Mladen Petric

Mauro Zarate completes deal to West Ham United, signs three-year contract

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Just one week after West Ham United decided to stick with manager Sam Allardyce – so long as he “provide more entertainment next season” – the club have gone out and signed themselves Argentine forward Mauro Zarate to a three-year deal.

The 27-year-old makes his way to Upton Park from Argentine side Velez Sarsfield, where he was the top-tier’s leading scorer with 18 goals in 28 appearances. 

“My reaction is that I am very happy to be at West Ham,” Zarate said after completing his deal with West Ham.

“This is a new chance for me and I want to play. I think I played well for Velez this season and that was important for me. I had some good team-mates and they helped to make it a fantastic season for me.”

Despite finishing 13th in the table, West Ham endured an underwhelming 2013/14 season that exposed holes both defensively, at wing-back in particular, and offensively in the generation and scoring of goals. The latter proved the major blemish, as the Hammers netted only 40 times in the 38 match season.

The lack of offensive production was due to a number of issues, in particular the extended injury absence of Andy Carroll and a lack of service. With Carroll out, Allardyce was forced to play a committee of forwards (Modibo Maiga, Ricardo Vaz Te, Marco Boriello and Mladen Petric) who, with the exception of the surprising Carlton Cole (6 goals, 23 appearances), was relatively toothless.

In Zarate, the Hammers have a player who has the skills, goal-scoring ability and most importantly, desire. “If you ask me what I can bring to the squad then I say I hope I will bring goals!” he exclaimed upon sealing his deal. Pacy and quick to shoot with either foot, the 5’9″ speedster can be a handful for opposing defenses. The key will be playing to his abilities and getting him the ball, which given West Ham’s style is no sure thing. 

To get the most out of Zarate the club’s style will need to change. Route 1 football won’t suit the Argentine, as he needs the ball at his feet with options around him to be at his best. At West Ham, expect him to play inside of Carroll in a 4-4-2 or on the left wing in the 4-2-3-1 setup typically deployed by the club this past season.

Fortunately for both Zarate and the Hammers, the Argentine has experience in the Premier League after he spent the second half of the 2007/08 Premier League campaign on loan at Birmingham City from the Qatari side Al Sadd. In that 14 match stint Zarate scored 4 goals, proving himself to be a fantastic talent capable of the incredible.

Balancing that considerable talent, however, is a dark side. After his spell with Birmingham Zarate was sold to Lazio where he spent three seasons (scoring 25 goals in 103 appearances) but was also handed a two-match ban after being photographed giving a fascist salute amid the Ultras section of fans. A spokesman later pled Zarate’s innocence due to his not knowing what the gesture meant. Since then Zarate has undergone a number of other questionable incidents including clashing with club executives and going on holiday when he was supposed to be receiving treatment. 

With the deal secure it’s clear that Allardyce has deemed the risk of Zarate to be worth the reward. For the sake of Big Sam’s future at the club, he best hope that turns out to be true.

Premier League Transfer Window Grades: West Ham

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Window shopping

Sam Allardyce says he has never been through such a bedeviling transfer period. Clearly, he wasn’t the only Premier League manager with difficulty in filling January needs, but for whatever reason, importing players to Upton Park seemed a bridge especially too far.

Allardyce wrote in a newspaper column just before the final deadline: “The transfer window is in its final throes and I would say we’ve looked at 100 possible deals this month. … I can’t remember ever negotiating as many deals in a transfer window and, if you look across the board, it has been the same throughout the Premier League.”

The late acquisitions of Italian internationals Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino helped ease some of the transfer window frustration. Some of it – there is still clearly a big fight ahead in Allardyce’s bid to avoid relegation.

Players In

Marco Borriello (Roma, loan), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan, loan), Jaanai Gordon (Peterborough, $5.7m), Roger Johnson (Wolves, loan), Abdul Razak (Anzhi Makhachkala, loan), Pablo Armero (Napoli, loan).

Players Out

Blair Turgott (Rotherham, loan), Paul MCallum (Hearts, loan), Jordan Spence (MK Dons, loan), Modibo Maiga (QPR, loan), George Moncur (Partick Thistle, loan), Mladen Petric (released), Razvan Rat (released).

Grade: C

Borriello, 31, has seven caps for Italy. No, that’s not exactly Paolo Rossi as Azzurri all-time strikers go, but he’s got something. Having scored once in 11 Roma appearances this year, a change of address can’t hurt, and maybe can find some of the 2008 form, when Borriello flirted with the Italian Serie A scoring leadership.

