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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: West Ham United

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West Ham are on a slow build, and things seem to be progressing as planned.

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With Slaven Bilic at the helm, the Hammers secured European play last season, and despite a relative lack of flashiness behind superstar Dimitri Payet, a deep squad should help push them towards a repeat of that this campaign. It won’t be easy, with struggling historical powers like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United improving behind them, but the Hammers have a solid squad with which to compete.

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Unfortunately, with the Europa League having already begun, the Hammers have been big players in the transfer market, but have had little success. Injuries to key players like Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini have caused them problems early on, with the former out for months and nobody in to replace him. Sam Byram has deputized in the early going, but the Hammers have had multiple bids for multiple left-backs rejected or otherwise failed. Just Friday, a deal for Davide Santon looked complete until he failed his medical. They need a right-back as well, with Carl Jenkinson back at Arsenal and a winger in Michail Antonio currently filling in.

Lanzini has been easier to replace, with Enner Valencia stepping into the squad opposite Sofian Feghouli, who’s had a fantastic preseason and Europa League showing. Still, outside of Feghouli’s free transfer and the purchase of Lanzini on a permanent basis after last year’s loan, there has been less activity than expected at the Olympic Stadium, given the amount of rumors West Ham has been mentioned alongside.

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West Ham could slip if…they fail to find a steady replacement for both wing-back positions, fixture congestion in the Europa League strikes, and Payet regresses. Last season, Southampton found themselves out of the Europa League in the playoff stage, with the Premier League season barely having begun. If West Ham should do the same, it might help them more than it hurts them, as with the Saints last year. Making the Europa League group stage could prove a bigger distraction than it’s worth.

More than likely, they’ll repeat last year’s performance…Dimitri Payet is a wonderful player, and they may only have him one more season. Around him, the Hammers have a very deep, if not flashy, squad, and should be able to handle the Europa League’s additional fixtures. They can produce a result on any given day in league play, and that should carry them far.


Best Possible XI

—– Adrian —–

— Antonio — Nordtveit — Reid — Cresswell —

—– Kouyate —– Noble —–

 —-Feghouli —- Lanzini —- Payet —-

—— Carroll ——


Transfers In: Manuel Lanzini ($13m, Al-Jazira), Sofiane Feghouli (Free, Valencia), Gokhan Tore (Loan, Besiktas), Ashley Fletcher (Free, Manchester United),  Havard Nordtveit (Free, Borussia Monchengladbach).

Transfers Out:  James Tomkins ($12.5m, Crystal Palace), Joey O'Brien (Free, Unattached), Elliott Lee (Free, Barnsley),

Last Season: West Ham rode Bilic and Payet to a seventh place finish. They could have made the Champions League had things gone their way in the FA Cup final, but without the stroke of luck they needed, the Hammers still reached the Europa League for the second straight time. They were steady as a rock all year long, not once losing two matches in a row until the final two games of the campaign, which themselves halted an 11-match unbeaten run.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02:  Dimitri Payet of West Ham United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Crystal Palace at the Boleyn Ground on April 2, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Star Player: Dimitri Payet – The Frenchman used an explosive season to vault himself towards the Euro 2016 finals, and didn’t disappoint in his home country. Back from his post-Euro rest, Payet is ready to repeat the glitz and glamour he displayed in his first campaign in Claret and Blue. Where Payet goes, West Ham goes too; should he suffer a Premier League sophomore slump, there is no chance West Ham can achieve a finish similar to last season.

Coach’s Corner: Slaven Bilic burst onto the scene last season with the Hammers, and solidified himself as a neutral fan’s favorite character with gleaming reviews of his on-camera time during Euro 2016. Bilic pushed all the right buttons off the field last year, but more importantly, he moved the chess pieces to perfection on the pitch. Last year, Bilic boasted wins over Arsenal, Liverpool twice, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester United. He deployed a 4-2-3-1 attacking system that still maintains defensive solidity, a type of double-edged sword even the best managers would salivate over. Look for more of the same.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 10:  Slaven Bilic manager of West Ham United points during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at the Boleyn Ground on May 10, 2016 in London, England. West Ham United are playing their last ever home match at the Boleyn Ground after their 112 year stay at the stadium. The Hammers will move to the Olympic Stadium for the 2016-17 season.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

PST Predicts: Speaking of more of the same, West Ham should pull another top tier finish, likely in the seventh position again. Unfortunately, while the Hammers have a solid squad and top manager, teams around them got significantly better this summer while the Hammers treaded water. Due to this, it’s possible that they fall out of a Europa League position next season, but don’t expect too hard a fall. 7-10 should be the expectation, while anything more would be a bonus.

