Season preview 14/15: WEST HAM UNITED

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 23.24.22As West Ham edge closer to moving into the Olympic Stadium, owners David Gold and David Sullivan have turned their attentions to where they see the club in the coming years. The question of who will lead them into their new home however is far from clear at this point. Last season saw the Hammers fighting within the lower half of the table for safety when both Gold and Sullivan were hoping for more than manager Sam Allardyce delivered.

The manager is not for turning though it seems. In spite of a ringing chorus of boos which greeted the final whistle on multiple occasions last season, Allardyce remains commited to his own methods and style of management. A string of transfers have been sanctioned, but questions remain over whether Allardyce will keep his job beyond the end of the season. Relations between the manager and the boardroom were again strained over the disputed involvement of troubled playmaker Ravel Morrison. No wonder then that most of the bookies make ‘Big Sam’ favourite for the first sacking of the season.

Last season: 14th

Odds: 400/1

In: Mauro Zarate (Velez Salsfield, Undisclosed), Cheikou Kouyate (Standard Liege, £7 million), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, Free), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12 million), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, Loan)

Out: George McCartney (Free), Joe Cole (Aston Villa, Free), Matt Taylor (Burnley, Free), Stephen Henderson (Charlton Athletic,Free), Callum Driver (Free)

Whats New?

Given the somewhat hostile atmosphere around Upton Park last season, it’s no surprise that steps have been taken to right some of the wrongs. West Ham looked lost last season without Andy Carroll that Carlton Cole was re-signed to paper over the cracks left by the former’s absence.

The signings of both Mauro Zarate and Enner Valencia will provide both cover and competition for the injury prone target man. Zarate arrives at West Ham on the back of a successful season at Velez Salsfield and already has previous experience of the Premier League with Birmingham. Three goals at the World Cup for Ecuador engineered a move for Valencia, who provides more pace and strength as well as a keen eye for goal.

Aside from up front, Allardyce has also opted to strengthen the team at full back, where West Ham were more often than not found lacking last season. Ipswich’s Aaron Cresswell has signed to plug the gap left by Razvan Rat’s premature departure and Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson has arrived to provide competition for Guy Demel.

To compliment the excellent performances of standout midfielder Mark Noble, Cheikou Kouyate and Diego Poyet have been signed as well. Kouyate provides a steely midfield presence that the team lacked somewhat, whilst Poyet has been billed as one of the most exciting players in the Championship last season.

Key Player

As was the same with last season, Andy Carroll will miss a significant part of the campaign with yet another serious injury. Academy graduate and midfield stalwart Mark Noble will be tasked with controlling the play and breaking up the opposition’s advances. His consistency and willingness to contribute at both ends of the pitch will be pivotal as Kevin Nolan’s ability and importance to the side diminish with every season.

One to Watch

All eyes will be on Enner Valencia when the new season kicks off. His performances in Brazil showed that the young forward had the skill, strength, pace and a keen eye for goal. Questions will be asked of how well Valencia can adapt to the Premier League, having come from Mexican side Pachuca, and whether he was worth the £12 million outlay. If he can repeat his national team performances at club level, Valencia will prove an inspired signing.

Season prediction

This season will be a crucial one for both the manager and the club. Whether ‘Big Sam’ can stand the test of time remains to be seen, but the potential to press on from last season is there. The performance of the team will depend largely on whether they can adapt their style to cope with the absence of Andy Carroll. West Ham cannot afford to write off four months worths of matches to put all their hopes on the target man striker. If Zarate or Valencia can find form, then expect the another mid table finish – just don’t hold out for an expansive, counter attacking game plan.

BPF Prediction: 11th

Written by: Joe Taylor/ @jpttaylor

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