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West Ham: BTSport.com's Premier League 2019/20 season preview

The Hammers were last season's Jekyll and Hyde team - with wins over Arsenal and Manchester United tempered by results like the 4-2 FA Cup exit to Wimbledon. Manuel Pellegrini will be looking to steady the ship this time around and unlock the considerable potential in his squad.

Last season's Premier League finish: 10th (W15 D7 L16 - F52 A55 - Pts 52)

Last season's top scorer: Marko Arnautovic - 10 (11 in all competitions) 

To win the FA Cup*: 33/1

First five fixtures: Manchester City (H), Brighton (A), Watford (A), Norwich (H), Aston Villa (A)

Predicted finish (BTSport.com writers' combined prediction): 9th

Predicted finish by The Script12th

Transfers in: Gonçalo Cardoso - Boavista (undisclosed), Sebastien Haller - Eintracht Frankfurt (£42m), Pablo Fornals - Villarreal (£25m), Albian Ajeti - Basel (£8m), Roberto - Espanyol (free), David Martin - Millwall (free), Gonçalo Cardoso - Boavista (undisclosed)

Transfers out: Marko Arnautovic - Shanghai SIPG - (£22.5m), Pedro Obiang - Sassuolo (£7.2m), Edmilson Fernandes - Mainz (£8m), Lucas Perez - Alaves (£2m), Sam Byram - Norwich - (£750k), Marcus Browne - Middlesbrough (£500k), Reece Oxford - Augsburg (£3.6m), Samir Nasri - Anderlecht (free), Toni Martinez - Famalicao (free), Josh Pask - Coventry (free), Adrian, Moses Makasi, Andy Carroll (all released), Jordan Hugill - QPR (loan), Nathan Trott - AFC Wimbledon (loan), Martin Samuelsen - Haugesund (loan extended), Grady Diangana - West Brom (loan), Josh Cullen - Charlton (loan)

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Reasons to be optimistic

West Ham were the Premier League’s most inconsistent team last season. They lost their first four before beating Everton at Goodison Park, drawing with Chelsea and defeating Manchester United.

Home victory over Arsenal was followed by defeats to Bournemouth and to League One relegation battlers AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup. Manuel Pellegrini’s men rounded off the campaign with form reading LLLDWWW. The Hammers are a hard team to predict.

Defeat to Wimbledon was in the midst of the Marko Arnautovic saga. January saw the Austrian demand a move to the Chinese Super League, clash with Pellegrini on the touchline after being substituted and sign an improved contract all in the space of a month. The new deal was bizarrely announced by the club in the immediate aftermath of the humbling reverse at Kingsmeadow.

But with Arnautovic’s departure to Shanghai SIPG this summer, West Ham have rid themselves of one of the biggest egos in the division and a player whose presence created a “bad atmosphere”, according to former team-mate Pablo Zabaleta. While not all of the Hammers’ bad results can be attributed to one bad egg, a more unified dressing room can only have a positive impact on the upcoming season.

Pellegrini can also count on the continued development of Declan Rice, who thrived in a holding midfield role last campaign. With the towering Issa Diop and the fit-again Fabian Balbuena, the Hammers boast one of the best centre-back partnerships in the division.

Similarly, a season with a fully-fit Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson is a tantalising prospect for West Ham fans. The signings of Spanish international Pablo Fornals and Bundesliga hotshot Sebastien Haller, brought in for a combined fee of nearly £70m, are a real sign of intent that will further raise expectations for 2019/20.

If they can successfully shake off their maddening inconsistency, it would be no surprise to see the Hammers muscle in on the race for European qualification in the coming months.

Reasons to be fearful​

Hopes are high in east London following the club-record purchase of Haller. Supporters are hoping this is the campaign they finally bridge the gap with the big boys after finishing 10th, 13th, 12th, 7th, 11th, 13th and 10th since returning to the Premier League in 2012/13.

But while the Hammers have strengthened, it promises to be a hotly-contested race for the Europa League spots. Wolves, Leicester, Everton and Watford can all make legitimate claims for targeting seventh or even breaking into the top six. The bookmakers have their doubts, too, with Pellegrini’s men available at 12/1 to secure a finish of sixth or above.

The signings of Haller and Fornals bolster Pellegrini’s options going forward but it was at the other end of the pitch where West Ham struggled at times last term and that has not been addressed on the eve of the new season.

The statistics show that while West Ham conceded 55 goals, the ninth-most in the league, they faced a whopping 528 shots - the fourth-highest tally in the division. It suggests a serious lack of protection for the back four.

