Whisper it quietly for now, but West Ham look to be in total control as they assemble one of the Premier League’s most intriguing squads this summer.
The Hammers are never far from drama, but this time around, pre-season preparations are falling neatly into place.
They finally made the call to stop putting coins into Marko Arnautovic and have calmly gone about rehabilitating their raft of injured stars from last season as well as adding new talent to the mix.
The lower top-half battle is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating areas of the table in 2019/20 and West Ham should find themselves firmly in the mix for the ‘best of the rest’ crown – but why the cause for optimism?
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about West Ham ahead of the 2019/20 season.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) July 28, 2019
Where did West Ham finish last season?
10th. A lovely, safe 10th-place finish masks a bizarre campaign for the Hammers.
At the height of their injury chaos, 11 first-team West Ham players were queuing out of the physio room, but the most worrying aspect of the absences wasn’t the quantity, but the severity.
The Hammers picked up the sixth-fewest injuries in the top flight last season but missed the third-highest amount of minutes due to the issues.
Manuel Lanzini, Carlos Sanchez, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Winston Reid and Andy Carroll all suffered injuries with multiple month lay-offs, leaving West Ham scattered and depleted for most of the campaign, unable to find rhythm.
Barring a four-game streak in December and a three-game run to end the season, West Ham couldn’t put together back-to-back wins, but only lost more than two games back-to-back twice.
Who is West Ham’s key player?
Declan Rice. A breakout year for Rice saw him leap into England contention and he will hope to build on a terrific debut campaign this time around.
West Ham’s squad is brimming with hot-and-cold attacking stars, not all of them will be at 100% all of the time, and this is where Rice’s importance comes to the fore.
The stable of threatening attacking midfielders and wingers is strong at the London Stadium, but Rice will be required to keep a cool head all season and provide a platform to build on.
New boy Sebastien Haller is the obvious key man going forward, but without Rice holding the fort in the middle and recycling the ball to the creative sparks, Haller will remain isolated.
Who is West Ham’s biggest summer signing
Sebastien Haller (£45m). The towering Frenchman has plenty of weight on his shoulders to avoid becoming another abysmal forward signing for the Hammers.
David Gold and David Sullivan’s pile of receipts for strikers over the last fews alone would probably stack up higher than 6ft3 Haller, with sky-high regrets over the vast majority.
Mercenary marksman Arnautovic was the best of the lot, but fancied adding a few more zeroes to his retirement fund this summer and squirmed his way free of the Hammers, leaving the burden to fall on new man Haller.
The former Frankfurt man was the perfect foil last season for now-Real Madrid star Luka Jovic. Haller scored 15 last season (two less than Jovic) and set up nine (three more than Jovic).
His vision and hold-up play will be vital to West Ham whether he’s knocking balls down to Javier Hernandez, a nimble new signing yet to take place, or the range of attacking midfielders who will relish being fed by the unselfish star.
Who is West Ham’s manager? Meet Manuel Pellegrini
While West Ham will always be a club the media enjoys sliding under a microscope, Pellegrini has gone about his business in dignified subtlety.
His composed demeanour is precisely what the Hammers need at the helm, a man who doesn’t need to shout above the noise, Pellegrini will simply go about his methods unfazed by the drama that tends to seek out the east London side from time to time.
He has made astute signings, bold signings and above all, exciting signings.
The 65-year-old may be one of the elder statesmen of the current Premier League, but has shown a playfulness in his desire to make such exuberant signings in the shape of Felipe Anderson, Yarmolenko and most recently Pablo Fornals.
Pellegrini is a low-key marquee boss and will roll out his 4-2-3-1 style once again with three highly-skilled attacking stars buzzing off the striker at all times.
West Ham fixtures – The start
10th August: Manchester City (H)
17th August: Brighton (A)
24th August: Watford (A)
West Ham fixtures – The run-in
2nd May: Watford (H)
9th May: Manchester United (A)
17th May: Aston Villa (H)
The fans say…
IAIN DALE, WESTHAMTILLIDIE.COM
What is the mood like among fans going into 2019/20?
We are all pretty optimistic but perfectly ready to watch our dreams of 7th place fade and die yet again, but in Pellegrini we trust.
Who will be your key player this season?
Our season is likely to depend on whether our record signing Sebastian Haller scores a lot of goals and stays uninjured. We are very light in the striker department now.
Any young talents coming through?
Josh Cullen is a defensive midfielder who has spent time on loan to Charlton and he could break through this season. In addition Ben Johnson made his debut last season at left back, although he’s really a right back. He looks a tidy prospect.
Marko Arnautovic finally forced his way out of the club, will West Ham miss his quality or are you better off without him?
He didn’t need to close the door behind him. He’s a real talent but with the morals of an alleycat. He’s not a team player and is only out for himself. The fact that in his first match he kissed the badge on the shirt of his new Chinese paymasters tells you all need to know.
Injuries played a big part in an up-and-down 2018/19 season, are you expecting big things from the likes of Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko?
Yarmolenko is like a new signing, given we only say him play a few games at the beginning of last season, where he showed huge promise, and the ability to score spectacular goals. Lanzini is back to full fitness and will be raring to go. We have a very exciting attacking midfield.
Where will you finish in the Premier League?
7th. It’s the hope that kills you.
Where will West Ham finish? RadioTimes.com says…
Even before this summers’ dealings West Ham looked set for a brighter campaign.
Yarmolenko will be like a new signing for the Hammers and simply being able to start a regular, settled XI will enhance their prospects for the season.
Haller may take time to adjust, but there’s enough attacking potential in the side to subsidise a potential slow start for the big man.
If West Ham can keep their squad fit, they could be the surprise package of the season and knock on the door of the top six.
The only negative for them is the strength of rivals also eyeing up the big boys. Leicester and Everton look strong, but the Hammers certainly have enough to compete in their mini-league without the slightest fear of relegation.
The table may not suggest a dramatic improvement, but this should be a great one for the Hammers’ faithful.