West Ham have had a productive summer off the pitch, and look set for a much-improved season, following last year’s disappointment.
When we play them: February 24 (home); November 4 (away)
Last season: Drew 2-2 (home); Won 4-0 (away)
This time 12 months ago, many were tipping the Hammers to flourish, with their move to the London Stadium seen as a major step in their development.
Things didn’t play out that way, however, and their eventual 11th-place finish summed up what was a very forgettable campaign.
West Ham have got used to their new surroundings now, though, and the incoming signings of Pablo Zabaleta, Marko Arnautovic, Joe Hart and, in particular, Javier Hernandez, should stand them in good stead.
A top-half finish will be seen as the minimum, and if they can click and make their home ground more of a fortress, they could even push for a Europa League place.
Another poor start this time around would really crank up the pressure on manager Slaven Bilic.
Players IN: Pablo Zabaleta, Anouar El Mhassani, Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez, Joe Hart (loan).
Players OUT: Alvaro Arbeloa, Sam Howes, Havard Nordtveit, Stephen Hendrie, Raphael Spiegel, Enner Valencia, George Dobson, Darren Randolph, Ashley Fletcher.
Best XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Antonio, Hernandez.
How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season, and why?
Cautiously optimistic, as long as we can score goals.
All the pressure is on our new striker ‘Chicharito’ and the service he gets from our midfield. I have no fear of relegation, but a fear of mid-table obscurity unless he hits the ground running.
What are your aims for the season?
A top-eight finish is realistic and a top-six finish is possible with a bit of luck with injuries and games. We have no distractions of European football and we should take full advantage of that.
I will be happy as long as we finish in the top-10, so bottom-half would be a disappointment. Sometimes a point or two or goal difference can separate these positions at the end of the season.
Anything else that’s new for you this summer?
It is the second season in the London Stadium so I am hoping that it is no longer an issue on or off the pitch.
After last summer’s dismal signings we are hoping that the addition of Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic and Hernandez will make a difference.
Despite the crazy transfer market our net spend is under £20million, and while the incoming signings have combined wages of £415,000 per week, we released or sold players who earned £415,000 per week, so we have balanced the books.
Away fans’ pubs: There are no designated away pubs in Stratford and fans with away colours are often turned away, so it is best to drink away from that area. It is a short hop on the Jubilee line to places like Canary Wharf. The ground opens 90 minutes before kick off and you can drink in the ground.
One piece of advice for visiting fan: Don’t get lost! It is a big area, a big open park and signage is not great – many away fans have got lost and missed kick-off. Check the map of the area before you get there, here.
How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?
It will be an interesting season, and I think it might depend on what happens to Philippe Coutinho and what you do in the transfer window.
With luck and a good run, you have a chance of winning the title, along with the usual suspects.
If you could add one Reds player to the West Ham side who would it be?
Slightly predictable, but Coutinho would be a welcome addition to our squad.
TIA’s West Ham Predicted Finish: 8th * Average of the TIA writers predictions.
Where Sean says West Ham will finish: 8th
Where Sean says Liverpool will finish: 4th