West Ham United Preview

Manager: Slaven Bilic
Stadium: Boleyn Ground
Captain: Kevin Nolan
Top Scorer: Diafra Sakho (11)

West Ham had a good season last year under Allardyce and played some good football, with a good season under their belt they’ll hope to kick on this year under a new manager before they move homes to the Olympic Park.

West Ham had a stunning first part of the season and had only lost 3 games by 8th November also had claimed some impressive scalps along the way. Losses to Manchester United, Tottenham and Southampton were nothing to be ashamed of either this run was huge for the London club. They were in the top 4 courtesy of this good form and a high profile 2-1 win over Manchester City on 25th October had rubber-stamped their credentials. They had also beaten Liverpool 3-1 in September they were showing that they were not a club to be taken lightly this astonishing form continued after November as they would only lose 3 more games before the turn of the year they cam in the form of narrow losses to Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton they finished 2014 in 6th place still impressive for the London club that had surpassed many clubs with both a bigger budget and better squad.

Sam Allardyce leaves the club after just 1 season.

Sam Allardyce leaves the club after just 1 season.

The second half would not be so successful for West Ham between the 31st January until the 25th April the club would only win 1 game as they beat Sunderland 1-0. This amazing fall from grace saw them in 10th place no mean feat for the club as they failed to find the astonishing form which had won them many fans before New Year’s Day. They were still playing attractive, free flowing football but the results were proving hard to come by. They finished the season with 3 straight losses and finished in 12th place. A respectable position but you can’t help but feel had they kept up the pace and not gone off the boil then Europe was a very real possibility. This season could be an important 1 for the club.

West Ham have been a club that had rarely looked like it will win games but now they are looking the business. They have played some good games and built a squad around some key players such as the enigmatic captain Kevin Nolan who has been hugely prominent in English football over the last decade it is strange that he has few England caps to his name. Mark Noble is another really big part of the West Ham puzzle and his form at 1 point put him in contention for England. Noble is a truly important player his partnership with Nolan is a real contrast of light and shade which made them so effective for large parts of last season.

Although Sakho was scoring a lot of the goals Enner Valencia had a good season for the Hammers he himself netting 5 times. His ability to do things he has no right to do make him a standout player he has this outrageous audacity to attempt things that players should not attempt. Valencia has the ability to turn games on their head I have a feeling the striker will be a huge part of this season. He has a team around him that know how to provide the Ecuadorian with quality ball with which he can dazzle opponents and fans alike.

Enner Valencia celebrates scoring a goal for Ecuador.

Enner Valencia celebrates scoring a goal for Ecuador.

Transfer business a strength for former boss Allardyce, Bilic has made a total of 6 signings whilst 8 players head for pastures new. He has brought in some rathe interesting players as well as bringing in Arsenal defender Jenkinson on loan. Ogbonna from Champions League finalists Juventus is a huge coup. He is a no nonsense centre back, his aerial ability is good and makes him a real handful at the set piece. Ogbonna could be key part of West Ham’s season. Dimitri Payet is a good signing he offers an attacking outlet to compliment the forwards such as Sakho and Valencia he will be a real threat if defenders allow him the space to exploit them with his pace and vicious power.

Ogbonna poses after completing his signing for West Ham.

Ogbonna poses after completing his signing for West Ham.

Veteran Carlton Cole goes he was just not providing enough to the squad although the former England striker could be a valuable asset to a Championship side. Downing the biggest transfer for West Ham this summer as he heads back to the north east to join Middlesborough an interesting transfer for both clubs he will be missed in London.

IN: Dimitri Payet (Olympique Marseille, Undisclosed)
Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus, €11 million)
Stephen Hendrie (Hamilton, Undisclosed)
Martin Samuelsen (Manchester City, Free)
Pedro Obiang (Sampdoria, Undisclosed)
Darren Randolph (Birmingham City, Free)

OUT: Carlton Cole (Free Agents, Free)
Stewart Downing (Middlesborough, £5.5 million)
Jussi Jääskeläinen (Wigan Athletic, Free)
Sean MacGuire (Dundalk, Free)
Nenê (Vasco de Gama, Free)
Guy Demel (Free Agents, Free)
Paul McCallum (Leyton Orient, Free)
Dan Potts (Luton Town, Free)

Some interesting signings and a rediscovery of that early season form could see them produce a stellar season it remains to be seen how much of that was down to manager Allardyce but we will see soon enough.

My West Ham United XI (4-2-3-1): 13 Adrián; 12 C.Jenkinson 21 A,Ogbonna 2 W.Reid 3 A.Cresswell; 4 K.Nolan (C), 16 M.Noble; 18 M.Amalfitano 27 D.Payet 11 E.Valencia; 15 D.Sakho

Bench: 1 D.Randolph 5 J.Tomkins 33 S.Hendrie 7 M.Jarvis 28 M.Lanzini 9 A.Carroll 20 M.Maïga

Last Season: 12th
Prediction: 9th

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Sunderland Preview

Manager: Dick Advocaat
Stadium: Stadium of Light
Captain: Lee Cattermole
Top Scorer: Connor Wickham/ Jordi Gomez (6)

Sunderland a season that saw them head for relegation before a sterling fightback under Advocaat saw them find a way to stay in England’s top flight. Sunderland live to fight another day.