At the very least, he provides some cover for the inconsistent and unreliable Andy Carroll.

Nocerino (pictured above, in the middle), 28, has 15 caps for Italy, most prominently as a member of the country’s European Championships team from 2012. While he’s not completely useless, he had become surplus around AC Milan, even more so now Michael Essien’s arrival from Chelsea. It’s fair to ask if a midfielder in such poor from around the San Siro is the man who can help the Hammers dodge relegation?

Saturday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Hazard to PSG, “Egyptian Messi” to Liverpool?

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Eden Hazard is a fantastic player who would certainly command a large sum in the transfer market, but PSG has the money to chase the Chelsea star. Could the Blues sell the 22-year-old this summer if the price is magnificent? Cavani plus Ibra plus Hazard would be special.

It’s not a transfer window without approaches for Tom Ince. The Blackpool attacking midfielder and son of former English stalwart Paul Ince has 31 goals in 96 appearances for the Tangerines, with seven this year, and Swansea is again publicly expressing interest. The struggle here is that Tom Ince would be available on a free over the summer, making his value in the interim quite nebulous.

Speaking of Swans, Liverpool has denied rumors that they’d allow Raheem Sterling to go on loan to the Welsh side in January.

Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski’s medical must’ve gone well, as the striker has  agreed to a five-year deal to join Bayern Munich in the summer.

Newcastle United has been rumored to want Montpellier midfielder Remy Cabella, especially should Yohan Cabaye leave town. Montpellier boss Laurent Nicollin had a bizarre response when asked if the Magpies had contacted him: “Not at all, I don’t speak English.”

West Ham is not only picking up a couple big strikers (one in-house, one on-loan), but have extended Ricardo Vaz Te and released forward Mladen Petric. They’re also trying to extend Carlton Cole’s contract.

SkyBet has plenty of odds on where Juan Mata ends up, for what it’s worth. PSG, Manchester United and Napoli are the favorites.

Good news for Gus Poyet, as Sunderland midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini isn’t adding any fuel to the fire regarding a return to Juventus despite his slow start in the Northeast.

Thirty-one-year-old Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City is wanted by Aston Villa.

Basel’s in for a load of money as Liverpool joins the race to sign “the Egyptian Messi,” Mohamed Salah.

Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Chelsea

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  • This is the 100th game between the two teams, Chelsea have the edge (w44, D18, L37)
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 6 London derbies in the PL (W4, D2)
  • West Ham have failed to score in six of their 11 PL games this season

A raucous crowd will be present as these two old London foes square off in East London on a chilly Saturday night. This won’t be one for the faint-hearted.

West Ham host Chelsea (Watch live on NBC 12:30pm ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) at Upton Park in desperate need of a win and some goals. Last year they managed to upset the Blues but a dreadful run of just one win since the opening day of the season sees the Hammers flirting with the relegation zone. They have hastily signed forwards Carlton Cole and Mladen Petric to play up front with record signing Andy Carroll no nearer to a return to fitness and goals have been a massive issue with just nine scored so far.

Times are tough at Upton Park.

As for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, life hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses this season as his side grabbed a last-gasp equalizer courtesy of a controversial penalty last time out against West Brom. Mourinho is still rotating his squad and Big Sam would love take on board some of the players the ‘Special One’ is casting aside.

source: Getty Images
Life has been tough for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side of late, as they sit fourth in the PL.

This game will be rough and ready and Frank Lampard is sure to get plenty of abuse as he returns to the club he came through the academy but left when the big money of Chelsea came calling. the 34-year-old midfielder has scored three goals in his last four PL games against West Ham but is currently on his longest scoreless streak in the league for over 10 years as he’s gone 10 games without a goal.

The Blues need Lampard and skipper John Terry to stand up and be counted as a feisty atmosphere awaits in East London.

Team news and as we mentioned West Ham have several worries, with Winston Reid out long-term, Razvan Rat a doubt with a hamstring injury and Carroll missing. However Joey O’Brien and James Collins should return.

Chelsea’s Fernando Torres won’t be risked as he recovers from an adductor injury but Ashely Cole will play despite a recurrence of a rib injury.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on West Ham being a difficult place to play: ‘They [West Ham] are defensive and they give difficult matches to the big teams. That’s why everybody is losing points, why no team is dominant, why everybody is losing points but keeping in contact at the top of the table. That’s why this league has emotion every weekend, so I’m expecting a very difficult match.”

