It has been 96 days since the final whistle blew a close to the 2011-12 EPL season – not that we are counting. More importantly, it is less than 1 day till the commencement of the 2012-13 season – the 21st since the establishment of the Premier League. And like the lead up to a massive 21st birthday bash anticipation is high and speculation rife.
Thankfully The Blog FC is here to give you a comprehensive guide to each of the teams competing in this seasons Premier League, covering all the transfer news, strategic analysis and final predictions. Have a read, give us your thoughts and impress your friends with more interesting EPL facts than you can poke a stick at.
Man U |
West Ham |
2011/2012 Result: Championship playoff winner
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Ins: Alou Diarra (Marseille), James Collins (Villa), Spiegel (Grasshoppers), Modibo Maiga (Sochaux), Stephen Henderson (Porstmouth), Mohamed Diame (Wigan), Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton), George McCartney (Sunderland)
Outs: Ravel Morrison (Birmingham – Loan), Aboulaye Faye (Hull), Marek Stech (Yeovil), Freddie Sears (Colchester), Oliver Lee (Barnet), Pablo Barrera (Cruz Azul), Ruud Boffin (Eskisehirspor), Julien Faubert (Elazigspor), Frank Nouble (Wolves), Peter Kuruz (Free), John Carew (Free), Papa Bouba Diop (Free), Robert Green (QPR)
Having been relegated at the end of the 2010-11 season, West Ham invested heavily in an attempt to immediately return to the Premier League, managing the contracts of a number of top quality players through their Championship season (including Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole and Robert Green) Now they have achieved this highly lucrative prize, focus now turns to maintaining their position in the top flight.
The playing style of West Ham throughout last years Championship and the types of players Big Sam has recruited so far leaves no questions about how West Ham will play this season – strong, physical and direct. While this may not be a very ‘pretty’ style of football, attracting the ire of fans, it has so far proven effective in achieving results for the Hammers – in the Championship at least. Whether this will hold up in the Premier League is another question.
The main worries for West Ham at this stage of the season are whether they have the defensive capabilities to maintain their direct style in a higher quality League. Losing Abdoulaye Faye will put more pressure on what is already a rather shallow roster of quality defenders and the departure of Robert Green isn’t particularly helpful either.
At least Allardyce has moved to fill the hole between the sticks, by recruiting an extremely experienced, Premier League quality keeper in Jussi Jasskelainen (474 appearances for Bolton). We imagine the Fin will be extremely busy this year.
Key Player: Alou Diarra
Not simply for his experience, ability and strength in the middle of the park, but also in the tactical options his arrival provides. With Diame, Diarra can form a rather imposing screen in front of the West Ham back four. But most importantly, his inclusion in the squad frees up Kevin Nolan to move further forward in a role supporting the striker(s) – an area he has proved to be very lethal in, when top scoring at Newcastle 2 seasons ago.
The Road Ahead
Having a manager with the Premier League experience of Allardyce gives West Ham an immediate advantage over other Premier League battlers.
Big Sam has been in a similar position with Bolton 12 years ago, first winning promotion via a play-off, struggling for survival for the next 2 years and eventually building to UEFA Cup qualification.
Expect a similar building phase for West Ham over the next few years. They should be competitive with most teams this season, though their relatively slow defence could prove quite porous against some of the better, quicker sides (read Arsenal, ManU and City).
Vaz Te —————Nolan—————Maiga
In November last year Barcelona finally broke a 30 year old European record previously held by West Ham. For an amazing 16 years, between 1964 and 1980, West Ham scored in every one of their 27 European ties. The current record held by Barcelona is now up to 33 matches.