Sunderland had a fairly average start to the season although they failed to secure a win until 4th October, they only lost 1 match and that was a 1-0 defeat away at QPR. They had managed wonderful draws against both Manchester United and Tottenham setting them up rather nicely. The 3-1 win over Stoke was unfortunately not a sign of things to come for Poyet and the Black Cats as 14 days later they would suffer a 8-0 humbling at the hands of Southampton. This would be a should destroying result for any side they returned home the week after only to once again fail to score as Arsenal won 2-0. Sunderland did manage 2 more wins before Christmas defeating Crystal Palace 3-1 in early November, and a crucial win over Tyneside rivals Newcastle just before Christmas. They finished the year in 14th place and relatively safe but with only 3 wins under their belts.

Ecstasy for Sunderland as they beat Newcastle.

Ecstasy for Sunderland as they beat Newcastle.

After Christmas Poyet could only manage 1 more win before he was sacked mid-March and that was only a routine victory over strugglers Burnley. Prior to this rare win they had lost 3 games in a row and were looking in bad shape. Following the win over Burnley Poyet only survived a further 6 games. The final nail in the former Brighton bosses coffin was Aston Villa defeating Sunderland 4-0 at the Stadium of Light leading to Poyet’s departure 2 days later. Sunderland were now languishing in 17th place just above the drop zone. Dick Advocaat took over and would only lose 3 times with Sunderland before the season was over. In just his 2nd game in charge Sunderland once again defeated Newcastle to do the double over their local rivals which has become something of a regular occurrence.

Sunderland would see May as the month they recovered as they won their 1st two games exacting revenge over Southampton with a 2-1 win and also beating Everton before 2 draws against Arsenal and Leicester before a loss to Chelsea on the final day. It was not perfect but Sunderland had done what they set out to do and Advocaat had taken Sunderland to 16th place and they were safe for at least one more season. Sunderland are going to need one hell of a change in fortune and gameplan if they want to get higher than they did last season.

Connor Wickham was by far their best player last year and it is hard to see where the goals will come from now he has joined Crystal Palace for an extortionate £9 million. Jack Rodwell is a promising midfielder his time at Manchester City stunted his career after limited success at Everton but it seems the 24 year old is trying to now rebuild his career in the north east and he is a very good player, his passing game is an asset to any time he sees space and has the talent to exploit it. His work rate is impeccable and with players like M’Vila and Cattermole around him they form a very hard working midfield. Jack Rodwell is sure to be in Advocaat’s plans leading into this season. This could be a huge season for the 3 cap England midfielder.

Jack Rodwell is all smiles after scoring his first goal for Sunderland against Manchester United.

Jack Rodwell is all smiles after scoring his first goal for Sunderland against Manchester United.

Sunderland have gone on a recruitment drive as well as securing M’Vila on loan from Rubin Kazan they have closed the deal on 4 new players whilst losing 3. Former Tottenham man Younés Kaboul is a big signing he not only brings Premier League experience but a defensive game that was something that was greatly lacking in Sunderland’s armoury last season. They have also brought in Coates from Premier League rivals Liverpool another worthy addition to the side. Sunderland’s recruitment doesn’t see any big names but the new faces are more necessity than luxury.

Kaboul in action for former club Spurs.

Kaboul in action for former club Spurs.

Departures are fairly insignificant bar Wickham who leaves after 2 big seasons. It seems the striker got bored of the Sunderland circus and heads off to London. His goals will be missed. As will his searing pace and creativity a rare bright spark in the black clouds that gathered over the Stadium of Light last season.

IN: Younés Kaboul (Tottenham Hotspur, £3 million)
Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kyiv (£8 million)
Sebastián Coates (Liverpool, £2 million)
Adam Matthews (Celtic, £2 million)

OUT: Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace, £9 million)
El Hadji-Ba (Charlton Athletic, £500,000)
Anthony Réveillére (Free Agents, Free)

Sunderland have recruited well and Dick Advocaat is a very clever manager he will have a trick or 2 up his sleeve but in my eyes survival is highly unlikely.

My Sunderland XI (4-1-3-2-1): 1 C.Pantilimon; 15 Y.Kaboul, 5 W.Brown 22 S.Coates 3 P.van Aanholt; 14 J.Gomez; 8 J.Rodwell 4 L.Cattermole (C), 21 Y.M’Vila; 17 J.Lens, 19 D.Graham; 18 J.Defoe

Bench: 25 V.Mannone 12 A.Matthews 16 J.O’Shea 7 S.Larsson 4 L.Bridcutt 23 E.Giaccherini 26 S.Fletcher

Last Season: 16th

Prediction: 20th (Relegated)

Newcastle United Preview

Manager: Steve McLaren
Stadium: St James’ Park
Captain: Fabricio Coloccini
Top Scorer: Papiss Cisse (11)

Newcastle’s season was a number of things, all bad none good. The club made some very interesting signings in the likes of Cabella and Riviére both of whom failed to impress. Newcastle finished in 15th disappointing for such a large club.

