West Ham 2012/13 Season Preview
By Sam Woodcock
For several years now West Ham have been akin to a loveable idiot.
They seem to garner a great deal of “second club” support, but for all of that frivolous admiration, the club has never been able to channel sympathy into results. Despite the turmoils of the last few years under owners Davids Gold and Sullivan (G & S), the new season represents a chance for West Ham to stabilise, a word that sums up the style of manager Sam Allardyce.While his playing style may frustrate the old faithful who yurn for “the West Ham way” to be played (though no-one is actually sure what that is), we can assume that his side will be well drilled in how to grind out results in the top flight – something they couldn’t do two years ago.
Central to any potential success will be Mark Noble, a smart player who embodies the enigmatic “Academy” of West Ham, who can truly hurt teams with his passing ability, and if Kevin Nolan can get himself fully fit, West Ham should avoid a true dogfight for Premier League safety. Away from the pitch the club appears to be far more settled, both financially and in the boardroom, although an Olympic stadium fiasco could just be around the corner.
On the pitch, however, the West Ham have an issue with scoring goals. Ricardo Vaz Te’s 10 goals in 15 games late in the season helped cover the cracks, but the midfield was vital for the Hammers, helping carrying the load in front of goal. This was exemplified by the seven draws out of 10 games in February and March, which effectively consigned the club to the playoffs.
In a move that almost certainly strives to solve West Ham’s profligacy in front of goal last season, £4.7 million has been splashed on Modibo Maiga from Sochaux, where his goal scoring record was a respectable 24 goals in 59 games. Maiga failed a medical at Newcastle in January and has reputedly attracted interest from a number of Premiership clubs this summer. He could be the Hammers Papisse Cisse.
Elsewhere Jussi Jaaskelainen was brought in on a free-transfer to replace Robert Green, James Collins has returned to the club from Aston Villa and, in a classic Allardyce swoop on the bosman market, Mohammed Diame has been snapped up after his contract at Wigan expired.Big Sam, ultimately, has filled his side with seasoned Premiership players who should feel, rather conversely, more comfortable with the less frenetic and more open style of play that is Premier League football.
The idea of future arrivals brings some murky waters to wade through, and few at the club can predict the Hammers’ next move. Exceptional circumstances, such as the interest in Andy Carroll, indicate that the money is there for the big name stars, whereas the generosity is limited for less “marquee” players (apparently the club did not sign Kieran Richardson due to his wage demands).
The squad currently stands at a grand total of 20, so new additions are certain to arrive. Just who they’ll be is a question remains a well kept secret. Dimitar Berbatov’s has been tossed around Upton Park, while others predict one in a million return of a certain Mr Carlos Tevez. If West Ham can get the most out of their strikers – particularly Vaz Te and Maiga (Allardyce, like plenty of the fans, doesn’t seem keen on Carlton Cole – a mid-table finish would not be out of the question.