Guardiola pretty happy with Man City’s 8-star win

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Pep Guardiola isn’t here for your storylines.

It’s fair to say that a lot of faith has been restored in Manchester City following last weekend’s loss to Norwich City.

[ RECAP: Man City 8-0 Watford ]

The reigning champs hung a collective 11-0 score line in wins over Shakhtar Donetsk and Watford over the past four days, eight of those goals coming in an utterly rampant roll over the Hornets on Saturday.

So, point proven? Nope, says Pep.

“Do you think after what these guys have done for two seasons they have to prove something?”

A rhetorical question, sure, but this City team had lost to a newly-promoted team days after losing its best defender for six months. Then another center back, John Stones, fell victim to the injury bug.

Enter Fernandinho at center back. And two clean sheets.

“What I like the most is normally when it’s 5-0 at half time the second half is not serious, it’s boring but we did the opposite and we were more aggressive and made a very good second half,” Guardiola said. “People still don’t understand, journalists, pundits, former players, losing games is part of life. Opponents always deserve respect. The same feeling I have now I had after Norwich so it was not a bad performance. We can lose the games but the important thing is the approach and how we react.”

The BBC also had a pretty snarky response to Guardiola being asked about just missing the Premier League single game goals record, held by Manchester United with nine.

Bookmark this, because if he didn’t know it before the post-match, he knows it now.

“I didn’t know the record. Who is it? They deserve it, congratulations.”

Wood brace sees Burnley past Norwich City

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Chris Wood scored a pair of early goals as Burnley punished Norwich City 2-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday.

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The Clarets rise seventh with eight points, while Norwich City has six points and will finish the weekend on the outskirts of the relegation zone.


Three things we learned

1. Wood comes good: Chris Wood entered the match with zero goals through five matches after scoring 10 in each of his first two Premier League campaigns with the Clarets. He’s got two now, using his noggin and boot to score a pair of typical Chris Wood goals. Very encouraging for the Kiwi striker, and his coach Sean Dyche.

2. Canaries defense undone: The many injuries to Norwich City’s back line have been well-documented, and the club would have the league’s worst goal conceded total were it not for Watford’s abject display at Man City on Saturday. Teemu Pukki and the win over Man City are great stories, but these are the concession numbers for Norwich over six matches: 4, 1, 3, 2, 2, 2. The one is lowly Newcastle.

3. Pope delivers a clean sheet: Twenty-seven year old Nick Pope isn’t even the first Nick Pope that shows up in a Google search, but he’s proven two England goalkeepers second-best in his time at Burnley. There wasn’t a lot for Pope to do, but his early save on Teemu Pukki is not something to be overlooked from the win.

Man of the Match: It’s Wood, but give a lot of credit to Ashley Westwood. The 29-year-old has been a service machine for Burnley the past two seasons, and also went in for five tackles on Saturday.


What a start.

You were almost putting 1-0 on the board when Teemu Pukki cut his defender to the inside and shot on goal, but Nick Pope made a fine save in the 8th minute.

Burnley went ahead two minutes later through Wood, who was the near post difference maker at the front of a sea of bodies from a corner kick.

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Wood made it 2-0 with another leaping header, the Kiwi finisher putting the defensively-solid Clarets in fine position with 76 minutes to play.

Sheffield United secure shock win at Everton

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Sheffield United secured a shock win away at Everton on Saturday, as the Blades beat the Toffees 2-0 at Goodison Park.

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A goal in each half sealed the win, with Yerry Mina‘s own goal setting the Blades on their way and then Lys Mousset‘s first PL goal settled things. Everton had plenty of chances but Dean Henderson was in fine form to secure a clean sheet.

With the win Chris Wilder‘s Sheffield United move on to eight points, while Marco Silva‘s Everton have seven points and plenty of Toffees fans are far from happy.


3 things we learned

1. Pressure mounts on Silva: Plenty of Everton fans streamed out of the exits with over 10 minutes to go. They’ve seen this before and they’re getting pretty fed up with it. The Toffees were supposed to be challenging for a top six finish this season, but they’ve now lost to Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Aston Villa in their opening six games. The pressure is on Silva, especially with all the money he has spent, and it is easy to see why the bookies are making him the favorite to be the next PL manager sacked. There is no clear identity to this Everton side, and they have a hodgepodge of talented players trying to knit things together. It is not working. At all.

2. Blades bounce back: Sheffield United rode their luck as Dean Henderson made some fine stops and Wilder’s side sat back and soaked up plenty of pressure. But they had a plan and it worked. What you see is what you get with the Blades, and after losing to Southampton last week in disappointing circumstances and not recording a win since Matchweek 2, they bounced back to continue their solid start to life back in the big time. In a week which started with the Blades’ ownership battle being sorted out off the pitch, on the pitch they kept their philosophy and prevailed.

