Hard times for Sam but West Ham in greater stead for new season
While there are no surprises for West Ham United in the sense that manager Sam Allardyce’s position has been under threat and Andy Carroll is out with yet another injury, the Hammers have unusually been productive in the transfer window.
The east Londoners will be hoping to build on their 13th-place finish in the Premier League last season, and are 13/5 to break into the top 10 this term. They are odds-on, meanwhile, to be in the bottom half again, and 4/1 to go down.
West Ham fans turned on Allardyce last season for his negative tactics, but his transfers this summer show that he is willing to change his methods, and bring in exciting attacking talent such as Mauro Zarate and Enner Valencia.
The latter starred for his country at the recent World Cup in Brazil, netting three times in the group stage. Valencia was signed from Mexican outfit Pachuca for £12m, and will be aiming to fire in the goals to help his new side better their paltry total of 40 last term. The 24-year-old scored 23 times in 27 appearances throughout all competitions last season for his former side.
On signing for West Ham, though, Valencia did make the rather surprising claims that his employers aim for Champions League football. “Before signing we spoke a lot about that, the ambitions of the club to try to play European football,” he said. “I’m going to work very hard for it and they’re going to try to make top four.”
But it seems the striker is in the east end of London to stay, at least for the next couple of seasons, after admitting he is excited at the prospect of playing in the Olympic Stadium in 2016, adding: “When I heard the news that West Ham might come to the stadium, I was delighted. It’s a great venue, one of the best in the world and I’m looking forward to playing here in 2016.”
Zarate, meanwhile, arrives after an impressive recent campaign for Buenos Aires-based Velez, getting 20 goals. The Argentine, 27, had an impressive spell in England before with Birmingham City in 2008, and hopes to form a threatening partnership with his fellow South American.
On top of those recruits, England Under-17 international starlet Diego Poyet, son of Sunderland’s Uruguayan boss Gus, has arrived at Upton Park. The defensive midfielder moved from Charlton Athletic and will challenge the likes of fellow new signing Cheikhou Kouyate and Mohammed Diame for a spot in the starting XI.
The other transfers who have arrived to Upton Park this summer are English full backs Aaron Cresswell, who switched permanently from Ipswich Town, and Carl Jenkinson, on loan from Arsenal.
Cresswell and Jenkinson join an already assertive defence, that had the second-best clean sheet record in the league outside of the top six last term, with 14, and were at one point leading the way.
With the squad now more rounded and no longer bottom-heavy, Hammers fans can certainly look forward to the new season, that is, if Allardyce and co-chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan can get along.
Big Sam has clashed with both this summer, especially with the latter over a disagreement about controversial star Ravel Morrsion. Sullivan said: “Sam has said Ravel is not part of his plans but we do, as a board, see him as part of our plans. I think [Allardyce] said in a press conference, if I read it correctly, he’s not part of his plans for this season. I think he said that in New Zealand but we don’t agree with that. We would like to sit down and give him a longer contract.”
Gold, meanwhile, reportedly ‘retweeted’ a disparaging message by a fan on Twitter, which he later played down.
Allardyce has his own specials section on Coral’s website, where he is odds-on at 4/9 to not be in charge of West Ham on January 1st 2015. He is also 11/8 favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave.