Why West Ham could break into the top six this season

After a 13th place finish last season, West Ham have entered the transfer market this year with their eyes set on improvement. After two drab seasons with Slavin Bilic and David Moyes in charge, the hammers board opted for the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini, a coach notable for his attacking style of play, in particular during his time at Manchester City. The board, who were coming under increased pressure from the supporters towards the back end of the season, have opened their wallet this summer, spending nearly £90 million on new signings already. It’s not just the amount of money spent that leads me to believe that West Ham could be on for a successful season, it’s the type of players they have bought.

Goalkeeper
Embed from Getty Images

Adrian and Joe Hart in some ways shared the position between the sticks last season, with Hart showing his underlying weaknesses and Adrian showing that while a capable shot stopper, he is far from a top class premier league goalkeeper with many shaking moments particularly when faced with rushing out of his box, or dealing with ariel balls. This has been identified by Pellegrini and the West Ham board, with the signing of Lukasz Fabianski from Swansea for around £7 million. Fabianksi is 33 years old, so while coming to the end of his career, would be able to play three to four years at a high level, which represents good business for the hammers. Not only this, Fabianski has been a consistent performer over the last few seasons at a relatively high standard, with few mistakes over his time with Swansea. Upgrading the goalkeeping position should provide West Ham with greater defensive confidence and stability amongst the back four than they experienced with both Hart and Adrian

Defence

West Ham’s defence has been a primary concern over the last few seasons, which may explain Pellegrini’s decision totally restructure the back four. Zabaleta has been replaced with 25 year old Ryan Fredericks on a free from Fulham. The former Fulham man offers a more dynamic, attacking presence at right back than the veteran Zabaleta did last season. In the championship last season, Fredericks made 1.6 dribbles per game, compared to Zabaleta’s 0.2. Fredericks also had 1 key pass per game, while Zabaleta only had 0.5. Fredericks was only dribbled past at a rate of 0.5 per game where as for Zabaleta it was 1.4. These stats show that Fredericks will be a greater attacking threat for West Ham, as well as being quicker and more dynamic which will also aid him defensively against more skilful wingers in the Premier League. West Ham have also replaced their centre backs with Issa Diop coming in from Toulouse for around £20 million and Fabian Balbuena arriving from Corinthians. Diop is a serious upgrade from Ogbonna and Reid, as he was one of the
best centre backs in Ligue 1 lasts season. Diop is an aggressive front foot defender who had 2.2 interceptions per game lasts season, the fourth most of any centre back in Ligue 1. He is blessed with not only a 6ft 4, but both pace and strength, making him ideal for the Premier League. Balbuena while not as impressive as Diop, is certainly an upgrade on West Ham’s centre back options last year. Another aggressive centre back, with good anticipation and reading of the game, Balbuena does however lack the pace that Diop has and thus may require a more defensively narrow full back like Aaron Cresswell to be paired next to him.

Midfield

Embed from Getty Images

In midfield West Ham have brought in Jack Wilshere on a free which will add some creativity to a slow, rigid central midfield that West Ham have had with the likes of Obiang, Noble and Kouyate playing in the centre of the park. In comparison to Noble and Obiang, Wilshere is a far better offensive outlet. In 2016/17 with Bournemouth, Wilshere racked up 2.1 dribbles and 1.3 key passes per game, whereas Obiang managed 0.3 key passes and 1.1 dribbles last season and Noble had 0.7 key passes and dribbles last year. This shows that Wilshere should give West Ham greater creativity from deep and inject a high tempo into the attack with his ability to dribble past opponents, which West Ham have lacked since the departure of Dimitri Payet.  West Ham still may be in the market for another central midfielder to replace Obiang or Kouyate if they depart but even if the two remain, the hammers midfield is significantly offensively stronger than it was last season.

Attack

With the arrivals of Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson, West Ham have not only added the pace that their attack lacked last season but also the quality. Yarmolenko whilst not succeeding at Dortmund and being 29 in October will still add the dynamism that West Ham have needed, as well as a goal scoring threat from the right of the attack both aerially and through runs from the right into goal scoring positions. Felipe Anderson is the real gem that West Ham have picked up this summer. In 2016/17 when played as a left winger or a central attacking midfielder, Anderson completed the most dribbles in Serie A with 3.3, as well as making 2.1 key passes, the eight highest in Serie A. In 2017/18 despite playing some time as a left wing back almost, Anderson managed 1.8 key passes and completed the most dribbles in Serie A with 3.7. What this shows is that West Ham are getting
a top class dribbler and creator who should be played in a central position and made the key point of the hammer’s attack. Anderson who is without doubt Champions League quality could be the man to replace Payet’s creativity and goal scoring ability. Marko Arnautovic’s second half to last season suggests that in the Austrian, West Ham have their perfect centre forward, with pace and power to make the runs for Anderson and Wilshere to find with through balls and key passes.

