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Sean Sullivan

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West Ham Season Preview

Thursday, August 9, 2018


2017-18 Recap



Finish: 13th

Points: 42

Goals For: 48

Goals Against: 68

Goal Difference: -20



After two years of mediocrity at the London Stadium, West Ham United made drastic changes in the summer window. In Manuel Pellegrini, the board has appointed a manager that is quite possibly the polar opposite of his predecessors David Moyes and Slaven Bilic.  The Chilean brings the promise of attractive, attack-minded football whereas Moyes and Bilic implored pragmatic, defensive styles of play. Pellegrini favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, with an emphasis on free-flowing passing and overall team stability. He’s also no stranger to success in the Premier League, having led Manchester City to the title during his first season in charge back in 2013/14.  



The rebranding saw West Ham spend big in the transfer market as well, signing ten new players following the late captures of Lucas Perez and Carlos Sanchez on Deadline Day.  The lengthy list of arrivals has bolstered their attack, strengthened a leaky defence and, most notably, given the supporters reason to be excited about the 2018/19 season. With lots to get through and little time to waste, let’s take a look at Pellegrini’s squad.



Summer Business


Arrivals: Felipe Anderson (Lazio), Issa Diop (Toulouse), Andriy Yarmolenko (Borussia Dortmund), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Lucas Perez (Arsenal), Carlos Sanchez (Fiorentina), Ryan Fredericks (free, Fulham), Jack Wilshere (free, Arsenal)


Departures: Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace), Reece Burke (Hull City), James Collins (free agent), Patrice Evra (free agent), 



Squad Overview



Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski (4.5m)


Fabianski is the new first-choice goalkeeper at West Ham.  The Poland international arrived from Swansea City to address a messy situation between the sticks, as neither loanee Joe Hart or now number two Adrian impressed enough to lock down role last season.  In Fabianski, the Hammers have added a tried and tested as a shot-stopper. During Swansea’s relegation campaign, he led the league in saves (139) and finished third in FPL points (157) despite conceding 56 goals. Fabianski allowed 1.49 goals per match over his four years at Swansea, conceding fewer goals per game than both Adrian (1.53) and Hart (2.10) this past term.  Currently the second-most selected goalkeeper behind only David de Gea, Fabianski looks like one of best options in the 4.5m bracket.




Defenders



Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m)



I wasn't surprised to see Cresswell’s price bumped up to £5.5m for 2018/19.  Last season, he was the highest-scoring defender priced below 5.0m and placed 12th in the overall defender rankings with 113 points.  His seven assists were also joint-most by a defender alongside Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier. With that said, it should be noted Cresswell isn’t the only option West Ham have at left-back.  Arthur Masuaku (4.5m) seems to have impressed Manuel Pellegrini enough in pre-season to be in contention for the starting role. While I do think Cresswell will be the starter in GW1, competition from Masuaku and a brutal fixture set to start the season are red flags.  For me, he’s too expensive.  Masuaku is now classified as a midfielder and his potential role give him bench value.  



Ryan Fredericks (5.0m)



Fredericks is a modern-day marauding right-back with boatloads of pace.  The 25-year-old was a standout performer on the right flank for Fulham in their promotion campaign, earning himself a place in the  PFA Championship Team of the Year. During the 2017/18 season, he provided seven assists, created 43 chances and made 65 successful dribbles, joint most of all Championship defenders.  All signs point towards Fredericks getting the nod on the right ahead of the defensive-minded Pablo Zabaleta, with Pellegrini expected to prefer a pair of attacking fullbacks in support of his new wingers.  I like him better in draft leagues because of the early fixture set.




Issa Diop (4.5m)



Despite starting just three of the seven pre-season matches, Diop will likely be starting having arrived from Toulouse for a reported fee of £21.9m.  The 21-year-old, who captained the French side last season, possess all the traits Pellegrini wants in a centre-back and will provide the defence with a much needed aerial presence.  Last season, no club conceded more goals from set-pieces than West Ham (16). Standing at 6ft 4in, I would expect Diop to also be one of the primary targets on dead-ball situations in the final third.  He represents a decent option in FPL once the schedule opens up.




Angelo Ogbonna (4.5m)


Ogbonna should serve as Diop’s first-choice partner at centre-back.  The Italian is coming off a decent season and will provide the experience needed to help Diop adapt to the Premier League.  Ogbonna isn’t an option in fantasy though since he’s never returned more than 80 points in a single season.  Fabina Balbuena (4.5m) is another summer arrival that could factor in at centre-back.  Nicknamed "El Comandante" for his imposing physical presence, the Paraguay international would be the next option on the list if Diop or Ogbonna were to suffer an injury or struggle for form.  



