What does the Premier League have in store for West Ham this season?

West Ham crest on the gates outside the old Boleyn Ground

Photo by John Seb Barber / CC BY 2.0  

Although West Ham United had on paper a shaky start to the 2018-19 season, with four consecutive defeats, performances were sufficiently heartening to suggest results would improve.

Sure enough, the Irons secured a 10th-placed finish; the best season since 2015-16 and the best yet at the London Stadium.

David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady, who brought Birmingham for a relative pittance in 1991 then sold them 18 years later for approximately £90 million, care less about the intrinsic fortunes of the club they run and more about the commercial value.

However, the 2016 deal for the London Stadium means they have massively increased the club’s long-term financial worth and are likely to sell it on to a very wealthy consortium.

It is understandable that some fans are not happy in this current home – the pitch is a long way away – but that is perhaps due to habit and tradition rather than the experience being objectively worse.

Theoretically, if the Olympic Stadium had been West Ham’s 121-year home and then the club went to Upton Park, there would be at least as much discontent – over time, fans may grow accustomed to the current home.

On the field itself, the board have been rewarded for appointing a manager in Manuel Pellegrini who has worked at the elite level, having led Real Madrid in his career and helped Manchester City to the Premier League title in 2013-14.

Although predecessors Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic and David Moyes had their merits, Pellegrini is in a different class in terms of club football.

A view of the London Stadium from the stands

Photo by Jørn Eriksson / CC BY 2.0  

Transfers

One such change is Pellegrini’s transfer approach.

The Chilean has been making big bids over the last 12 months; for example, under his watch the club broke it’s transfer record with the £35 million purchase of Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson and he shows no sign of slowing the momentum.

The ex-Lazio man is, perhaps, still getting used to certain aspects of the tempo of the Premier League, but he’s already proven that he can create chances and bagged double-figures in all competitions in his first full season, including a cute backheeled finish in September’s 3-1 home triumph over Manchester United.

West Ham have also now officially signed Pablo Fornals, a bright prospect from Villarreal, as another attacking midfield option; as the club’s second-most expensive player at 23, Fornals is not especially quick but his close control and eye for a clever through ball makes him an exciting option.

These kinds of audacious purchases are exactly what the club needs. West Ham has been starved of exciting talent for many years now and their attacking game has at times been a slog.

They are far from the days of legendary forward Teddy Sheringham who, even at 38, showed the quality to enthuse fans – despite his eight-year association with Millwall.

Star Players

The biggest star the Hammers have had in recent years has been Dimitri Payet, who starred in that 2015-16 season, but lost the support of the fans through how he handled his desire for a transfer midway through the following season.

If Pellegrini continues to make ambitious signings, a new fan favourite is sure to emerge while Manuel Lanzini has shown glimpses of quality too.

Lukasz Fabianski had an outstanding season in goal, making more saves than any other keeper in Europe and rightfully being named Hammer of the Year.

Second in the running to Fabianski was Declan Rice, a product of the Academy of Football who did a fantastic job of protecting the West Ham defence last season.

Rice might not have the best passing range in the world, but he retains possession stringently, he possesses excellent stamina and strong positional discipline, making him a key asset.

The Irons, kicking off a seventh consecutive season in the top flight, could find life tough against Manchester City on day one but a competitive performance would only add to the optimism they have of building on last year’s top half finish.