They will challenge for the Top Six because… Pellegrini is simply a different class of manager to their recent bosses, and has a better grip on massaging bigger egos in a bigger squad. Marko Arnautovic is a tough mark up-top, and should be further freed by the addition of Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson. The full backs are good, especially Arthur Masuaku, and Lukasz Fabianski is an upgrade on the Joe Hart-Adrian combination.
They’ll again stumble and find themselves in a relegation scrap… Last season’s demons hit the club on and off the pitch, and fan anger is just a moment away. Arnautovic is a combustible character, and the club is an injury or two away from counting on Mark Noble.
Ranking their offseason: 7/10 – Anderson missed significant time last season but was a big part of Lazio’s strong second half to the season. Yarmolenko has been productive in multiple top leagues, and Jack Wilshere on a free is a big deal. If Issa Diop can stand firm in his first Premier League season, this figure might be an 8/10 or better.
Coaches’ Corner: Manuel Pellegrini — The Premier League winner returns to England, this time in London. He’s been successful in both league and Cup play, which could bode well for West Ham’s hopes of taking a step into Europe via an alternative route.
PST Predicts: Comfortably midtable, but just below the radar of making a threat to the Top Six.
Out Dan Agyei (Blackpool) Loan
Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers) Loan
Jimmy Dunne (Accrington Stanley) Loan
Harry Flowers (Guiseley) Undisclosed
Josh Ginnelly (Tranmere Rovers) Loan
Luke Hendrie (Shrewsbury Town) Undisclosed
Alex Whitmore (Chesterfield) Undisclosed
In Ross Barkley (Everton) Undisclosed
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) Undisclosed Emerson Palmieri (Roma) Undisclosed
Jack Boyle (Clyde) Loan
Dylan Cogill (Clyde) LoanFraser Horsfall (Kidderminster Harriers) Undisclosed
Danny Kane (Cork City) Undisclosed Joe Lolley (Nottingham Forest) Undisclosed
Jack Payne (Blackburn Rovers) Loan Ryan Schofield (AFC Telford) Loan
Tadhg Ryan (Released)
Cedwyn Scott (Dundee) Undisclosed
Out James Wilson (Sheffield United) Loan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal) Swap
Alex Tuanzebe (Aston Villa) Loan
Matty Willock (St Johnstone) Loan
Charlie Scott (Hamilton Academical) Loan
Demi Mitchell (Hearts) Loan
Martin Dubravka (Sparta Prague) Loan
Kenedy (Chelsea) Loan Islam Slimani (Leicester City) Loan
There must be something in the air over England this Saturday morning, because a pair of players have put their teams in disadvantageous positions thanks to nothing other than sheer stupidity.
First, in FA Cup action, Premier League side West Ham was already trailing League One leaders Wigan 1-0 at DW Stadium when Arthur Masuaku lost his head. Nick Powell and Masuaku come together, but there was hardly anything in it until the 24-year-old left-back decided to spit on the Wigan midfielder.
It was a completely mindless act, and one well spotted by the officials, who immediately produced a red card, sending Masuaku off and leaving the Premier League side with an even bigger mountain to climb in order to avoid the upset.
Wigan would eventually go 2-0 up on a penalty given for a handball on Reece Burke, a poor call but also deserved by Wigan who bossed the match after going a man up.
Elsewhere, in Championship play, promotion hopefuls Fulham were down 1-0 on the road at struggling Barnsley after an incredibly poor first half. Just before the break, Barnsley right-back Dimitri Cavare was fouled by Stefan Johansen. The referee tried to play advantage, but with Cavare’s eventual pass dragging wayward, he blew his whistle and pulled back the foul. Johansen got up and had some words with another Barnsley player, and Cavare came up from behind him and shoved Johansen hard in the back, straight into the other player, and more importantly, directly in front of the referee.
Fulham had been awful the entire first half, and after going a man up, they came out of the intermission energized and grabbed the equalizer just four minutes after the break through young Ryan Sessegnon.
What’s gotten into these players? Nothing makes a manager seethe more than a player doing something needless to put the team at a serious disadvantage the rest of the match. Which act was dumber?
Kelechi Iheanacho moved to Leicester from Manchester City for $33 million this summer and has, through his first half-season in the East Midlands, failed to live up to that price tag. In nine PL appearances, he is yet to score his first league goal. Tuesday, however, saw the 21-year-old Nigerian international put forth a bit production and performance more befitting a player of his promise and pedigree.
Manager Claude Puel picked a side consisting of first-team regulars and lesser-used squad players for the Foxes FA Cup third-round replay against League One side Fleetwood Town. It was Iheanacho, who started alongside/just behind target man Islam Slimani, who shown brightest with a pair of goals, in the 43rd and 77th minutes, to send Leicester into the fourth round. Iheanacho’s second, the one that put the game away for Leicester, was originally ruled out for offside, but was eventually after consultation of the video-assistant referee.
It took far longer than Hammers fans would have liked — or expected — but West Ham, over the course of 120 minutes, survived the Cupset bid of third-division Shrewsbury Town. With eight minutes remaining before Tuesday’s replay went to penalty kicks at the London Stadium, 21-year-old defender Reece Burke fired home from inside the box to break the scoreless deadlock.
West Ham will be away to the winner of the replay between Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic (Wednesday), on Sat. Jan. 27.
Elsewhere in FA Cup replay action
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage
Wednesday’s FA Cup replay schedule
Chelsea vs. Norwich City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Swansea City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 2:45 p.m. ET
Wigan Athletic vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET
A fan seated behind Joe Hart’s goal early in the Hammers’ visit to Shrewsbury Town threw a baseball cap onto the field, so Joe Hart did what any sensible goalkeeper would do…he placed it on his own head and played the entire first half with it on.
🚨A WEST HAM FAN THREW A BASEBALL CAP ON THE FIELD SO JOE HART PUT IT ON AND IS WEARING IT WHILE PLAYING 🚨 pic.twitter.com/LitffQCZxQ
With the sun in his eyes fir the entire first half, Hart was sporting the cap while defending set-pieces, taking goal kicks, and he even made a huge one-on-one save on Reece Burke in the 36th minute after Shrewsbury Town had a massive breakaway opportunity. He parried a dangerous effort from Alex Rodman just a minute later, still sporting the cap.
A West Ham fan took credit on Twitter for the initial mistake of sending the hat onto the pitch. His actions make more sense given that Joe Hart is from Shrewsbury and began his career at Shrewsbury Town before moving to Manchester City in 2006 at 19 years old. His attempts at humor would have been well received at a club where he is revered, and if anything, with the sun in his face, the stunt may have been a genuine attempt to block out the sun which was shining brightly on his goal throughout the first half.
The teams went into the locker without a goal to show for it, and if anything, the League One side looked the more dangerous throughout the 45 minutes. Credit the cap for keeping them out.