My Prediction at the beginning of season: 12th
Final table position: 13th
There was a study done recently showing that it’s usually bad news for a coach when his team over performs. Over performing usually results in higher expectations and when the team gets back to earth, the coach gets the blame for their “lack of results”. This was the exact case with West Ham this year. A season ago, they finished 10th with a relatively weak squad that really lacked any offense. At the beginning of the season, I predicted that they’ll regress and finish 12th in the standings. I wasn’t very far off – they finished 13th – 2 points behind 12th place Swansea. Naturally, the expectations were for another top 10 finish and Sam Allardyce got blamed for it all. It also doesn’t help that the football Allardyce plays could put anyone to sleep and that the fans were complaining all season long about his long-ball style of play. Luckily for Allardyce, he’s been given another chance.
Allardyce recently met the board and they decided to give him another go – with lots of fine print. Big Sam is to hire a new attacking coach that is supposed to transform the team’s attack and bring the excitement back to The Boleyn Ground. He is also to finish in the top 10 or lose his job. You might say it’s not exactly a fair deal but nothing in the Premier League is fair. The truth is, West Ham are just average. They defended really well this season, they grinded out games they weren’t supposed to win, and they made it out alive. But they need major help this summer. There were only three teams that weren’t relegated that scored less goals than West Ham. That needs to change if they are to be in the top 10. Defense wins games and titles, but the team has to be able to score at least a goal and a half per match.
Players on the decline
A big problem with this squad is that there aren’t many players on the rise and there are a ton of players who are on the decline. The worst part is, they’re declining fast.
Kevin Nolan – Nolan is 31 years old. He can no longer run around with the young guys and he’s losing his touch. Two red cards late in the season didn’t help his cause.
Steward Downing – Aged 29, Downing should be in his prime but he’s not playing like it. He is not what he was earlier in his career and West Ham are stuck paying him an overpriced wage.
Andy Carroll – It doesn’t seem like Carroll is going to be healthy anytime soon. He continues to miss out on matches and he can’t contribute if he’s not on the pitch.
Players on the rise
Adrian – The West Ham goalkeeper took over the starting duties halfway through the season and showed he’s the man of the future. He is a great fantasy pick going forward and he is a solid investment for West Ham.
Needs: Attacking Midfielder, Winger, Left-back, quality midfielders
West Ham have an extremely solid defense and a good goalkeeper that they can rely on consistently. They even have a very solid backup center back in James Collins. The only need could be at left back, where they only have Pablo Armero (that’s if they decide to play Joey O’Brien on the right). The problems arise when they go forward. They don’t have anyone who can make runs down the flanks and create chances. They also lack an energetic attacking midfielder to run from box-to-box and control the match. Both of those will be major needs this summer and need to be addressed if Big Sam is to have a chance of finishing in the top 10. At striker, they have the oft-injured Andy Carroll and newly acquired Mauro Zarate. Zarate led the Argentinian League in goals last season and has experience in England and Europe. Between the two of them, West Ham should have enough goal scoring potential but if Carroll will continue being injured (very likely), the Hammers should probably invest in another forward. Two to three quality signings combined with an attack minded assistant coach and an even more experienced defense can be enough to take West Ham to the top 10. The signings are a must – there is no way around it.