Saturday, July 22, 2017

West Ham could surprise everybody with top-four finish

David Nugent in Editorial, English Premier League 23 Jan 2016

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Croatian boss Slaven Bilic has done an impressive job at West Ham this season

Croatian boss Slaven Bilic has done an impressive job at West Ham this season

West Ham hosts Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground in the Premier League kick-off.

Prior to the afternoon kick-offs the Hammers were sixth in the top-flight table, but just four points behind fourth-place Tottenham.

The Hammers suffered their first defeat in nine games last time out at Newcastle and it halted their rise up the table.

Slaven Bilic’s team must fancy their chances of making the top-six at least this season though, as they now seem to have a good blend of skilful and hardworking players.

Very good signings

Bilic arrived at West Ham with a mixed managerial record, but the Croatian’s signings as Hammers boss have proven to be a major hit. The biggest of those signings was that of French midfield playmaker Dmitri Payet, who is looking more and more like a bargain with every game.

The former-Marseille star recently spent a few months on the sidelines through injury. Who knows where the Hammers would be now if Payet had not picked-up an injury against Everton in November.

Payet has scored six goals and recorded five Premier League assists this season and more importantly has been the Hammers brain from his attacking midfield position this season.

When West Ham have been at their best, Payet has been at the heart of every good that the Hammers have produced this season. A lot of the big spending top-flight clubs must be wondering why they did not make a move for the Frenchman.

Payet had been consistently producing assists and goals, albeit in Ligue One with Marseille, for a long time. You have to wonder why no other Premier League club made a move for the Frenchman.

Argentinian attacking midfielder Manuel Lanzini has been another very shrewd signing this season. The on-loan youngster has scored four times this season and also collected two assists for the Hammers. He is currently struggling with a groin injury though.

Winger Michail Antonio joined from Championship Nottingham Forest in the summer. The 25-year-old impressed in the second tier and he has recently broken into the Hammers first team. Antonio has scored twice and collected four assists in just eight starts in the top-flight.

Bilic has showed that a club does not need to spend hundreds of millions to improve their team. The Croatian has been very shrewd in the transfer market.

Very good in defence

As you would expect for a team managed by a former-centre-back West Ham have looked very solid at the back. The likes of Payet, Lanzini and Antonio may give the Hammers the guile and skill, but at the back the likes of James Tomkins and James Collins have been superb this season.

Collins is arguably enjoying the best spell of his career of late, while Tomkins has been performing admirably out-of-position at right-back. The likes of Mark Noble and Cheick Kouyate also provide decent cover in front of the defence.

The team have played that well that on-loan Barcelona midfielder Alex Song has failed to nail down a regular spot in the team this season.

Certainly no pushovers

Manchester City will be looking to go back to the top of the Premier League table, if Leicester fails to win at home against Stoke. The Citizens are favourites to win this clash at odds of 8/11 to pick-up a victory in the east end.

However, Manuel Pellegrini’s side will know that West Ham are unlikely to be pushovers. The Hammers have already beaten the Citizens at the Etihad Stadium this season and they will be looking to do the double over the big spending visitors.

This season has proven to be one of the most unpredictable in the Premier League in a long time, so it would not be a major surprise for an outsider to claim a top-four spot.

West Ham have as good a chance of any of the outsiders at the moment. Slaven Bilic has built a very good unit at the Boleyn Ground and even when they were injury hit the Hammers managed to hang around the top half of the table and that has kept them close to the European spots.

The Hammers seem to have a bright future and Bilic’s side really cannot be written-off for a place in the top four this season. In this crazy season a West Ham victory over Manchester City really would not register as a major shock and a Hammers win would put them right in the mix for a place in the top-four.

Can West Ham gatecrash the top-four this season?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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