After another busy summer, could West Ham flourish under new coach Manuel Pellegrini?
Last season: 13th
Title odds: 250/1
Relegation odds: 9/1
Major ins: Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop, Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks.
Major outs: James Collins, Patrice Evra, Cheikh Kouyate
Key player: Lukasz Fabianski
West Ham supporters are accustomed to seeing well-known names arrive in the summer, but the signings of Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez did not bring about the upturn in fortunes that had been anticipated last year. The good news is that everything feels that little bit different with Manuel Pellegrini at the helm this time around.
For the first time in their history, West Ham have a manager who has won the Premier League title and there has been some good work in the transfer market too. Lukasz Fabianski should address the goalkeeper problem and looks cheap at £7m. Bringing in Ryan Fredericks on a free transfer from Fulham was a shrewd bit of business too.
Jack Wilshere is seen as a little bit more of a gamble, but there is hope that he can recapture his best at the age of 26. Andriy Yarmolenko, long linked with a Premier League move, is a signing that could go either way at 28. But there is rather more excitement about the thought of what club record signing Felipe Anderson could be capable of producing.
The £35m fee is significant for someone who made only nine Serie A starts for Lazio last season but it is worth noting that he completed more dribbles than anyone else in Italy in the previous season. Anderson is still only 25 and is the sort of player who can make things happen – something that’s been missed at West Ham since the departure of Dimitri Payet.
Ultimately, it will come down to Pellegrini to get the best out of this squad. After the pragmatism of David Moyes, there is no denying that Chilean has the pedigree to get West Ham playing football. A title winner in Ecuador and Argentina as well as England, every team he has coached over the past decade has been among the top six passers in the division.
Perhaps the only concern is whether, at the age of 64 and fresh from a stint in China, the appetite is still there. If so, after one top-half finish for West Ham in the last five attempts, there is enough quality there for them to enjoy themselves this season – playing the sort of football to make the fans proud and finally make the London Stadium feel like home.
Charlie Nicholas’ verdict
I always thought David Moyes would keep them up but it was the right decision for both parties for him to leave. The fans don’t like the owners but they’ve got somebody in who supporters will want to get behind with his personality, record and style. The big question is whether they’ve improved at the back and I think Lukasz Fabianski is a fabulous signing. I think they’ve signed well so I don’t see them enduring the same problems this season and, while they’ll be unpredictable at times, they should be aiming for a top-half finish.
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