3. Moise Kean lively, but not going enough support: Always on the move and trying to make runs into good areas, Kean was impressive. The only thing missing was plenty of support for him. The young Italian striker can’t do it on his own, and Silva hasn’t found the right balance in attack and it is holding Everton back. Kean was denied by Henderson in the second half and he needs support, either alongside him or for the likes of Sigurdsson or Richarlison to step up, if he’s going to be a success on Merseyside. He has the potential. Now he needs the support.

Man of the Match: Dean Henderson – The Blades had plenty of defending to do and Henderson stood tall. He was calm and collected when marshalling his defense and he also made some very good stops. A second PL clean sheet for him this season, and both have resulted in victories. After a few early-season struggles, the young Man United loanee is growing up. Fast.


After an even start Everton had the first big chance of the game, as Lucas Digne‘s drive from outside the box was pushed away by Dean Henderson.

An almighty scuffle then broke out as Bernard and George Baldock were involved in a coming together and plenty of players piled in. Bernard and Baldock were booked and shook hands in a feisty encounter.

The Blades improved as the first half went on and they took the lead as Jordan Pickford missed the ball as he came for a corner, and it hit Mina and went in to put Sheffield United 1-0 up.

VAR was used to see if Pickford was fouled, but the goal stood as Sheffield United’s fans celebrated wildly in the away end.

Everton should have been level moments later, as Kean picked out Richarlison in the box but his tame header from a great position was easily saved by Henderson.

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In the second half the Toffees pinned Sheffield United back and Henderson made a fine stop from Kean at the near post.

Richarlison went down twice in the box after tough challenges as Everton huffed and puffed throughout the second period.

But just when it looked like Everton were set to equalize, Mousset pounced to seal all three points for the Blades.

John Lundstram‘s pass from the right flank set up Mousset brilliantly and the former Bournemouth striker finished superbly as Pickford rushed off his line.

Sheffield United’s smash and grab was complete.

Man City hammers Watford by near-record margin

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Manchester City harvested a near-record amount of goals in destroying Watford to the tune of an 8-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

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Bernardo Silva had a hat trick, while David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero, and Riyard Mahrez also scored in a match which saw City score inside of 54 seconds and five times in the first 18 minutes.

City hit the post several times and just missed a goal in stoppage time which would’ve matched Manchester United’s single game PL record.


Three things we learned

1. De Bruyne unfair: Sensational on the day in pulling the strings, he pulled a ripcord to unveil a vicious strike on City’s 85th minute goal. The way he made it look so easy to unleash so much power was an emblematic moment for the 8-star display.

2. Too much, too fast for Watford: Watch all five first half goals here. Quique Sanchez Flores opened up with Gerard Deulofeu alone up top and nearly got a goal, but his offense-first five-man midfield was a cool idea that fizzled oh-so-quickly. The Hornets have already accepted their fate as a bottom half team by changing managers after four weeks, but they may have to also view themselves as a relegation possibility despite so many good players.

3. Bernardo Silva arrives: There were fits and starts for Pep Guardiola‘s Portuguese playmaker to start the season, and a goal against Brighton was met by an assist in the loss to Norwich City. On Saturday, he unleashed his power to the tune of a hat trick.

Man of the Match: We want to refuse to pick just one, as WhoScored rated Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, and Mahrez as perfect 10s on the day. Okay, we’ll take KDB.


What a start.

It took 54 seconds for De Bruyne to assist David Silva with an outstanding opener, but Gerard Deulofeu nearly answered when he danced around Nicolas Otamendi to force a conceded corner out of Ederson.

Silva, marked for Inter Miami in a mid-week report, was the finisher for the 55th time in his Premier League career and 72nd for his club.

Ben Foster then gave away a useless penalty when he slapped a through ball out of bounds before felling Riyad Mahrez for an easy penalty. Aguero stepped to the spot calm as you like and dispatched the No. 2 to the scoreboard.

That was hardly the end to Watford’s woes, as Mahrez dazzled with a dribble through the heart of the field to earn a free kick atop the 18. There was only one destination, given the series of events. 3-0.

Bernardo Silva then got in on the act, when Otamendi nodded a De Bruyne corner to the back post for a prone finish and 4-0. Not to be outdone, Otamendi was back post for a finish of his own, giving City its fifth goal off an Aguero assist.

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The Silvas, no relation, led a counter for City’s sixth goal, with Bernardo depositing the marker and the reigning PL champions within three goals of matching the league’s single game record.

De Bruyne collected another assist on Bernardo’s hat trick goal, as the Portuguese attacker scored despite bungling his first touch a bit.