Premier League profile 2015/16: West Ham United
West Ham United, 2/1 chances with Coral to finish in the top half of the Premier League, are under new management and have to juggle domestic and continental campaigns in their final year before moving into the Olympic Stadium.
Hammers hierarchy members Karen Brady, David Gold and David Sullivan are among the most ambitious board members in English football. They have big plans for the east London outfit and expect Slaven Bilic to better what predecessor Sam Allardyce achieved.
With West Ham making steady progress through the Europa League qualifying rounds, targeting the knockout phase of that competition appears to be the bear minimum requirement. Clubs of similar size and stature have struggled to cope with these extra demands, however, so it is a far from easy task.
Six senior summer signings to date, though, not only outweigh five first-team departures, but in many ways are upgrades on them. Dimitri Payet for Stewart Downing, for example, shows how extra creativity and European experience has been brought into the club in a key area of the supporting cast. Manuel Lanzini, a young Argentine, has been loaned in as an alternative.
Defence has also been strengthened by left-footer Angelo Ogbonna’s move from Juventus where he played an unsung role in their Serie A and Coppa Italia double winning campaign last term. Retaining right back Carl Jenkinson for a second successive season on loan from Arsenal is important, and all the Hammers have lost from their rearguard ranks are fringe players Dan Potts and Guy Demel.
Fans and punters alike are waiting to see if Alex Song follows Jenkinson in re-joining West Ham after his anchorman exploits in 2014/15. With Pedro Obiang also added to the engine room, another arrival would surely spell the end of Allardyce acolyte and club captain Kevin Nolan’s time at Upton Park.
That symbol of the now previous era is all the Hammers are realistically in danger of losing, with rumours of Aaron Cresswell being a target of Chelsea and Manchester City dying down. Bilic also has the conundrum of how to keep target man Andy Carroll fit.
Having such an option in attack will allow West Ham to mix up their play alongside Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. Bilic favoured grafter Ivica Olic and other physical strikers when coaching his native Croatia, so Carroll clearly has a role to play.
Whether finishing in the top eight is realistic remains to be seen, but there looks to be more strength in depth to the Hammers this term to supply the forwards. An improvement of two places to reach the more elite half is a fair price at 2/1, provided West Ham can manage all of their commitments.