Premier League Team Focus: West Ham's rebuilt attack can't hide defensive problems

Premier League Team Focus: West Ham's rebuilt attack can't hide defensive problems
Simon Winter
Simon Winter
August 1, 2019
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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.

West Ham underwent some major renovations in the summer of 2018, signing 10 players in total during a frantic market, and their new-look team took some time to build chemistry last season.

Under the watchful eye of newly installed, highly experienced Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini, the Irons lost their opening 4 matches of the campaign, winning just 2 of their first 10 Premier League fixtures overall.

Unsurprisingly, with a squad that was at best a mixing pot of mercurial talent and unfamiliar faces, West Ham’s performances and results swung from one extreme to the other in 2018/19, though there were at least a few moments to treasure, including wins over Man Utd, Arsenal and Tottenham, where the Irons became the first away team to win at Spurs’ new stadium.

However, 12 months later, the gelling process should be closer to completion, and Hammers fans will expect to see more cohesion and consistency from their team in the new Premier League season.

Click here to read more about West Ham in our Premier League 2019/20 Outright Betting Tips: Mid-Table and Relegation Predictions.

Position last season: 10th

Top scorer: Felipe Anderson – 9 goals.

Key Stats:

  • Only Crystal Palace (19.3) made more tackles on average per Premier league game than West Ham last season (19).
  • Only Fulham and Huddersfield (5 each) collected fewer clean sheets than West Ham (7) in the Premier League in 2018/19.
  • Only relegated trio Huddersfield (19), Cardiff (17) and Fulham (15) failed to score more often than West Ham (14) last season.
  • West Ham conceded 30% of their total Premier League goals in the final 15 minutes of their fixtures in 2018/19.

TRANSFERS

Arrivals

Roberto – Espanyol – free

Sebastien Haller – Eintracht Frankfurt – £45million

David Martin – Millwall – free

Pablo Fornals – Villarreal – £25.2m

Departures

Jordan Hugill – QPR – loan

Marcus Browne – Middlesbrough – undisclosed

Sam Byram – Norwich – undisclosed

Samir Nasri – released

Andy Carroll – released

Adrian – released

Edimilson Fernandes – FSV Mainz – £6.75m

Josh Pask – Coventry – Free

Lucas Perez – Alaves – £2.07m

Moses Makazi – released

Marko Arnautovic – Shanghai SIPG – £23m

Nathan Trott – AFC Wimbledon – loan

Toni Martinez – released

Moses Makasi – released

Noha Sylvestre – released

Vashon Neufville – released

Possible Line-up

West Ham lineup possible line-up 2019/20

Player to Watch

Pablo Fornals

West Ham look like they have signed a real gem in Spanish midfield technician Pablo Fornals.

The Irons signed the 23-year old twice capped senior international for just over £25m in June, and the versatile schemer, who can play in a number of positions in the middle of the park, is almost certain to be a hit in the Premier League.

Fornals’ calmness on the ball and pass and move style should allow him to dovetail nicely with West Ham’s expert technicians – Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini.

Fornals makes an appearance in our Fantasy Premier League Tips and squad templates guide. Click the link to see who else made the cut.

The Season Ahead

2018/19: Worrying numbers

As we touched on in our key stats section above, West Ham ranked remarkably poorly in a number of important Premier League statistics last season.

The Hammers collected the 3rd fewest clean sheets in the division in 2018/19, and only relegated trio Fulham, Huddersfield and Cardiff failed to score more often than the mis-firing Irons’ attack.

In total, West Ham failed to score in 14 or 37% of their 38 league fixtures last term, while they kept only 7 clean sheets at the other end.

Alarmingly, that clean sheets figure could have been considerable worse had goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski not been in such top form – the Polish stopper made more saves (142) than any of his counterparts at the Premier League’s other clubs last season.

While the raw numbers only provide the framework for a much larger overall picture, they still suggest that West Ham had major problems in both defensive and attacking areas to tackle this summer.

West Ham Fabianski

West Ham’s tentative market moves

With just a little over a week left to do business, West Ham have yet to make any moves to reinforce their underperforming defence, and have instead chosen to focus on areas further up the pitch.

The Hammers’ attacking department saw the most sweeping changes, with Marko Arnautovic, Lucas Perez, Andy Carroll all moved on, though the only major incoming so far has been French striker Sebastian Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt.

The latest gossip suggests that West Ham are still on the look out for players that could add depth to their light attacking options, with Brentford’s Neal Maupay, CSKA Moscow’s Fyodor Chalov and PAOK Salonika striker Chuba Akpom all reportedly being considered.

However, if West Ham fail to flesh out their skeleton staff up front, a regression in their already modest attacking output could be possible.

A welcome injury boost?

West Ham trio Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko were all plagued by injuries and fitness problems through the 2018/19 season, amassing just 17 Premier League starts between them of the course of their ailment-filled campaigns.

All three players have featured in various capacities for West Ham this summer during the Irons’ pre-season programme however, and Manuel Pellegrini will be crossing his fingers that he can call on the midfielders much more often in 2019/20.

West Ham predictions, betting tips and match preview

West Ham Betting Tips

Sebastian Haller to score 10 to 12 Premier League goals in 2019/20 – 2/1

A huge amount is expected of West Ham’s new first-choice centre-forward Sebastien Haller, following the Frenchman’s move from Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this summer.

The 25-year old enjoyed one of the best goalscoring season of his career in 2017/18, netting 19 goals in all competitions for Frankfurt during a relatively prolific campaign.

Hammers fans might want to temper expectation of a goal glut for Haller in his first year with the club however.

The former FC Utrecht attacker, who is famed for the high-level of his all-round game and his ability to contribute in different phases of his team’s build up play, will likely take time to settle in the new surroundings of the Premier League.

A season that leaves the French forward with double figures for his first stint in England’s top flight should be regarded as a success – and we think Haller looks a great value at 2/1 to notch 10 to 12 goals for West Ham in 2019/20.

Find more of our latest Premier League predictions, betting tips and special offers on our dedicated page here.

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