2013/14 Season Preview: Will Carroll and Downing push the Hammer towards Europe?

Last season’s position: 10th (W12 D10 L16 F45 A53)

Key man: Kevin Nolan

Predicted position: 10th

Having secured a solid 10th-place finish last season, it’s been a busy summer at Upton Park, with Sam Allardyce not afraid of splashing the cash around in the transfer window, clinching a couple of very interesting signings.

The most interesting of them all is, obviously, England striker Andy Carroll. The 24-year-old battled injuries and a woeful start to his West Ham career last season, ending up with seven goals in 24 goals Premier League appearances.

Carroll’s form improved significantly throughout the season, as he began to resemble the striker who had caught the eye of many at Newcastle, before becoming Britain’s most expensive ever player in January 2011.

With his reputation at an all time low, Carroll’s performances at West Ham were impressive enough to earn him a return in the England fold, while Big Sam decided to fork out £15.5m to ensure the Liverpool striker would make his move to East London permanent.

With Carlton Cole released and Modibo Maiga loaned out to St.Etienne, the former Blackburn and Bolton manager has placed a lot of pressure on Carroll’s striker, who will be expected to provide a substantial goal return.

West Ham’s club record signing, however, wasn’t the only high profile arrival at Upton Park as another Liverpool flop opted to leave Merseyside behind in favour of a move to the capital.

At £6m, Stewart Downing could turn out to be an excellent piece of business for Allardyce, particularly if the former Liverpool manages to rediscover the form that had made him Aston Villa’s Player of the Year during his spell at Villa Park.

Downing will be expected to provide supplies for Andy Carroll, as West Ham plan to make the most of the Geordie’s physical presence up-front, with the likes of Kevin Nolan looking to pick up the scraps in the box.

Nolan will again be the first name on Sam Allardyce’s team sheet as the former Bolton man epitomises his manager’s battling philosophy. Nolan was one of West Ham’s best players last season and his goal return – he netted 10 times in 35 Premier League games in 2012-13 – is again going to be crucial to West Ham’s chances.

Despite Allardyce’s reputation for being something of a long ball merchant, the likes of Joe Cole, Mark Noble, Mohamed Diame’ and Matt Jarvis provide plenty of guile to the Hammers’ midfield.

Jarvis, like Downing, will be crucial to provide Nolan and Carroll with ammunition and the two should make the two flanks their own, while Joe Cole is expected to roam slightly more centrally then he did last season.

If the former Chelsea man can stay fit, he could be a very influential player for the Hammers, and the same can be said of former Manchester United youngster Ravel Morrison, provided he manages to stay away from troubles.

Morrison impressed in pre-season and while his personality is probably the biggest hurdle between him and a successful career, Sam Allardyce could take the best out of him this season, or else the former Manchester United player’s chances to make it in the Premier League could decrease even further.

Diame’s physical presence is going to be extremely important for Allardyce’s gameplan, particularly because Jack Collison is still trying to regain full fitness and Gary O’Neil has moved across London to QPR.

Alou Diarra has returned from a loan spell at Rennes but his future remains uncertain, while the Hammers’ defence has welcomed the arrival of Romania’s captain Razvan Rat on a free transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Rat will slot in at left-back, leaving James Collins, Winston Reid, Joey O’Brien and James Tomkins to battle it out for the centre-back places in front of Jussi Jaaskelainen who remains the club’s first choice custodian, despite the arrival of Spanish goalkeeper Adrian, on a free transfer from Real Betis.

Like with most of Sam Allardyce’s teams, West Ham are expected to be a tough team to beat and one which is expected to steer clear of the relegation zone. Should Downing and, in particular, Carroll prove inspired purchases, there’s no reason for the Hammers to be denied another top ten finish.

Will Andy Carroll flourish at West Ham? Can the Hammer surprise a few people this season?Let us know below or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter

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