Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
New season – new West Ham. It’s been a summer of major renovations for the Hammers so far, with the winds of change sweeping through the dugout as well as on to the pitch.
Having steadied the ship after Slaven Bilic’s November sacking and guided West Ham to a respectable 13th placed finish in last season’s Premier League, David Moyes must feel a little aggrieved at not being given a shot at a permanent role at the London Stadium.
Owners David Gold and David Sullivan were thinking bigger however, and moved to appoint a manager with a Premier League winning pedigree in former Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean won the title with City in 2013/14 before he was eased out and replaced by Pep Guardiola two years ago.
West Ham have backed their new manager in the transfer market to the tune of approximately £100m already and with several more irons in the fire for the Irons – further additions look certain before Thursday.
The high level of transfer activity at West Ham means they enter the 2018/19 season as something of an unknown quantity. That’s got to be equal parts unnerving and exciting for supporters, who really don’t know what they are going to get this year.
West Ham’s fortunes this season will largely be dependent on how quickly all their new faces can gel together and build on-field relationships. Can Manuel Pellegrini mould his newly assembled individuals into a successful Premier League collective?
Position last season: 13th
Top scorer: Marko Arnautovic – 11 goals.
Ryan Fredericks – Fulham (Free)
Issa Diop – Toulouse (£22m)
Lukasz Fabianski – Swansea (£7m)
Jack Wilshere – Arsenal (Free)
Andriy Yarmolenko – Dortmund (£18m)
Fabian Balbuena – Corinthians (£4m)
Felipe Anderson – Lazio (£36m)
Xande Silva – Vitoria de Guimaraes (Undisclosed)
James Collins – Released
Patrice Evra – Released
Ben Wells – QPR (Undisclosed)
Reece Burke – Hull (£1.5m)
Marcus Browne – Oxford (On loan)
Cheikhou Kouyate – Crystal Palace (£9.5m)
Sead Haksabanovic – Malaga (On loan)
Player to Watch
West Ham broke their transfer record to bring Felipe Anderson to the Premier League from Lazio this summer, spending in the region of £36m to secure the Brazilian’s signature.
Anderson was a huge fan favourite at Lazio and his signing is seen as a major coup for the Hammers. West Ham were looking to add some stardust to their team before the start of the Premier League season and Anderson certainly has the ability to shine at the London Stadium.
The Season Ahead
Plugging the leaks
In 2017/18, West Ham had the joint worst defensive record in the Premier League alongside relegated Stoke City, conceding 68 goals in their 38-game campaign, despite finishing in a relatively comfortable 13th spot.
The Hammers conceded the 3rd highest number of shots on goal per game on average and ranked in the same position for goals conceded from set-pieces (16). All told, it was a season to forget for West Ham’s defenders.
Most of the West Ham transfer buzz this summer has understandably been about the exciting attacking players arriving through the door, though really addressing the team’s problems at the back was a much more pressing need.
West Ham have made moves to improve things in that area too, signing Lukasz Fabianski from Swansea City to compete with Adrian for the goalkeeper’s position along with little-known defenders Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena, while fullback Ryan Fredericks also joined from Fulham.
Those names might seem like uninspired choices, but Hammers fans will hope that Manuel Pellegrini’s coaching and organisational experience will have more of an impact on the team’s defending than any changes in personnel will.
What to expect from West Ham’s attack?
West Ham had one of the best chance conversation rates in the Premier League last season. The Hammers had the 4th lowest shots per game on average (9.8) last year and though 16 of the division’s teams racked up more shots than them, West Ham actually finished at the league’s 8th highest scorers (48).
Even with their high conversion rates, West Ham entered the summer window with an attack littered with players who could be best described as “enigmatic”.
Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic, Chicharito and even Andy Carroll are all capable of producing flashes of brilliance that often punctuate lengthy spells of inconsistency and anonymity.
It might be puzzling to some then, to see West Ham add two more players to their forward options who are largely cut from the same cloth.
Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson both have long standing reputations for mixing the sublime with the erratic. The players, who operate largely in the same area of the field, can inspire and frustrate in equal measure.
That should mean that West Ham produce performances and results that swing wildly between fantastic and inexplicable this season. It certainly won’t be boring at the London Stadium in 2018/19.
Getting off to a better start
West Ham opened their 2017/18 Premier League season with a confidence-shattering 0-4 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. The final score and manor of the performance seemed to completely drain the Hammers of any early-season enthusiasm and self-belief.
From that low starting point, they struggled to recover and West Ham won just 2 of their first 14 league games between August and late November.
Unfortunately for West Ham, they start their Premiership campaign this season with an equally daunting looking opening fixture. The Hammers travel north again, this time to Anfield, to take on a Liverpool team who have looked sensational and full of goals in pre-season.
In fact, West Ham must negotiate games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd inside the first 7 dates of their 2018/19 league calendar. Manuel Pellegrini couldn’t have been handed a more difficult start as West Ham manager.
West Ham will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the 2018/19 Premier League. In particular, their attack looks full to overflowing with mercurial genius. Finding consistency should be an issue, though there is enough individual talent to win plenty of points. Improving on last seasons 13th place finish shouldn’t be a problem. An 8th to 10th finish should be the target.
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