West Ham well fancied to stay up despite defensive question marks
Loss of great keeper and centre-back shortage offer reasons to worry
Despite accumulating fewer points than Reading and Southampton in the Championship last season and showing less ambition in the transfer market, West Ham are rated less likely to be relegated on their Premier League return than both.
In fact, there are five teams considered to be in greater danger of the drop than the 9/4-rated Irons, including a Swansea side (9/5) who finished 11th in 2011/12 and have already made three fairly high-profile signings this summer.
West Ham have added five players in this window but two were already at the club on loan and the others are replacing those released, so they currently have a thinner squad than the one that wasn’t entirely convincing in gaining promotion.
And it isn’t like everyone arriving has been an obvious improvement on those that previously played in their positions.
Mohamed Diame seems an upgrade on Papa Bouba Diop and new forward Modibo Maiga will need to flop spectacularly to fail to outshine John Carew, but losing star man Robert Green for 37-year-old Bolton reserve Jussi Jaaskelainen is a worry.
Also concerning is the lack of numbers at the back, which was an issue last term yet feels even more troubling following the departure of Abdoulaye Faye and James Tomkin’s call-up to the Great Britain Olympic football team.
The result is that Winston Reid is the only first-team centre back at their disposal at present, and ideally two alternatives need to be recruited before the start of the campaign.
There is still plenty of time to get more bodies on board, however the problem is that West Ham’s most appetising run of games comes in the first few weeks, so they need to be at full strength to fully capitalise on those opportunities.
Fail to make the most of it and they could find themselves in a similar situation to Aston Villa, who drew a lot of winnable early matches a year ago and were ultimately sentenced to a season-long struggle.
It is mildly ironic therefore that Villa are West Ham’s visitors on the opening day, in an encounter that Sam Allardyce’s side are rated 6/5 favourites to win.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.