Supporting Cast



Since Pablo Zabaleta (4.5m) rotated game-by-game with Fredericks in pre-season at right-back spot, the Argentine seems to have at least a slight role in Pellegrini's plans. Last but not least, former first-choice centre-back Winston Reid (4.5m) has been ruled out for at least the first half of the season.  He might not have a place in the team if the options ahead of him play well.  



Midfielders



Felipe Anderson (7.0m)



Among the ten new arrivals, club-record signing Felipe Anderson is the one I expect to have the most significant impact.  The Brazilian scored 34 goals and provided 42 assists in 177 Serie A appearances over the last five seasons at Lazio. Last season, Anderson did not feature until December due to a knee injury, but his production and underlying stats were still pretty impressive. He provided four goals, seven assists and averaged a league-best 5.9 dribbles per game in 21 league appearances. Anderson's ability as a playmaker will help fill the void with Manuel Lanzini ruled out for the majority of the season and hopefully give the Hammers the X-factor they have lacked since the departure of Dimitri Payet.  The 25-year-old is expected to operate on the right wing under Pellegrini but could potentially feature through the middle an attacking midfielder or secondary striker. If Anderson produces on par with his £35m transfer fee, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be a top-15 midfielder in all fantasy formats.



Andriy Yarmolenko (7.0m)



For those unfamiliar with Yarmolenko, here’s a quick overview.  Yarmolenko was prolific goal-scorer in his native country of Ukraine with Dynamo Kyiv, scoring 99 goals in 228 league matches.  The 28-year-old failed to lock down a starting following his move to Borussia Dortmund last summer, but his underlying stats weren’t as bad as most would have expected.  He scored three goals and provided two assists from 31 shots and 28 chances created in 1,041 minutes of work. There must also be mention of Yarmolenko's international resume, with his 35 goals in 77 caps making him Ukraine's second-highest scorer.  As a winger who loves to cut inside and shoot, his eye for goal is worth noting with his classification as a midfielder in FPL. I don’t think “Yarmo” will produce like Arnautovic did last season, but I could see him getting on the scoresheet enough to be a useful piece.  He’s a favourable punt for me.



Jack Wilshere (5.0m)



Pellegrini prefers creative midfielders, and he seems to have found one in Wilshere.  The 26-year-old could pan out to be an excellent signing if he stays fit with West Ham in need of a ball-carrying central midfielder.  Ever-present skipper Mark Noble was partnered by Pedro Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyate in recent seasons, but the devastating loss of Manuel Lanzini has made the need for deep-lying playmaker even greater.  If I had to make a bold prediction, it would be Wilshere revitalising his career at the London Stadium. He's a low-risk fifth midfielder.



Supporting Cast



If Manuel Lanzini hadn’t be ruled out for the majority of the season, he would have been the first midfielder discussed.  The 25-year-old played his way into the Argentina national team last season but missed out on the World Cup after rupturing knee ligaments on the eve of the tournament.  Michail Antonio has been a fantasy favourite of mine over the last three season. However, the arrival of Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko puts Antonio's role in question. The same goes for Robert Snodgrass who spent last season out on loan at Aston Villa.  Mark Noble, Declan Rice, Pedro Obiang and Carlos Sanchez will compete for a place(s) in defensive following the departure of Kouyate. Based on pre-season, Noble and Rice are ahead of Obiang in the pecking order.



Forwards



Marko Arnautovic (7.0m)



Arnautovic was FPL gold last season after moving from the wing to centre-forward, tallying 11 goals and six assists in 20 matches up front.  The 29-year-old was reclassified as forward for 2018/19, but that hasn’t waivered managers confidence in the Austria international as his 22.7% ownership is fifth at the position.  If not for West Ham’s opening set of fixtures, I would be one of those managers. I plan to wait until the fixture list is less daunting before bringing in Arnie.  



Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (6.5m)  / Lucas Perez (6.5m)



Chicharito should get more opportunities under Pellegrini and looked sharp in the final pre-season game, scoring a goal in a 45-minute cameo alongside Arnie in a 4-4-2.  The Mexico international made the most of his limited usage under David Moyes last season with eight goals in 1,537 minutes, but things have gotten even more unclear with the arrival of Lucas Perez from Arsenal. Perez spent last season on loan at Deportivo de La Coruna and scored six goals and created 78 chances in 32 appearances. The only player to create more chances in La Liga was Lionel Messi (87). But unless Pellegrini decides to use a 4-4-2, it doesn’t look like Chicharito or Perez will get enough starts to be viable in FPL.  Meanwhile, for those wondering, Andy Carroll played 45 minutes in pre-season.  He scored, missed a penalty and got hurt.  Carroll, as usual, is out long-term.



Best XI (4-2-3-1)


Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Noble, Wilshere, Yarmolenko, Anderson; Arnautovic 





 










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