Premier League Preview: West Ham United

My Premier League previews continue with Avram Grant’s West Ham United now in the spotlight. After the shambles that occurred last season the Hammers will be looking to improve immensely this term.

Gianfranco Zola’s unfortunately poor time at West Ham meant that Grant was made manager after the 2009/10 season. The decent signings that the former Chelsea manager has made, though, may not be enough to move the side up the table.
Pablo Barrera has joined from UNAM Pumas for £4 million. The winger scored eighteen goals in eighty-five appearances for the Mexican giants. The twenty-three-year-old has already played twenty-four times for Mexico and appeared three times in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. West Ham have also recruited three players with Premier League experience. Thomas Hitzelberger enjoyed nearly four seasons at Aston Villa while Tal Ben Haim has been in the Premier League for six seasons now, playing for Chelsea, Sunderland and Bolton. Frederic Piquionne has also signed for the club, joining for £1 million from Lyon. The striker played on loan at Portsmouth last season where he scored eleven goals in forty-five appearances. The majority of the squad has been kept by Grant, although rumours suggest that Scott Parker could be on his way out of the club.
Parker will be the main man for West Ham this season. He played thirty-one games last season, creating goals and holding the midfield together. The English central-midfielder uses his vast knowledge of the game and his awareness on the ball to carve out chances for the East London side. Parker will be key to West Ham’s success this season.
The middle of midfield is quite a strong area for West Ham. Mark Noble has established himself as a fine attacking midfielder after four strong seasons in the Premier League. Jack Collison is definitely a prospect for the future; after coming out of West Ham’s famous academy Collison played twenty-four times for the Hammers last season and will be looking to establish himself in the side this season. West Ham also have the experience of Radoslav Kovac on their books. The midfielder can sit in-between the defence and forward lines, linking the team together.  
The wings of West Ham are not so brilliant. Valon Behrami endured injury after injury last season and only managed to play twenty-seven games. The former Lazio star will be looking to stay fit this season as his accuracy when passing and quality on the ball will be important to the Hammers. Junior Stanislas is another one to look out for next season. The left winger has played thirty-five times for West Ham and four times at England youth level.  West Ham could do with a little more pace on the wings, which could help in feeding the strikers.
Carlton Cole looks to be staying with the club after a summer of rumours involving his place in the team. Manchester United, Stoke City and Aston Villa were among the sides being linked with a move for the English striker. After scoring ten goals last season Cole is imperative to West Ham as they have little else up front. Benni McCarthy is not what he used to be and Freddie Sears isn’t ready for the Premier League. Zavon Hines is a good young striker but he may not be ready for this season, while Piquionne, on the basis of last season, isn’t good enough. If West Ham are to succeed this season they should buy another striker, with Nice striker Loic Remy currently being linked with the club.
West Ham do look relatively strong at the back although the right-back position is a problem. Matthew Upson is back from South Africa after an unsuccessful England World Cup campaign, while Danny Gabbidon, Manuel Da Costa or Ben Haim are likely to partner him in the centre of defence. James Tomkins is another impressive young player at West Ham and could feature a lot this season. Herita Ilunga has impressed in the Premier League and looks to be a solid left-back but on the opposite side they have very little; they may end up playing one of the centre-backs there. West Ham will survive this season but it promises to be another unbearable term for the West Ham faithful.
Where will they finish?: 15th
Official relegation odds: 9/2 (Bet365)
Star man: Scott Parker
Ones to watch: Jack Collison, Zavon Hines and James Tomkins
Main weakness: Lack of goal scoring prowess and no pace down the flanks

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