half of the campaign and finished with just 42 points.

REUTERS/Adam Holt

The key players of last season are all back again. Arnautovic was the obvious star as he scored 11 Premier League goals, whilst Hernandez under-performed, though still scored the second most on the team with eight strikes.

After those two, West Ham really struggled and their paltry goal tally of 48 will need to be improved if they are to finish in the top half this coming season. 

Who’s In?

Felipe Anderson

Age: 25

Position: RW/LW

Fee: £38 million

West Ham went all out to get an attacking spark this summer, and they decided that Lazio player Felipe Anderson fits the mould perfectly.

REUTERS/Adam Holt

Last season he was a bit-part player for the Italian giants, but when he did play he was outstanding, netting four goals and making seven assists in just 21 games – only nine of which were starts. The Hammers will hope that Anderson benefits from regular game time and justifies the lofty fee spent on him. 

Issa Diop

Age: 21

Position: CB

Fee: £25 million

Defence was an area in desperate need of improvement for West Ham and Diop fits the bill perfectly to be a strong Premier League centre back. He captained Toulouse last season and has made 85 appearances for the club already at such a young age.

Four Four Two magazine called Diop “a tremendous athlete, excellent in the air and quick across the ground” – high praise for the new defender. 

Andriy Yarmolenko

Age:28

Position: RW

Fee: £20 million

Borussia Dortmund parted with around £20 million to sign Yarmolenko from Dynamo Kyiv last summer but he never seemed to fit in at the German giants. He is a talented winger with a real eye for goal – he netted 137 goals in 341 games for Kyiv.

REUTERS/John Clifton
Last season he struggled to get going, but he still managed to score six goals despite the limited game time. He will bring West Ham plenty of creativity and a real attacking presence. Mainly though, he will be a goal threat.

Lukasz Fabianski

Age: 33

Position: GK

Fee: Free transfer

West Ham’s fans will already be familiar with Fabianski as he has spent most of his career in England with Arsenal and Swansea City. A very competent ‘keeper, Fabianski will push for a starting spot, but will face stiff competition from Adrian. 

Fabian Balbuena

Age: 26

Position: CB

Fee: £4 million

The Paraguay international lands at the London Stadium with little fanfare, but he could become an important part of the team if he can settle in early.

A competent defender, he is very good in the air but also capable of playing the ball out of the defence. The worry is that he struggles to adapt to England like many South American players before him.

Ryan Fredericks

Age: 25

Position: RB

Fee: Free transfer

It is really difficult to find any fault with this transfer as West Ham secured one of the best players in the Championship last season for nothing.

REUTERS/John Clifton
Fredericks has a lot going for him and fits the mould of modern full back that every team loves to have. The one weakness may be his physicality, but in the modern age of defending, Fredericks ticks just about every box.

Jack Wilshere

Age: 26

Position: CM

Fee: Free transfer

Another smart bit of business for the Hammers as they secured England international Jack Wilshere on a free transfer. His contract came up at the end of the season and it was rumoured that he was going to remain with the Gunners, but he opted for a move away in search of regular first team football. 

We all know what Wilshere can bring – creativity, tenacity, and energy – but the main knock on him is his fitness levels and West Ham will hope he can get over his injury woes of the past.

Who’s Out?

Reece Burke is the only player West Ham have received a fee for this summer as they sold him for around £1 million to Hull City. Also leaving is James Collins and Patrice Evra and they are still without clubs.

Predicted Lineup

Pellegrini lined up with a 4-4-2 when he was in charge of Manchester City, but at West Ham he lacks the strikers that he had back then. A 4-2-3-1 seems to be the most logical formation to play, therefore, as Andy Carroll has been ruled out injured. He could, however, deploy Arnautovic and Chicharito together.

West Ham are likely to play a more possession-based game with Mark Noble and Jack Wilshere marshalling the midfield. Their full backs are also likely to be overlapping whenever they can to make the Hammers one of the best attacking sides in the league.

The worry is at centre back as Winston Reid has been ruled out for the early part of the season. They will rely heavily on Diop to fit in quickly. In goal, there will likely be a battle between Adrian and Fabianski. It will be interesting to see who can come out on top in that battle.

Manuel Lanzini, too, injured his cruciate ligaments prior to the World Cup, which means he’ll miss the start of the season. This could see Anderson moved centrally, Arnautovic on the flank and Hernandez up front.

The Key Question: Will the changes come together ?

Last season West Ham suffered greatly because their big signings really struggled to fit into the team early on. Arnautovic was poor until Moyes took over and Hernandez struggled all season to fit into the side.

This year they have swung for the fences again and it feels like their season will hinge on whether their new players can hit the ground running.

REUTERS/Matthew Childs

On paper, the team looks far stronger this year. But what if the foreign signings fail to fit in? What if Wilshere picks up an injury? 

The Hammers are ultimately relying on their transfer business to propel them forward and if their new signings work, Pellegrini will be in for a great season.

Prediction

Best case

Can West Ham really have ambitions to get into the top six? The strength in depth of those sides is frightening, and while the Hammers have spent over £100 million and hired a world class manager, they will do well to even compete with them over 38 games.

That being said, the best case scenario is that two of those sides underachieve which paves the pay for a fifth-placed finish. Certainly, West Ham can lay claim to being the best of the rest in the Premier League and with a bit of luck they could make inroads into the division’s elite.

Worst case

Relegation? They came pretty close last season to going down and the turmoil that ensued throughout last year should still worry fans. 

The owners took a big risk with the London Stadium and so far the reception to the move has been lukewarm at best. Fans of the club are longing for a return to the good old days of Upton Park and if the club are not producing on the pitch, the atmosphere can turn toxic fast.

If the new players fail to bed in and the manager struggles then West Ham could be in a world’s worth of trouble.

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Realistically, West Ham will struggle to break into the top six. But they are certainly in pole position to finish as the best of the rest in the division.

A seventh-place finish would represent great progress and give the club an outside chance of European football. Why not target a trophy as well? They have not won anything since 1980.

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