Newcastle’s demise could be pointed out to the latter part of the season when John Carver was in charge but you can’t forget that Newcastle started the season with a run of 7 games without a win these included a humiliating 4-0 loss to Southampton where the Saints ran riot. They seemed to have a lot of luck facing the north east. This run however was followed by Pardew inspiring his side to a run of 5 wins including defeats of Liverpool and Tottenham that saw Newcastle climb and Pardew’s stock rise, this signalled that Newcastle meant business and the impressive displays from players like Jack Colback and Daryl Janmaat as well as the scoring from Perez made Newcastle a tough side to beat.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

On 6th December Newcastle became the first team to beat Chelsea that season in an emphatic 2-1 win at St James’ Park, this was a heroic display from Newcastle and showed other teams that Chelsea were not as invincible as they had seemed early in the season. This was followed though by 3 straight defeats including a loss to local rivals Sunderland and that was that as Pardew left the north east of his own accord to join up with London club, Crystal Palace. This signalled a change in Newcastle’s league standing as into the breach stepped John Carver and Steve Stone who would oversee the remainder of the season as caretaker managers and would see a horrific run of games leading to Newcastle being embroiled in a relegation battle that went down to the final game against West Ham at St James’ Park.

John Carver oversaw Newcastle’s biggest defeat of the season when they faced Manchester United and crashed to a 5-0 defeat. This was followed up by a solitary win before the run of games that would see Newcastle slip from mid-table obscurity into the relegation dogfight. They suffered 10 games only picking up 1 point a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. They lost Sunderland who once again did the double over the Tyneside club and they suffered a defeat at the hands of already relegated club QPR on the penultimate weekend of the season. Their Premier League status was threatened but after Jonas Gutierrez inspired his team to 2 goals scoring 1 himself over West Ham and Newcastle could sleep easy that had retained their Premier League status, John Carver would not recover and was sacked as Mike Ashley brought in Steve McLaren.

The key player undoubtedly was former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback, Colback joined the club with high hopes of outdoing his former club and local rivals Sunderland only to find himself being 1 of only a few bright sparks donning the famous white and black shirt. The midfielder was industrious and made 35 appearances over the course of the season. He was the rock at the heart of Newcastle and his dictating of pace from the centre of the park was class. He reads the game well and has given Newcastle cause for hope as we hurtle towards next season. Newcastle fans will be hoping their local lad can give Newcastle more of what he was capable of producing last season.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Newcastle have made 3 important signings as well as seeing Darlow and Lascelles come after their year long loan at Nottingham Forest. The pick of the bunch is midfielder Wijnaldum who has been nothing short of outstanding throughout the Magpies pre-season. He has scored goals and created them, he is sure to be a worthy addition at St James’ Park. Mitrovic also arrived and his scoring prowess is quite something, the forward managed 28 goals in 51 appearances for Anderlecht last season and at 20 years old is still improving as a player and is not short of confidence he and Ayoze Perez could be formidable for Newcastle for seasons to come. Chancel Mbemba has also finally arrived after questions about his age were answered and he could be a very important addition as Newcastle’s defensive woes last season were something that McLaren is keen to address.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Newcastle see a number of departures, they sickeningly got rid of Argentina international Gutierrez who’s treatment from the club has been disgusting. They also lose Ryan Taylor and their first choice left back Santon who was key to Newcastle’s defence. The core of Newcastle has been ripped out and a gaping hole will be left by the departure of long time servants Taylor and Gutierrez who were at the club during the season in the Championship and helped them regain Premiership status it is a dark time on Tyneside.

IN: Chancel Mbemba (Anderlecht, £8.5 million)
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven, £14.5 million)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht, £13 million)

OUT: Ryan Taylor (Hull City, Free)
Davide Santon (Inter Milan, £3.25 million)
Jonas Gutierrez (Free Agents, Free)
Remie Streete (Port Vale, Free)
Adam Campbell (Notts County, Free)

Newcastle will be hoping for a better season and if they can produce some good football a top half finish. McLaren will be hoping to find a regular finisher in his side as well that have struggled for an out and out goalscorer since the departure of Demba Ba.

My Newcastle United XI (4-1-2-1-2): 1 T.Krul; 22 D.Janmaat 2 F.Coloccini (C) 15 J.Lascelles 18 C,Mbemba; 4 J.Colback; 7 M.Sissoko 16 R.Aarons; 5 G.Wijnaldum; 45 A.Mitrovic 17 A.Perez

Bench: 26 K.Darlow 19 M.Haïdara 3 P.Dummett 24 C.Tioté 20 R.Cabella 10 S.de Jong 9 P.Cisse

Last Season: 15th
Prediction: 11th