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Optimism for West Ham United ahead of start of Premier League season
Just two years after dropping out of the Premier League, West Ham United have every reason to be optimistic ahead of Saturday’s big kick-off at home to newly-promoted Cardiff City.
March’s news of their successful Olympic Stadium tenancy bid was a boost for the future, but in the short-term there are a number of reasons to be positive.
Having avoided being pulled into a relegation scrap following their return to the Premier League, West Ham will be looking to avoid ‘second-season syndrome’ and propel themselves further up the league standings.
Sam Allardyce has continued to improve upon a squad which secured a comfortable tenth-place finish upon their return to the top-flight, spending £20m to add two England internationals to his squad.
The £15m acquisition of former Liverpool and Newcastle United striker Andy Carroll is something of a coup, with the 6ft 3in forward’s impressive displays last season as he scored seven league goals in 22 starts.
A square peg in a round hole for the majority of his time at Anfield under Brendan Rodgers, the powerful Geordie striker will benefit from the traditional wing-play of Matt Jarvis and new arrival Stewart Downing, also snared from Liverpool in a £5m deal.
Skipper Kevin Nolan quickly reignited his strong understanding with good friend Carroll last term, doubtless forged during the pair’s time at St James’ Park. If the former Toon stars can replicate the performances they produced towards the end of last season again this year, Premier League defences will have a hard time stopping them.
The capture of 32 year-old Romania captain Razvan Rat on a free transfer from Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk should not be overlooked either.
Left-back was one of the positions the Hammers struggled to fill most last term, with Joey O’Brien, Guy Demel, Emanuel Pogatetz, George McCartney and Dan Potts all asked to fill in during various stages of the season.
The capture of the vastly-experienced Romanian international will fill that void effectively.
During his ten-year stay with Shaktar, the former Rapid Bucarest defender won ten Ukrainian league titles, five Ukrainian cups and the 2009 UEFA Cup.
Departures of senior players have been sparse, with only Carlton Cole and Gary O’Neil allowed to depart Upton Park this summer. With neither player making more than 20 league starts last term, neither absentee should be too keenly felt.
With fixtures against two of the three promoted teams and three sides who finished below them last season comprising their opening six matches, the Hammers will be positives about their chances of making a strong start to the new league season.
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