Haller, in particular, looks an exciting capture on paper with 15 goals and nine assists for Eintracht Frankfurt last season, but sceptics will point to West Ham’s disastrous record of signing strikers.

Since David Gold and David Sullivan took charge of the club in January 2010, they’ve signed 38 different strikers with the 34 goals netted by Andy Carroll the best any have managed. In total, West Ham forwards have scored just 203 goals in 957 games in all competitions during that time.

It’s unfair to tar Haller with the same brush as the likes of Mido, Ilan, Simone Zaza and Jonathan Calleri before he’s kicked a competitive ball for the club, but the 25-year-old must break long-standing tradition if he’s to be a success at the London Stadium.

Key man: Felipe Anderson

Anderson’s form during his debut campaign was a microcosm of West Ham’s season as a whole. The Brazilian was outstanding, unplayable in some matches and completely ineffectual in others. And the strong correlation between Anderson playing well and West Ham winning demonstrates just how influential a player he is.

The ex-Lazio man delivered a glittering two-goal display against Burnley in a 4-2 victory at the London Stadium In November but less than two months later produced one of his worst performances of the campaign in the reverse fixture, a 2-0 defeat at Turf Moor.

Anderson scored in both West Ham’s matches against Manchester United, shining particularly in the home victory in September. But he went missing in disappointing defeats to Cardiff and Wolves when his team needed him most.

Seven goals in nine games between November and December were followed up by a run of one Premier League goal in his final 17 matches of the 2018/19 season.

With the addition of Fornals and the return to fitness of Yarmolenko and Lanzini, West Ham boast an impressive array of attacking midfielders at their disposal. Anderson, linked with a move to Manchester United before joining West Ham, is the best of the lot.

Anderson could be forgiven for inconsistency in his first year in English football after his £36m move from Lazio. But ahead of the 26-year-old’s second season in the Premier League, Pellegrini will lean on his star midfielder to produce more consistently.

The manager: Manuel Pellegrini

Given that the Chinese Super League is mostly viewed as a lucrative graveyard for ambition, it was a surprise when Pellegrini opted to return to England, aged 64, after two years at Hebei China Fortune.

But Pellegrini was up for the challenge, was backed in the transfer market by Gold and Sullivan and can reflect overall on a promising first season in east London.

The former Premier League winner endured a disastrous start with four defeats in his opening four matches but quickly settled on a system designed to get the best from his players either in a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1.

Not many coaches would come out of the Arnautovic saga with credit but Pellegrini used his decades of experience in man-management to extract a decent contribution from such a difficult character. 

The lively discussion between player and manager after Arnautovic’s substitution just 20 minutes into an FA Cup third-round tie against Brimingham City was a rare occasion when Pellegrini failed to keep the fallout under wraps.

Pellegrini initially wanted to keep Arnautovic from heading, ironically, to China, but eventually the club sanctioned the disruptive forward’s exit and the move could prove a blessing in disguise. His replacement, Haller, earned rave reviews in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Encouragingly for Hammers fans, chairwoman Karren Brady insisted in May that Pellegrini has the final say on recruitment. “The future of every player is decided by the manager,” she said in May. “The board supports whatever decision he makes.”

Now free from any bad apples in the dressing room and with the unequivocal support of the board, Pellegrini will target greater consistency from last season’s Jekyll and Hyde team. A push into the Europa League places is within reach.

Fans' view - Official Supporters' Board - Gary Lawrence

"Pellegrini’s biggest challenge is how to improve the consistency and that’s down to the mental attitude of the players. There were runs last season where we were looking really good. But just as we were getting momentum going, we turned in a wretched performance and set ourselves back.

"We could have finished seventh but then we’d have games that were aberrations where no one turned up. We would switch off at crucial points and throw games away. It was dreadful.

"The Arnautovic saga definitely affected us negatively around Christmas. After the Wimbledon FA Cup defeat at around 10pm we released the video confirming he was staying – it was an atrocious piece of marketing.

"We’ll find out if Pellegrini is the right fit now in this second season. He’s spent money, he’s set a standard and he’s had a whole year to put that into place.

"The stadium is what it is. It’s not the Boleyn Ground but it’s as good as it’s going to be. For the big games at home last season against Arsenal and Manchester United the atmosphere was fantastic and if the team is playing well then the crowd will always get behind the team.

"You have to look at teams around us [when you talk about targeting the Europa League places]. If we get a good run in the FA Cup and finish 9th that would constitute a good season.

"We aren’t going to break the top six, the gap's getting wider and wider. We just want the team to stay competitive in all games and give it our best. That’s all West Ham fans can ask for. After all, we haven’t won a trophy in 40 years!"

*All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing

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