Having marked his appointment as West Ham boss last summer by bringing in over £100m-worth of new players with which to shape his revolution, Manuel Pellegrini will surely have been hoping for better than the 10th-placed finish his side managed last term – the Irons were five points off seventh and seven points off 14th.
Considering the fate of Fulham, who spent a similar amount and were relegated, perhaps it was a successful campaign for the Hammers after all – they still have some work to do if they are to challenge the likes of Wolves for seventh-spot, though, and pre-season has thrown up some interesting questions ahead of the Premier League 2019/20 opener against Manchester City.
With the weeks leading up to the start of the new campaign widely-regarded as pretty inconsequential, fans can be forgiven for not keeping up to date with all the goings-on, which is why we’re here to give you the lowdown on what we’ve learned from West Ham’s pre-season – click through the gallery for our five takeaways…
With Manuel Lanzini having returned to action after missing 33 games through injury since June 2018, West Ham have yet another option in attacking-midfield – the Argentine has 20 goals and 13 assists for the Hammers in the league – to compete with Jack Wilshere and new boy Pablo Fornals for a starting spot.
Former Arsenal man Wilshere missed much of the 2018/19 season too and staked his claim in the starting XI during the victory over Altach, as he was by far the best player on the pitch after coming on for the second half.
Fornals, whom the Irons signed for £24m, completed 1.4 key passes per game last term and will be keen to hit the ground running in the Premier League. It will be hard for Pellegrini to accommodate and give suitable game-time to all three but it’s not a bad headache for the Chilean to have.
Another player who will be hoping to get back up to pace with the Premier League as quickly as possible is Andriy Yarmolenko who, after joining from Borussia Dortmund last summer, suffered an Achilles tendon rupture which kept him out from October 2018 until the end of last month.
West Ham fans who tuned in for their side’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of champions City in the Asia Trophy thinking that the departed Marko Arnautovic was still playing in claret and blue can be forgiven – Yarmolenko, who took the controversial Austrian’s number 7 shirt, showcased some of the skill and hold-up play associated with his former teammate and produced a wonderful backheel to present Javier Hernandez with the perfect opportunity to score.
Unfortunately, the Mexican could not convert the gilt-edged chance, but the work from Yarmolenko was certainly promising.
Josh Cullen enjoyed a stellar campaign on loan at Charlton last season as the Addicks battled through the play-offs to ensure Championship football for 2019/20 and the Irishman surely saw this pre-season as the perfect opportunity to stake his claim with West Ham.
Sadly, the 23-year-old seemed off the pace in the 1-0 loss to Newcastle in the third/fourth-place Asia Trophy play-off and, with reliable Hammers insider ExWHUemployee suggesting that this summer was ‘make or break’ for the player, it would seem that this poor performance may have cost him his future in claret and blue.
Charlton fans will love it, particularly if he returns – their interest in another loan has been reported – but it’s certainly gutting for Cullen himself, who has some real ground to make up if he is to remain at the London Stadium.
Given the manner in which the former Stoke man crowbarred an exit, most West Ham fans were surely keen to see the back of Arnautovic when he completed his £22.4m move to Shanghai SIPG earlier this month, although they could have done with the 6 foot 4 hitman in their defeat to the Magpies.
The Irons failed to record a shot on target in a sub-par performance and thus lost their second consecutive game of pre-season, having previously been dispatched by the Cityzens – 30-year-old Arnautovic managed a team-high 2.2 shots per game last term and this frequency of efforts will be missed by the east Londoners.
Pellegrini’s decision to bring Carlos Sanchez to the London Stadium last summer is looking all the more misguided one year later, with the Colombian charging all over the pitch in the victory over Altach – the 33-year-old’s heat map may have been impressive, but he was inefficient and erratic throughout.
The enforcer might have given his side the lead with a solid header but, prior to that rare show of quality, was a liability – he gave the ball away too frequently and was nearly caught dallying on the edge of his own box. Of course, this was only the first game of the Hammers’ summer preparations but his display, in which he also received a customary yellow card, should be of big concern to his manager.