West Ham have endured mixed fortunes so far in the Premier League this season.
The Hammers suffered defeats at Chelsea and Manchester City this season, but also recorded a 1-0 win at home against Bournemouth.
The fixture computer was not kind on West Ham with their early schedule, but Saturday’s home game against Watford at the London Stadium gives the Irons a chance to kick-start their Premier League campaign.
Injuries to key players
The tough start to the campaign was not helped by the fact that Hammers boss Slaven Bilic is currently dealing with injuries to key players.
The Croatian boss is currently without left-beck Aaron Cresswell and forwards Andre Ayew, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho all sidelined through injury. The good news for the Hammers is that influential French playmaker Dimitri Payet and Algerian attacking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli are both available again after injury problems.
The return of Payet will be a massively welcome one. The former-Marseille star was one of the Premier League signings of last season and highly influential for France at Euro 2016.
Payet has made just one top-flight appearance this season and Saturday’s game will be the first time the French star starts a Premier League game this season. He will definitely be one to watch against the Hornets.
Feghouli was an interesting free signing from Valencia in the summer. He is skilful and is creative, so he should lift some of the creative burdens from the shoulders of Payet this season. The 26-year-old has yet to make an appearance for the Hammers due to injury.
Signings could go either way
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic knew he had to strengthen his squad this season after his side finished seventh in the Premier League table last season.
The former Besiktas has been very active in the transfer market this summer nabbing the aforementioned Feghouli on a free transfer as well as midfielder Havard Nordtveit. Ghana forward Andre Ayew arrived from Swansea for £20million, only to pick-up a relatively long-term injury.
Turkish winger Gokhan Tore, left-back Artur Masuaku and right-back Alvaro Arbeloa joined as well mercurial Italian striker Simone Zaza and young Swiss midfielder Edimilson Fernandes. Not forgetting Argentinian striker Jonathan Calleri joining on a season-long loan deal.
It’s fair to say Bilic has definitely increased the numbers in his squad, but whether the signings will turn out to be shrewd ones only time will tell. The likes of Feghouli, Arbeloa, Nordtveit and Tore have arrived on free transfers or in Tore case loan deals, so the Irons do not have much to lose.
The arrival of 25-year-old Zaza from Juventus was the most interesting for me. The Italian international has joined on loan for the season in a deal worth five million euros.
At the end of the season, the Hammers also have an obligation to buy the striker for 20million euros if he plays a certain number of games. No doubt the Hammers were looking to strengthen their striking options this summer and Zaza will add something different to their strike-force.
His goalscoring record has not been great in Italy, but he has been decent and has potential. Zaza is a maverick striker who could take Premier League defences by surprise.
Hammers favourites to beat the Hornets
West Ham have not been awful this season, even in the defeats at Chelsea and City. At times they were outplayed by City, but that is to be expected from an expensively assembled team of players managed by Pep Guardiola.
However, a home game against Watford represents a golden opportunity for the Hammers to get back to winning ways. Bilic’s side are favourites to record a win in this clash at odds of 4/5 and will be buoyed by the return of Payet to the starting eleven.
West Ham could find it very difficult to repeat the relative success of finishing in seventh place in the Premier League table like last season. The Hammers produced some entertaining football and Bilic won plaudits for masterminding a number of high-profile wins last season.
The Irons now have to look at this as a fresh start and a chance to build up momentum for the rest of the season, because competition just for places in the top ten of the Premier League this season could be even fiercer than ever.
Can West Ham improve on last season’s seventh-place finish?