With seven of last season’s top nine to play in the first 10 games of the new Premier League campaign, West Ham may have their work cut out for them under new manager Manuel Pellegrini. Trips to Liverpool and Arsenal in August sandwich what already looks like a must-win home game with Bournemouth, who also finished above the Hammers in the table last term.
The board have backed Pellegrini on his Premier League return funding several summer signings headed by record purchase and Brazil cap Felipe Anderson. A big price tag and the absence of Argentina international Manuel Lanzini due to a serious knee injury sustained on the eve of the World Cup mean Anderson must deliver.
Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko is the other main attacking addition to West Ham ranks from Borussia Dortmund, but must belie disappointing compatriots Serhiy Rebrov, Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin – who all flopped in the Premier League when playing for Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.
Despite also signing a new goalkeeper with plenty of experience of English football in Poland’s Lukasz Fabianski, two new centre halves and a right back, plus boyhood fan Jack Wilshere on a free from Arsenal in midfield, the Hammers could’ve had a much easier start given to them by the fixture computer.
In terms of the opening weekend and that first game of the campaign at Anfield, West Ham aren’t among Premier League betting tips for today with Ladbrokes as big as 10/1 for an away win over Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. On the other hand, they are 11/10 to end the season in the top half and plenty will think Pellegrini can engineer that feat.
Top 10 target, top six a stretch
Given the substantial investment made into the squad since Pellegrini came to London Stadium, that is the bare minimum amount of improvement from a 13th place finish last term to be expected. Cracking the top six sees the Hammers in double figure prices at the bookies and would in all honesty require more than one established Premier League heavyweight to have a poor season.
Recent results against England’s elite is another reason why this start is so tough. Liverpool have put four goals past West Ham in each of their last three meetings, while it’s been as many straight away defeats when making the cross-capital trip to the Emirates Stadium – though Arsenal are under new management for the first time since 1996 with Unai Emery replacing Arsene Wenger this summer.
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Four of their six Premier League battles with Bournemouth have contained four or more goals, but the aggregate score is 13-12 in favour of the Hammers. That means new defenders Ryan Fredericks, Issa Diop and Paraguay international Fabian Balbuena must help tighten them up against Eddie Howe’s Cherries.
Championship winners Wolves are the second visitors to London Stadium this season and look upwardly mobile if a little light in midfield and on experience. This is another encounter which Pellegrini and company should target for points.
With the likes of Everton away, then Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs to come at home, West Ham really must make the most of the Bournemouth and Brighton battles in particular if they are to realise their ambitions.