Club Fantasy Profiles: West Ham United

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The 2013/14 Premier League season was not a kind one for “The Hammers”, as they finished 13th in the table and a mere seven points above the relegation zone. But it wasn’t all gloom and doom for the London club, as they enjoyed a four-match win streak for the month of February, and also secured three points in the both the home and away matches against fellow London club, Tottenham Hostspur. However, the lower-mid table finish and only 40 goals scored means that even with the new additions, the fantasy prospects are few and far between heading into the new season.

 

Team Overview

 

If it weren't for an injury last season, Adrián would've been one of the best fantasy goalkeepers.

If it weren’t for an injury last season, Adrián would’ve been one of the best fantasy goalkeepers.

Goalkeeper Adrián, despite suffering an injury that caused him to miss 18 Premier League matches last season, was still named the runner up to midfielder Mark Noble for “Hammer of the Year”. Over the 20 appearances he did make, he managed six clean sheets and made 87 saves. Which, applied to the games he missed (an average of just over four saves/game), would’ve put him somewhere in the neighborhood of 160-plus saves; almost assuredly making him one of the better keepers in fantasy land. And it’s his shot-stopping ability that will indeed drive his fantasy value. Because while he has the talent to keep a clean sheet, due to a leaky defense in front of him they shouldn’t be counted on, especially against the Premier League elite.

*Note: To see how Adrián stacks up with the other keepers in the league, be sure to read Ben Rolfe’s pre-season Goalkeeper rankings*

Speaking of that leaky defense, while they weren’t bottom of the barrel-bad (that distinction went to the now-relegated Fulham and their 85 goals conceded), they weren’t, with their own 51 goals conceded, exactly what you might call a “stout” defense either. As such, the names worth mentioning for fantasy purposes are limited to one. Right Back Guy Demel was the team’s lone fantasy bright spot last season as he amassed 112 fantasy points off of one goal, one assist, and 13 clean sheets in 32 appearances.

The back four in manager Sam Allardyce’s scheme aren’t often utilized in attack, which, unfortunately for prospective fantasy owners, means we’re likely to look the other way when choosing our own back line. Why, even Demel’s 2013/14 season was only good enough for 22nd amongst defenders. However, at 6’2″ and 194 lbs, he provides a big body that can often get on the other end of set pieces, which helps him cling to even the smallest sliver of fantasy value. He makes for a good third or fourth defender.

Moving to the midfield where the fantasy prospects get slightly better, we see a rather underrated group highlighted by Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble. We’ll get to those two in a moment, but in the meantime we’ll focus on a few other players who likely won’t be more than a reserve midfielder on your squad, but could still play a part in the story of how your fantasy season turns out.

Mohammed Diamé, Matthew Jarvis, and Stewart Downing combined for seven goals and eight assists last season, and while that may seem a tad uninspiring, all three are capable more. Jarvis and Downing in particular have flashed greatness in previous seasons with other clubs, and one might think that with the new additions (namely Enner Valincia, whom we’ll discuss later) that both could recapture some of their former glory. Downing’s team-leading 62 created chances last season alone should provide optimism that with a little more offensive punch, more counting stats should be on the horizon.

That offensive punch will be a little less potent as the club’s most expensive player, forward Andy Carroll, will now be facing up to a four-month layoff after needing surgery on a broken ankle. Carroll’s career can be summed up by unrealized potential – largely brought on due to constant nagging injuries – but he has demonstrated the kind of threat he can be in the past when he bagged 13 goals in the 2011/12 season. He would’ve been worth a late-round flyer had he been healthy going into the season, but shouldn’t even be on your fantasy radar at this point.

 

The Studs

Kevin Nolan: West Ham's stud

Kevin Nolan: West Ham’s stud

While he may not necessarily be a “stud”, midfielder Kevin Nolan is a cut above his teammates and finished inside the top 15 of fantasy midfielder’s in 2013/14 (a very deep position by the way).

Coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he scored double digit goals, Nolan didn’t quite produce the goals that he’d seen the past two years (only bagged seven), but he did, however, increase his assists – to the tune of seven, after only registering four over the two previous campaigns. His seven goals (still an impressive total) all came from inside the 20-yard box, which demonstrates his ability to do damage in close quarters, and even still proves that at age 32 he can be an effective player in the middle of West Ham’s attack. After the big names are off the board in your draft, don’t hesitate to grab Nolan as your third of fourth midfielder. With a healthy diet of goals and assists, he could very easily out perform his draft position.

 

Key New Signing

Hopefully Valencia celebrating will become familiar sight for West Ham fans and fantasy owners.

Hopefully Valencia celebrating will become familiar sight for West Ham fans and fantasy owners.

West Ham, like many other Premier League clubs, have been busy scouring the transfer market in hopes of adding players to help improve upon their previous season’s performance. And while all are sure to make their mark on the team (good or bad), the one that’s likely to be the most fantasy relevant is forward Enner Valencia.

Valencia arrives after scoring 18 goals in the Mexican Liga MX – Clausura, as well as netting an impressive three goals in Ecuador’s three group games in this summer’s World Cup. It’s this run of form that had clubs around the world interested in his service, but the draw of Premier League football was too much, as the “Hammers” won out.

Valencia brings with him tremendous pace as well as strong finishing, evidenced by his 52% shot accuracy. The move couldn’t have come at a better time, either, due to the loss of Andy Carroll for a supposed four months.

Due to the fact that he’s assured playing time and will likely be playing as a lone striker, Valencia makes for very nice second forward option on your team, assuming you’ve nabbed a more proven Premier League scorer for your first. He’ll struggle at times with the physicality of his new league, but he should still have a chance at eight to ten goals as well as a handful of assists.

 

Under the Radar

Playing behind Nolan and just in front of the back four, we find Mark Noble. Very much in the same vein as one Steven Gerrard, Noble has shown that even playing in a deeper-lying midfield role he can contribute to his team’s attack, and, more importantly, to your fantasy team. Last season he finished second behind Stewart Downing for the team lead in created chances with 56, and it’s there, along with clean sheets, where he provides his value. His 83% pass accuracy, along with an average pass distance of 20m, proves that he’s adapt at picking out a teammate and looks to do so by often playing a long ball to an attacker. With some added firepower and Nolan still manning the middle, look for Noble to continue to provide great fantasy value – even as a defensive midfielder.

 

Young Guns

Diego Poyet is one to watch

Diego Poyet is one to watch

One player to keep an eye on in the perhaps near future, is recent signee, Diego Poyet, son of current Sunderland manager, Gus Poyet. Poyet, makes his way to West Ham via Charlton Athletic from the Football League Championship (English football’s second division, for my perhaps not- so in the know fellow American readers). Only making 20 appearances for his club last year, Poyet, at only age 19, created an impressive 16 chances for his team, and did so much like his now-teammate Mark Noble, from a more defensive midfield position. Despite his deeper role, he’s shown a pension for some attacking flair which likely comes from his relentless pace. He’s also held up his end of the bargain on defense for Charlton as well, averaging five defensive actions (block, clearance, or interception) in those 20 appearances, which included a mind-boggling 49 interceptions.

He may not see much time in the first XI to start, but Poyet’s energy and ability to work box to box will be a welcomed addition to the Hammers, and hopefully, in turn, to fantasy rosters.

 

They lack the flash of some of the more popular and wealthy Premier League clubs, but West Ham still boast a handful of players that will play key roles on fantasy teams come this season. And, as I’ve written in the past, the prices these players can be had at is of great benefit to you the fake football manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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