Season Preview: #19 West Ham
Fellow promoted sides, Reading (four seasons) and Southampton (seven season) have spent significant time away from the Premier League, but West Ham have been promoted back to the top flight at the first attempt under Sam Allardyce. Many expected that the Hammers would be promoted automatically but instead they did it the hard way via the play-offs – which culminated in final at Wembley where a late dramatic Ricardo Vaz Te goal ensured that it would be West Ham being promoted to the Premier League and not Blackpool.
Allardyce has frequently been criticised for the style of football that his teams play and came under fire many times last season from fans for not playing the ‘West Ham way’ style of football. However, the fact remains that the former Bolton manager gets results – the Hammers were the second highest scorers (behind Southampton) in the Championship last season with 81 goals and were beaten just once in their final 18 games last season and that defeat came against eventual league winners, Reading. West Ham were tough to beat last season and were the defeated the fewest amount of times out of all the other 23 Championship teams, being beaten just eight times in 46 games.
In preparation for the new season, the Hammers have been very busy in the transfer market in order to ensure that they retain their Premier League status. Allardyce has brought in Jussi Jaaskelainen, whom he worked with at Bolton, along with two other goalkeepers, Raphael Spiegel and Stephen Henderson. There are returns to Upton Park for George McCartney and defender James Collins, while Mohamed Diame, Modibo Maiga and Alou Diarra have joined the club from Wigan, Sochaux and Marseille, respectively. John Carew, Abdoulaye Faye, Julien Faubert, Papa Bouba Diop, Frank Nouble, Rob Green, Freddie Sears and Marek Stech have all departure the club during the close season.
Carlton Cole, Kevin Nolan and Ricardo Vaz Te all managed to score double figures last season; they will need to replicate this again this season. It might not be the prettiest football at times, but with Allardyce in charge, you know what you’re going to get when you come face to face with the Hammers. Top-flight safety will be the main aim for the season ahead, something which the Hammers should achieve.
Opening five fixtures: Aston Villa (H), Swansea (A), Fulham (H), Norwich (A) and Sunderland (H)