Overall

With Pellegrini at the helm, West Ham will likely adopt an attacking system next season, using pace via the flanks as well as two central forwards as the Chilean deployed whilst at Man City. Fabianksi will be the new number one keeper, with Fredericks providing a dynamic attacking threat from the right and Cresswell providing a more narrow defensively sound option to protect Balbuena on the left and Diop could be a star next year for the hammers with similar attributes to a young Vincent Kompany. Wilshere offers the creativity and dribbling ability from deep that West Ham have lacked and he will most likely be partnered next to Obiang or Kouyate unless West Ham move to sign a ball winning midfield in the remaining days of the transfer market. Yarmolenko and Masuaku on the flanks will provide pace, dribbling ability and crossing ability which will be perfect for Arnuatovic and will provide West Ham with a counter attacking threat. Felipe Anderson will play
behind Arnautovic and I would predict that he will be West Ham’s star. He has already proved himself in Serie A and his rate of key passes and dribbles suggests that he has the output to back up his ability. If Pellegrini does deploy Anderson centrally and maybe adds another ball winner alongside Wilshere then West Ham could be a dark horse to break into the top six this season.

Read More

A look at Chris Wilder’s tactics at Sheffield United

It is perhaps no coincidence that the two in-form English managers were honing their craft in the Championship a year before, they now sit...

The Forgotten story of the Basque in South America

This article is sourced from a string of Twitter posts by Impedimento, translated by the author. Exactly 80 years ago, a French steamer called SS...

Manchester United’s biggest transfer mistake of last summer

Manchester United's disastrous run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer starting after their famous victory in Paris can be explained due to a multitude of factors....

The tactical flexibility of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton:

  Hasenhuttl has certain areas of the first team’s play that he wants to improve before the Premier League kicks-off again in August. Having arrived...

Mason Mount: Chelsea’s Golden Boy

When Frank Lampard was appointed, Derby County fans everywhere collectively held their breath in the hope of whom his widely spoken about “contacts” might...

A look at Gian Piero Gasperini’s tactics at Atalanta

After almost 3 years with Gian Piero Gasperini at the helm of Atalanta, they finished 3rd in the Serie A this season, securing European...

How will Manchester City lineup in the 2019/20 season

Pep Guardiola will be looking to repeat on last year’s success and win the Premier League title for a third straight year. The Manchester...

Football Tactics for Beginners

The Perfect Defensive System # 1

In this new series called The Perfect Defensive System,we invite you the reader to contribute posts on what you think is the best defensive...

Football Tactics For Beginners-The Christmas Tree Formation

  Football is a result oriented business. Whatever succeeds, earns fame for itself and for its conceiver. And if it captures the imagination of spectators...

Football Tactics for Beginners: The Low Block

What is the low block? The low block is generally referred to a football team's defensive shape without the ball. Generally the low block consists...

Adopting the Right Mindset: How Mental Tactics Can Create Champions

Football is a funny old game and, like all sports, the margins between victory and defeat are often razor thin. In fact, as the...

Football Tactics for Beginners- The Sweeper Keeper: From Lev Yashin to Manuel Neuer

Germany’s Manuel Neuer has been widely credited as one of the finest goal-keepers of his generation, and quite rightly too. The Bayern Munich shot-stopper...

Football Tactics For Beginners- The False 10

In recent times the traditional No 10 position has been losing its importance with managers opting for either multi-functional players playing in that role or...

Football Tactics For Beginners: Attacking FullBacks

The modern attacking fullback has many duties to perform. No longer is it enough to leave an opposition winger stud-pocked and bruised, a modern...

Why does English football not trust Zonal Marking?

After many years of threatening to clamp down on excessive grappling from set-pieces, this season has seen Premier League referees penalise holding and shirt-pulling...

Football Tactics for Beginners- Juego de Posición

The main principle behind "Juego de Posición" is to always look for superiority on the football pitch. This superiority can be achieved by being...