FPL Preview: West Ham

West Ham

West Ham had a mixed season in 2014/15, as they got off to a strong start to the season only to fall into obscurity as the season progressed. That lack of form in the second half of the season was the nail in the coffin, as Sam Allardyce left the club, seemingly by mutual consent, as he was not offered another contract.

His replacement is ex-West Ham defender Slaven Bilic, who has already seen his team compete in three competitive matches having qualified for the Europa League through the fair play system. In order to handle the early start, West Ham have looked to add both quality and depth to the squad this summer. The arrival of Dimitri Payet for nearly £11m has added some much needed class in the attacking central midfield position, with Angelo Ogbonna another signing I expect to be able to walk in and start this season.

The additions of Pedro Obiang, Stephen Hendrie and Darren Randolph all add depth to a squad that will need to be marshalled cleverly to ensure they don’t suffer for their early season hard work. The biggest shock of the summer for me whas the departure of Stewart Downing to Championship club Middlesbrough. Downing was a great fantasy option last year and was already locked into many midfields this season and hopefully his departure from the Premier League is a one year only thing because he is a quality player who should be playing at the top of his game.

Early Fixtures Outlook: @ Arsenal, vs Leicester, vs Bournemouth, @ Liverpool, vs Newcastle, @ Man City

A very mixed start for West Ham, as they get one promoted side, two teams who struggled last year and three top six teams in the first month and a half. This mix makes it hard to trust Adrian as a flat out number one, as you would like to have other options in weeks one, four and six, but matched with the right person for those weeks and you could have a powerful duo on your hands. What this start does is render the other defensive options who aren’t Cresswell and Jenkinson unusable for the first month and half. Going forward they have good opportunities in three games but the sale of Downing means the three tough games make it hard to trust anyone completely.

Goalkeeper Outlook: Adrian (£5.0m)

Adrian is now about to enter his third season in the Premier League and his second as a starting goalkeeper, having earned the job midway through the 2013/14 season. Last season he continued on from his impressive end to that season by keeping nine clean sheets whilst making 129 saves. All of that earned him 142 points and meant he finished the season joint third alongside Joe Hart among goalkeepers last season. I expect those numbers to be similar this year and at £5.0m he is priced perfectly to be used alongside one of the other £5.0m goalkeepers in a match-up rotation.

Defence

Stud: Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m)

Cresswell had a storming season last year and proved to be a stud across the board as he scored 129 fantasy points in standard scoring to place him just outside the top 10 defenders. With two goals and four assists to go with his nine clan sheets he was an all-around contributor at a great value. The added bonus with Cresswell is that he gets forward and crosses the ball so he should have plenty of assist opportunities as well as having added value in crossing leagues. With West Ham’s defence starting the season well in Europa League qualifying they are setting a nice base with which to have a successful season in the Premier League.

Sleeper: Carl Jenkinson (£5.0m)

I am cheating a little because no one is sleeping on Jenkinson after his 2014/15 season but the fact he cannot play week 1 against Arsenal because of parent club rules could mean that come week 2 he is one of the most added players and we see his price creep up a fraction. Had Jenkinson of played similar minutes to his opposite full back then he could easily have been another top 15 defender for West Ham. Jenkinson is also capable of getting forward and had two assists last season which he will be hoping to add to this season.

It is tough to call this defence outside of the two full backs because West Ham have four possible centre back options in James Collins, James Tomkins, Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna. Reid and Ogbonna were my favourites but then James Tomkins goal the other night may have made him a possibility to start the first game. With this doubt it is hard to trust any of them enough to use in any format. The eventual winners of the job could be semi-decent fifth defenders as the season progresses n draft leagues.

Midfield

Dmitri Payet

Stud: Dimitri Payet (£7.5m)

The signing of Payet is an incredible purchase for West Ham given the sheer quality of the player. The move has been labelled as embarrassing by people in French football that a player this talented chose a mid level Premier League team over a French Ligue 1 side. He left Marseille having scored 15 goals across two seasons having scored 18 in the two seasons prior to that with Lyon, which shows he has the goal scoring pedigree. His performance in his debut game against Southend this weekend was hopefully an indication to come. If Payet’s goal scoring escapes him in the Premier League then he has a very strong assist record to fall back on with 40 in the last four seasons but whether he will be able to live up to a fairly hefty price tag makes him a big risk in salary cap leagues. In draft leagues he has the potential to be a top 20 midfielder, but top 30 is more realistic and therefore Payet should be taken as a high end #4 midfielder in that format.

