Nickname: The Hammers
Home Ground: London Stadium
- 3 FA Cup Trophies
- 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Trophy
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Even though West Ham United got off to a poor start of the 2017/19 Premier League season and had to change managers in the middle of the season, they still finished the season in the respectable 13th position.
That is quite a disappointment for the West Ham United Board and fanbase, who were expecting the team to challenge for a spot in the Top 7 and securing a European club competition invitation. The Hammers have invested quite a lot into their squad over the last few seasons and it is time for those players to start showing their potential.
I have prepared an overview of main West Ham United storylines and a short preview for the upcoming English Premier League season.
Previous Season Summary
West Ham United entered the 2017/18 season hopeful that a spot in the top 7 and a qualification for European club competition. The club invested more than GBP 50 million into new players that were supposed to bolster the squad that previously finished 11th in the 2016/17 English Premier League season.
The Hammers ran into trouble right away. They opened the season with 3 straights loses to Manchester United, Southampton and Newcastle United. To make the matters even worse, West Ham United’s defense gave up at least 3 goals in each of those games.
West Ham did eventually win in the Round 4 against Huddersfield Town by a score of 2-0. The Hammers looked like they were coming out of the slump, as they managed to lose only 1 out of their last 5 games with 2 wins and 2 draws.
Unfortunately, this was only temporary, as Slaven Bilic’s squad again dropped 3 out of 4 games, including a home demolishing by Liverpool by a score of 1-4. Finally, the Board has decided that the club needed a change of direction in management and fired Slaven Bilic after several solid seasons in charge.
With West Ham United now in the middle of the relegation zone, the Board hired David Moyes to help with turning the club around. The results were not automatic, as it took a while for the Hammers to get a hold of what Moyes’ wanted from the team and a new style of play.
In December West Ham United started a run of 10 games in which they were only defeated once with 4 wins and 5 draws. This run helped them separate safely from the relegation zone and start the battle in the middle of the table.
At the end of the season, the Hammers decided not to renew David Moyes contract, despite his role in saving the team from the relegation zone. They felt that it was important for the club to move in another direction and pursue a style of play that resembles the ones that Big 6 clubs employ.
Key Additions and Departures
West Ham United had a really active off-season, as they doubled-down on their efforts to guide their team into top 7 discussion in the English Premier League. They have tried to accommodate new coach Manuel Pellegrini and find players that fit his playing style.
The rest of the smaller additions include a GBP 8 million transfer of goalkeeper Lucas Fabianski from Arsenal and a GBP 4 million transfer of Brazilian center back Fabian Balbuena from Cruzeiro. Perhaps the most underrated addition to the West Ham United roster was a free transfer signing of Jack Wilshere, who was unhappy with his role at the Emirates Stadium and decided to leave.
In terms of departures, the Hammers had a pretty uneventful summer. The only major departure from West Ham United was the transfer of the defensive midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté to Crystal Palace. The Hammers have received GBP 10 million for the transfer.
The minor departures from the club include the transfer of 21-year-old center back Reece Burke to Hull City for a GBP 1.5 million fee and the fact that Patrice Evra and James Collins have both been let go by the club on a free transfer.
Overall, West Ham have added quality players that should be difference makers from Day One. The addition of new manager Pellegrini also brings the newfound optimism to the club, hoping that the Hammers can put together a much better season this time around.
Style of Play
Manuel Pellegrini is an experienced manager from Chile, whose CV has the clubs such as Villarreal, Real Madrid and Manchester City. He is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the world when it comes to attacking soccer. Pellegrini’s teams play with a lot of flair but within a very strict system which clearly outlines the roles of each player on the pitch.
Pellegrini’s offensive approach to the game was on best display at Manchester City during the 2013/14 season, when the Citizens scored 151 goals in all competitions that year. This is a record that still stands.
Perhaps what is even more important for West Ham United, Manuel Pellegrini has been named the giant slayer due to his success when he was managing Villarreal and Malaga in Spain. Pellegrini managed a top 4 finish with both teams in Spanish La Liga, as well as Semi-Final of the UEFA Champions League with Villarreal.
Up front, the Hammers will employ a duo of forwards, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez. Both forwards have different skillsets that compliment each other and are quite versatile in terms of position. Arnautovic had an amazing second half of the season in the English Premier League last year, so he will probably feature as the target man, while Hernandez’s role will be more of the False Nine.
Right behind the two forwards, the spot “in the hole”, in the central midfield will be filled by the newcomer Jack Wilshere. Wilshere should be able to play teammates open with intricate passing, as well as be the goalscoring danger himself.
The newcomers will be running both wings as well, as Felipe Anderson and Andrey Yarmolenko are set to start as well. Finally, the back end of the midfield will be reserved for Pedro Obiang, whose job will be to close down any opposition attacks and help fill the gaps that might show up as the fullbacks and center backs push forward.
At the fullback spots, Pellegrini has opted out for pace, as he wants the defenders to participate in the offensive moves. The starting jobs will be handed to Arthur Masuaku and Ryan Fredericks. The center of the defense will feature a pair of supremely talented, but still inexperienced center backs in 21-year-old Issa Diop and 19-year-old Declan Rice.
West Ham will showcase a much stronger offensive potential under Manuel Pellegrini, but it will still be up to the performance of the defense, that was just abysmal last season. I expect West Ham United to be one of the most fun sides to watch in the upcoming English Premier League season.
The intricate passing game and build up that Pellegrini favors should bring the Hammers closer to the Big 6 clubs in terms of playing style. If West Ham United are able to employ a solid pressing scheme and improve their defense, they just might make a huge step in the right direction.
2018/19 English Premier League Season Expectations and Predictions
Considering the money, they have spent on new additions, including the new manager Manuel Pellegrino, West Ham United have shown a clear intention to be more competitive in the English Premier League and mix it up with the Big 6 clubs.
If Pellegrino is able to put together a solid campaign and show improvements on both sides of the pitch, the Top 7 finish for West Ham United might not be so far-fetched. A more aggressive style of play, to go along with better control of the possession should be enough to generate more than 44 goals they have scored in their previous English Premier League season.
Still, this will not be an easy task. Manuel Pellegrini is in the first year of his contract and he will do his best to put the club in the position to be successful in the long run. This might mean that the first season result-wise might suffer a bit.
If we add on top of that the fact that the Hammers have already added 7 new players to their roster and all signs are pointing that they might not be finished adding talent to their squad. Creating chemistry on a short notice, with a number of new players is an extremely difficult thing to do. Pellegrino might be able to make it work, but I am sure that this will not be an easy task.
The schedule gets more grueling after that, as the Hammers will go on to face 4 Big 6 teams in their first 7 games. The likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United will all have a chance to get their crack at West Ham United early.
I believe that the Hammers will be a better soccer club after the take over by Manuel Pellegrini but they will struggle to break into Top 7 in his first season at the helm of West Ham United. Pellegrini might be able to gel players into a coherent squad that can produce quality results but I still do not see players on the roster that will help them challenge the Big 6 clubs.
As it stands, I am picking West Ham to finish 10th in the English Premier League.