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2019/20 Premier League preview - West Ham: Manuel Pellegrini's men set for top-half finish

Richard Jolly runs the rule over West Ham ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish

Felipe Anderson, left, enjoyed an encouraging debut season for West Ham. Getty Images 
Felipe Anderson, left, enjoyed an encouraging debut season for West Ham. Getty Images 

Manuel Pellegrini’s debut season began with three straight defeats and ended in three consecutive wins, but if that suggests they are going in the right direction, 10th place, coupled with an embarrassing FA Cup defeat to AFC Wimbledon, felt an underwhelming return for a £100 million (Dh455m) outlay.

Ten away defeats and a host of injuries felt familiar failings: releasing Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri means the treatment table should be less crowded and the average age lower while Pellegrini concluded Marko Arnautovic’s wanderlust made him a disruptive influence and sold a match-winner.

West Ham have spent less this summer but the arrivals of Villarreal attacking midfielder Pablo Fornals, who cost £24m, and Sebastien Haller showed ambition.

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Who finishes where in 2019-20?

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Key player: Felipe Anderson

There was a spell in autumn when the Brazilian scored eight times in nine games. He only mustered one league goal in 2019. That inconsistency may make him a typical West Ham player. That ability renders him a match-winner at his best. Yet the Hammers could do with more of that form.

Signing to watch: Sebastien Haller

Partly because a £45m fee brings expectation and a haul of 19 goals last season for Eintracht Frankfurt bodes well. But also because a club-record buy is charged with replacing the departed Arnautovic. He was not West Ham’s first choice: Maxi Gomez rejected them for Valencia.

Talking point: Can West Ham keep their key players fit?

They may have the most talented group outside the top six but last season, while Lukasz Fabianski, Issa Diop and Declan Rice were excellent constants, Jack Wilshere was limited to four league starts, Andriy Yarmolenko five and Manuel Lanzini eight.

If everyone is available, Pellegrini has enviable options in the attacking midfield roles, also including Anderson, Michail Antonio and his pet project Robert Snodgrass. But last season, he fielded too many patched-up sides amid injury crises and, if some of the fault lies with the club for signing injury-prone players, there were times when they felt luckless.

Prediction: 9th

Updated: August 2, 2019 03:39 PM

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