West Ham defender James Tomkins on the game plan vs. Chelsea: “We beat Spurs at their place and if we beat Chelsea it would give us a big boost. We’re all confident going into the game, there’s still a good atmosphere around the place and we’re looking forward to it. They’re conceding goals and when we counter attacked against Tottenham it worked for us. That seems to suit our play with our system at the moment and if we can frustrate them and keep it goalless at half time, we feel that we’re likely to get a goal.”

Prediction

This week West Ham unveiled pictures of what their new sparkling home at London’s Olympic Stadium will look like when the transformation is complete in a few years… but it will be no good to them in the Championship. If they keep playing like they are and refuse to play any recognized strikers then a relegation scrap could be on for Big Sam and his side. I expect Chelsea to stroll into Upton Park and grab all three points with ease. But how many times have we said Mourinho’s team would win easy this season, then they haven’t? It will be a tight, nasty and chippy game but I’m going for a Chelsea win.

Premier League Preview: Norwich City vs. West Ham United

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  • Norwich are unbeaten in 15 home league games against West Ham
  • The Canaries have conceded 18 goals in their last five matches
  • West Ham have recorded four 0-0 draws this season, most in the PL

Both sides have one thought on their mind heading in to this game…. score goals.

Two of the leanest attacks in the PL will meet at Carrow Road on Saturday as Norwich host West Ham United (watch live on NBC, 12:30pm ET and watch live online at NBC Sports Live Extra) with both teams desperate for a win.

Norwich City are the lowest scoring side in the PL with just six goals for this season, while West Ham haven’t fared much better as they’ve only scored eight.

But don’t let the low-scoring figures put you off, this one has all the makings to be a pulsating clash on a chilly evening in Norfolk.

Plus Norwich manager Chris Hughton is reportedly fighting for his job after a poor run of form, including that 7-0 demolition from Manchester City last weekend, has seen the Canaries drop into the relegation zone despite spending big to bring the likes of Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel this summer. But have missed out through injury to date, but the goals and creativity going forward just isn’t clicking for Norwich and now they’re leaking goals at the back.

(WATCH – PST Extra: Talking Manchester United vs. Arsenal, Chelsea’s struggles and the South Wales derby)

That’s worrying as Norwich were always so sound defensively in their last two PL campaigns, but in their opening 10 matches this season they’ve let in 20 goals already.

Sam Allardyce’s West Ham side are incredibly resolute in defense after keeping six clean sheets in 10 games and have Jussi Jaaskelainen to thank for that with some terrific displays. However the Hammer manager has been hampered with injuries to star striker Andy Carroll and many other attackers and Allardyce has already described this match as “six-pointer.” This is serious.

(MORE: Preview – Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion)

In terms of injuries, Robert Snodgrass will return for Norwich but summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel will miss out with a toe injury. West Ham are still struggling to have any fit strikers to call upon, as long-term absentees Carroll and Ricardo Vaz Te are joined by Mladen Petric on the treatment table.

What they’re saying

Sam Allardyce plays up importance of Norwich game: “It’s a six-pointer I would say already. They played very well in their last home game against Cardiff. Irrespective of recent results I was listening to the commentary of that game about how many chances they created and how many chances they missed. We have to make sure that we frustrate them in that area again on Saturday.”

Chris Hughton on his sides responding following their 7-0 loss at Man City: “We’re on the back of a negative at the moment with the Manchester City result, but it was only two games before that we were on the back of some really good performances. It’s our responsibility now to make sure that we get the right reaction from that game, and the great thing about this game is that you always get another opportunity. It’s a home game against West Ham and we need to make sure we get the right result. If we win on Saturday, it will give us back a good feel and we will go above West Ham in the table.”

Prediction

Despite West Ham’s poor run of form away at Norwich in the league, they’ve actually picked up some good results on the road this season and Big Sam sets them up as difficult to beat. The Canaries can’t get that lucky break they need and it’s going to be a long hard season unless the likes of Hooper, Elmander and van Wolfswinkel start scoring. West Ham will sit back and soak up the pressure, and expect them to hit the Canaries on the break to devastating effect. An away win is the smart bet here, I fear for Hughton’s future.