Sleeper: Morgan Amalfitano (£5.0m)

The departure of Stewart Downing has opened up a hole out wide that needs filling and in a midfield crowded with central guys Amalfitano is the guy who could be set to shine. Amalfitano is one of the only natural wide attacking players in West Ham’s squad and that means that he can step into Downing’s shoes almost by default. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a talented player and in his last two Premier League seasons he has now scored seven goals in 40 starts and 52 total appearances. However, those starts have been broken up over those two years. Hopefully he can get some consistent playing time this season and return to something close to the form he had at West Brom two years ago where he had three assists and averaged 1.6 crosses per game. Although the arrival of Manuel Lanzini on loan for the season as the potential to put a spanner in the works for Amalfitano I still expect Amalfitano to get the first shot at the job.

The rest of the midfield is rather crowded, especially when you consider that West Ham is likely to use Enner Valencia as the hybrid striker/wide man. That leaves two central positions for five players potentially with Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Diego Poyet and Pedro Obiang all competing for those spots. Out of those five I expect Noble and Kouyate to be the main two with Poyet potentially going out on loan. Kouyate is the most fantasy relevant of those central guys and perhaps the only one worth owning in any format. Matt Jarvis is the other midfielder vying for time in the midfield but I cannot see him beating out Amalfitano or Valencia to start out wide and that hurts his value greatly. New loanee Manuel Lanzini is a bigger threat to Amalfitano and Valencia with West Ham having tried to sign him previously. Lanzini is a small pacy winger who scored eight goals last season for Al Jazira and is considered a very exciting player with big potential.

Strikers

Stud: Diafra Sakho (£6.5m)

Of course this can all change if West Ham can get Austin, because I think the Hammers will like the combination of Valencia and Austin switching over to the Austin/Carroll combination when Andy is fighting fit and ready to go. However, for now Sakho is the man coming off the back of a nine goal effort last season. He slowed down as the season went on and his year was disrupted by AFCON and injuries but he has already grabbed a couple of goals in competitive games this season so he should be ready to roll into the season. He’s probably not a salary cap league guy given he is £1.0m more expensive than Jermain Defoe, but could be useful if you are going for the two cheap striker’s option. In draft leagues I wouldn’t want him much higher than a high end #3 because of the concerns over what will happen with Austin and Carroll. But right now he is their best goal scoring option and should be in the line-up come opening day.

Sleeper: Andy Carroll (£6.5m)

Andy Carroll

Once again injury curtailed his season but we did see some of the flashes of the old Andy before he succumbed to those injuries. Five goals and two assists in just over 1000 minutes of game time to earn 56 points is not too shabby. Hopefully he can come back this season and stay fit because a fit Carroll with this supporting cast could be a double digit goal threat like he was in his Newcastle days. Even if they sign Austin then Carroll remains my sleeper because I cannot think of a much scarier combination than Carroll and Austin in tandem.

I can see Enner Valencia ending up being a regular feature for West Ham this year but in a wider role supporting either a lone striker or whatever combination of strikers West Ham have. While that will limit his goalscoring opportunities he should get plenty of assist chances and could be a really nice consistent option in crossing leagues as opposed to a normal striker whose value is dependent on goals. Zarate, Lee and Maiga look likely to be nothing more than peripheral player this season and a couple of them could even be leaving if Austin comes in. None are worth drafting.

Predicted Opening day line-up: (Ignoring the fact Jenkinson is unable to play the first game due to parent club rules)

GK: Adrian

RB: Carl Jenkinson

CB: Winston Reid

CB: Angelo Ogbonna

LB: Aaron Cresswell

CM: Mark Noble

CM: Cheikhou Kouyate

RW: Morgan Amalfitano

CAM: Dimitri Payet

LM: Enner Valencia

FWD: Diafra Sakho

 

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