Premier League season preview: West Ham

Sam Allardyce will struggle to improve on last season. Photo: PA

Last season: 10th

Hands up if you expected West Ham to finish 10th last season. No-one? We didn't think so. Few people were brave enough to predict a mid-table finish for an unfashionable side lucky to scrape through the Championship play-offs.

Big Sam was an unpopular appointment in 2011 because his methods didn't fit into the 'West Ham way'. In other words, supporters wanted someone to make West Ham play attractive football, and what they got was Sam Allardyce - precisely the opposite.

An aging squad packed with tons of grit and top flight know-how proved, if nothing else, to be well organised and difficult to break down, as Allardyce silenced all of his pre-season critics.

Crucially, West Ham collected more than 70% of their points (33 of 46) at Upton Park, and these intimate East London surroundings will need to become a fortress once again if they wish to avoid relegation.

The Hammers finished level on points with a free-flowing Swansea side who've since added the likes of Wilfried Bony and Jonjo Shelvey to their ranks, as well as four exciting prospects from La Liga. West Ham's business in the transfer market has been far less inspiring.

They have splashed out more than £20m on Stewart Downing, veteran Romanian full back Razvan Rat and Andy Carroll, rubber stamping the route one style Sam Allardyce loves for another campaign.

Big Sam confirmed plans to continue with his direct approach at West Ham after tying up a deal for Downing earlier this week:

"Stewart will be able to produce the kind of ball we need," he said. "He'll have the opportunity to cross the ball, just as he did at Aston Villa."

Expect plenty of balls pumped into the box from deep and wide positions with an over-reliance on Andy Carroll, who missed much of last season through injury. Don't be fooled by West Ham's impressive record in pre-season, we're expecting an almighty scrap for Premier League survival this time around.

In: Adrian (Real Betis, free), Razvan Rat (Shakthar Donetsk, free), Andy Carroll (Liverpool, £15m) Stewart Downing (Liverpool, £6m)

Out: Carlton Cole, Jake Larkins, Gary O'Neil, Jack Powell, Jami Rafati, Eoin Wearen (All released), Robert Hall (Bolton, fee to be agreed)

Ravel Morrison is back after a season at Birmingham. Credit: PA

Player to watch: Ravel Morrison

The 20 year-old midfielder was rated as one of Man United's brightest prospects until a string of disciplinary problems persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson he was better off elsewhere. Skillful and full of energy, Morrison will be desperate to prove United were wrong after impressing for West Ham in pre-season.

Something to prove: Andy Carroll

With a World Cup in Brazil looming, Andy Carroll must prove he can stay injury free for a whole season if he harbors any ambitions of making Roy Hodgson's squad for the finals. Forget the £35m Liverpool paid for him back in 2011, Carroll has yet to justify the £15m Sam Allardyce shelled out this summer. He'll need to score more than seven goals this year for a start.

Predicted finish: 18th

Title odds: 2000/1

Your view:

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West Ham fans, can you avoid a relegation scrap this season?

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@itvfootball yes if players stay fit but if our best players get Injured we will be up against it