Season Preview 2013-14: West Ham United

August 16, 2013 in Premier League, Team Previews by Ben Said Scott

The securing of a second season in the Premier League came as no surprise for the fans of West Ham. Far from the normal first season struggles, the Hammers faithful saw their team finish a comfortable 10th place. That top half finish, along with the permanent signing of Andy Carroll following his loan spell from Liverpool, has ambitious Hammers dreaming of Europe this season, rather than any worries of second season syndrome, leaving memories of their single season in the Championship behind them as a mere breath on the road to success.

Carroll

Following rumours he could be pushed out this season Sam Allardyce looks assured of his place at the helm of West Ham United, which will make a massive difference. Questions still remain about whether the fans can totally forgive Allardyce’s style of play, but should they keep getting the results, then the fans at Upton Park should be happy; with Big Sam comes a guarantee of Premier League football, and with owners Gold and Sullivan planning to move West Ham to a bigger stadium to increase revenue streams, top flight football will be incredibly important. Allardyce will keep bringing in solid Premier League signings and moving the club forward. Should the Hammers need any warning signs, just look at the teams that thought they could do better than the England man.

Transfers in: Andy Carroll (Liverpool, £15million), Danny Whitehead (Stockport County, Undisclosed), Razvan Rat (Shaktar Donetsk, Free), Adrian (Real Betis, Free), Stewart Downing (Liverpool, Undisclosed).

Transfers out: Gary O’Neill (QPR, Free), Robert Hall (Bolton, Free), Jake Larkins (Leyton Orient, Free), Jami Rafati (Genoa, Free).

Released: Carlton Cole, Eoin Wearen, Jack Powell.

A key weakness of this West Ham side is pace. With Andy Carroll in their side, they will have a guaranteed supply of goals from set-pieces, and with Joe Cole and Stewart Downing, creativity in and around the box will also be readily available. However, their lack of pace and threat in behind the last man means that opponents will be able to play a very high defensive line without fear of being caught on the break; this could also nullify the chances of winning set pieces high up the pitch where they can really hurt teams. In the last few weeks of the transfer window, expect the Hammers to try and add pace, particularly to their front line where they look a little thin on the ground with only Carroll and Modibo Maiga as first team options.

The aforementioned lack of fire power has resulted in West Ham looking everywhere for strikers. One of the purported targets is Gent striker Ilombe Mboyo. A big fast centre-forward, Mboyo has been a recent call up to the Belgian national team and has been likened to fellow countryman Christian Benteke. The link has been so strong that it has led to Jack Sullivan, son of owner David, asking what the West Ham would think of the signing on his Twitter account. However, that is where things get strange. In 2004, when Mboyo was playing for Club Brugge, he was arrested and convicted for his part in the gang rape of a 14-year old girl and served three years of an eight-year sentence. Because of the furore surrounding this signing, Jack Sullivan was soon tweeting again “99% of you have said no to Mboyo. I’ll pass it onto my dad. I’m sure we won’t sign him. We respect your views”. Fan power gone mad? Or owners actually caring about the integrity of their club? I’m not sure, but which ever, it’s bloody strange.

KEY PLAYER: Mohammed Diame

Big Sam’s midfield general Diame was one of the bargains of last season after arriving on a free transfer from Wigan. So successful was his transition that a rumour in January of moves to Arsenal and even Manchester United began to surface. Unlike the central defensive midfielder many West Ham fans thought they were signing, he has proved a key link between the defence and attack in Sam Allardyce’s set-up. His ability to take the ball with defenders and run at the opposition’s midfield proved key in West Ham’s ability to get the ball close enough to the opposition box so that their attacking players can score the goals. If he is on fire, then the Hammers generally are as well.

Ravel Morrison will be one to watch this season. The former great hope of Manchester United has struggled to ever prove himself as the top level player he promised to be. Not because of his natural ability, but more his ambition, or lack thereof. He’s just completed his first full season of competitive football on loan at Birmingham and has been a regular for the Hammers during pre-season. Allardyce certainly has a knack for dealing with some really big egos so he could be exactly what is needed for Morrison. He will be turning 21 and this could be his big chance to live up to the early career hype.

In a league that is getting stronger, Allardyce is a guarantee of Premier League football. However, with other mid-table teams strengthening much more significantly than the Hammers, I don’t think they will be able to match the 10th place of last season. They’ll be comfortable but nothing more.

PREDICTED FINISH: 15th

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