It doesn’t take a Hammers fans to tell you that West Ham appear to be taking a huge risk by sticking with manager Sam Allardyce. Allardyce was heavily criticised for his style of play last season, despite eventually steering the club to Premier League safety, and he hasn’t exactly done himself any favours in pre-season either. The same ol’ style with the same ol’ results. Until their 3-2 win over Sampdoria last weekend, that is. The big man took a leaf out of Louis van Gaal’s book with a 3-5-2 formation that excited the Hammers faithful, even if it did include Carlton Cole up front. And that, I suspect, is exactly what the Hammers fans will be craving when arch rivals Tottenham arrive in East London on Saturday. So here’s a look at West Ham’s dream starting XI for Saturday’s big kick-off… [ffc-gallery]
The Spanish keeper didn’t take long to become something of a cult hero at the club following his arrival from Real Betis last summer. After spending the first half of the campaign playing second fiddle to veteran Jussi Jaaskelainen, the 27-year-old eventually forced his way in as the Hammers’ number one with a number of impressive displays between the sticks. He ended the season as the club’s Hammer of the Year runner-up, but did win ‘Save of the Season’ for a superb fingertip effort from Oscar against Chelsea, ‘Best Individual Performance,’ for his role in the same game at Stamford Bridge and ‘Signing of the Season.’ The West Ham faithful took to Adrian from the offset, mostly because of his clear passion on and off the field, as well as his regular compliments towards them via his twitter page.
James Tomkins is another product of West Ham’s famed youth academy, although he’s never been about to reach the heights of the likes of Rio Ferdinand et al. Needless to say, he’s been a solid member of the Hammer’s first team for a number of years now and is as consistent as they come at his level. He’s had a solid pre-season and has developed something of a solid understanding with fellow centre-halves Winston Reid and James Collins in recent seasons.
Once an unknown Kiwi defender playing in Denmark, Winston Reid is now regarded as one of the hottest defensive prospects in the Premier League. Avram Grant is the reason why West Ham fans are able to admire his solid defensive performances each week, but back then he was no where near ready for first-team football and regularly struggled when called upon. But now he’s one of the first names on the team sheet, with many Hammers fans putting his lengthy injury last season down to their poor run of form over the Christmas period. With him at the heart of West Ham’s defence, they can always be confident of shutting out the opposition. He netted the first in a 3-0 Hammers vicory over Spurs last season, which the Upton Park faithful will be hoping he can do again on Saturday. Trouble is, he’s now running in to the final year of his West Ham contract and, according to reports, is turning down contract renewals for fun. Arsenal reportedly want him, which would be something of a steal if they manage to get him on a bosman.
Not the most fashionable of centre-halves, but he gets the job done. Now in his second spell at the club, he has had his shaky moments that have arguably made him the club’s third choice option in his defence. His relationship with Reid and Tomkins means not much will get past them on their day, which will be bad news for a Spurs side eager to put last season’s dreadful results against the Hammers behind them.
Downing was one of West Ham bright sparks last season, despite only managing one goal (against Spurs on the final day). His consistently good displays for the Hammers put to bed all the negative comments surrounding his arrival at the club last summer, with many fans uninspired by his average performances for Liverpool the season before. That said, he offers a lot under Sam Allardyce and will be a threat from dead ball situations – he scored a free-kick in a 2-0 win against Spurs last term.
The Frenchman impressed during a loan spell with West Brom last season and, if reports are to be believed, he’s on the verge of completing a permanent move back to the Premier League with the Hammers. Many will claim he’ll offer a lot more than Matt Jarvis currently does out wide for West Ham. And if he can replicate this for Allardyce’s side, West Ham be hoping he starts against Spurs on Saturday…
The £7million arrival from Anderlecht this summer initially appeared to be something of a gamble for the Hammers. But his pre-season performances this summer have hugely impressed West Ham fans, and they growing increasingly excited about seeing him more often this season. He’s something of a defensive midfielder and a bit of a ‘beast,’ which means Spurs’ midfielders could be in for a rough afternoon at Upton Park on Saturday.
Kouyate was absolutely superb today, ran his socks off, vital tackles great runs and a great passer — HammersCornerYT (@HammersCorner) August 9, 2014
kouyate was absolutely class today. Gonna be a big player us this season — Simon Hughes (@Simon_Hughes93) August 9, 2014
Mark Noble is West Ham through and through, and you can see that come out of him every time he’s on the pitch. He’s a West Ham favourite and seen his stock rise immensely in recent seasons, particularly under Sam Allardyce. Most fans want him to be handed the armband ahead of Kevin Nolan, and it’ll be an accolade he will deserve 100%. Another West Ham player whose name is one of the first on the team sheet each week, and he’ll no doubt be just as up for this weekend’s clash with Spurs as his fellow Hammers fans.
Ramsey only wears 16 because of Mark Noble — James. J. Maxwell (@jamesjmaxwell) August 10, 2014
Mark Noble is a hugely underrated footballer. He has more talent, vision and spirit than people realise. — R.A.Sikdar (@RASikdar95) August 11, 2014
Rumours of the midfielder’s Upton Park exit this summer appear to have died down, which is surprising considering his recent pre-season performances for the Hammers. Last season saw him played mostly out wide, which not only frustrated the West Ham fans who knew he was more effective in the middle, but also Diame himself as he went on to hint at a possible exit this summer. But his performance off the bench for the Hammers last weekend showed that he’s still got the ability to change a game with something outstanding…
Another one of West Ham’s summer arrivals that has impressed during pre-season and one that could cause Spurs some serious problems on the opening day. If he’s played in his favourite position, which is just behind the striker, he can be very effective. He’s not afraid to shoot from range, either…
Hammers fans are looking forward to seeing more of that this season and he’d no doubt earn hero status if he can do that against Spurs this Saturday.
With Enner Valencia not yet match fit following the World Cup, Andy Carroll sidelined with an ankle injury for four months and Carlton Cole not quite good enough anymore, Sam Allardyce will need to bring someone in pretty quick if he’s going to have someone to score the goals against Spurs on Saturday. The person appears to be Sunderland’s Connor Wickham, with a £4million offer rejected and another bid expected to come in imminently. The 21-year-old hit five goals in nine games at the end of last season to help the Black Cats avoid relegation, and the Hammers could well need him to pull a few of these out the bag this season…