For most other football fans it was a day dominated by Chelsea becoming the first London club to win the European Cup, but it was easy to forget that another area of the capital had something to celebrate on May 19th 2012.
Perhaps West Ham’s Championship play-off final victory over Blackpool at Wembley was ‘easy to forget’ because the Hammers had always seemed to be a top flight club, regardless of their relegation under everyone’s favourite life of the party Avram Grant in 2011.
As opposed to the likes of Blackpool whose stopovers in the top flight have always been brief ones, West Ham have always regarded themselves as a big club who should feel at home amongst the elite and not be fearful of them.
There is nothing wrong with that of course, but at times it has seemed as though the club are fixated on running before they can walk, on aiming high only to end up disappointed.
This season they have taken back to Premier League life with a minimum of fuss, winning eight, drawing six and losing 11 of their 25 fixtures to find themselves 11th in the table. They have never really looked to be in serious relegation danger and now nine points ahead of 18th-placed Wigan following Saturday’s win over Swansea they don’t look like being in trouble any time soon.
Whereas the ‘running before you can walk’ tag can be labelled at London rivals Queens Park Rangers this season, Sam Allardyce’s West Ham have simply done enough to impress onlookers without overstretching themselves.
The signings of Jussi Jaaskelainen, Matt Jarvis and Mohamed Diame were all clever ones, whilst Allardyce pleased fans by granting Joe Cole a Hammers homecoming in January, with the former England midfielder expected to flesh out the squad and offer his guile and experience where needed.
It was another arrival from Liverpool who produced headlines in August though, and whilst injury hasn’t allowed Andy Carroll to make the kind of impact he’d have hoped for since his switch to Upton Park it is his move which has certainly been the most intriguing.
Unlike with plenty of the big money transfer deals seen throughout the Premier League, Carroll’s switch from Anfield is still a temporary one for now, and it is this move which showcases just why West Ham are fine being where they are at the moment.
Should, as now looks likely, the Hammers end the season in the middle reaches of the table then the money generated from both that position and the well-publicised new Premier League television deal will allow them to kick on and look to perhaps make Carroll’s signing a permanent one if they wish – maybe for around £15m.
Even if they don’t want to sanction such an outlay for the forward they will at least have that money there to spend on other targets, and you can be sure that Allardyce will be determined to spend that money wisely and not fritter it away as has been seen elsewhere.
West Ham just needed this season get into that position though. A season where previous ups and downs were forgotten about and consolidation in the top flight could be achieved.
They aren’t safe yet of course, and could even find themselves drawn closer to the foot of the table given that four of their next seven fixtures are against Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but you have to believe that they’ll pick up enough points to ensure a safe distance between them and bottom three.
It might not be as glamorous as some would want, and it is likely to leave Hammers fans waiting a while to see their team on Match Of The Day, but this approach is just what their club needed in a first season back in the big time.
Next season they could really reap the benefits.
Norwich City must hate it that Luis Suarez (£10.4m) is never out of the headlines. It only brings back bad memories.
Liverpool’s Uruguayan forward may have found himself back in the news yet again, but he is unlikely to let that distract him from his goal this weekend, which is namely to improve upon the six goals he’s scored against Norwich the last two times he’s faced them.
Back-to-back hat-tricks at Carrow Road at the back end of last season and the beginning of this one make Suarez a player to watch when the Reds meet the Canaries at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, and with Liverpool coming into the match off the back of scoring 12 goals in their last five home games then they are sure to be confident.
Daniel Sturridge (£7.3m) is certain to make a first Premier League start for the Reds as he bids to follow up on last weekend’s goal in the defeat at Old Trafford, but it is Suarez’s form in this fixture that simply can’t be ignored, and the Uruguayan looks to be a man to follow following six goals in his last six Anfield appearances.
Elsewhere it is Arsenal who are attracting all of the attention ahead of their Double Gameweek, and rightly so.
Jack Wilshere (£6.4m) impressed in the FA Cup in midweek and could be a decent squad addition for those who have the cash, but the attention simply has to be drawn to Theo Walcott (£9.1m) once again.
One of the big hits of the Christmas period, Walcott should start in his preferred striking role as Arsenal go to Chelsea and then host West Ham in back-to-back matches which look to be vital for their hopes of a top four place.
The away game at Chelsea is of course the more difficult of the two, but Rafael Benitez’s team have struggled at home recently, and Walcott will back himself to impress against a defence who don’t look the quickest. They could become even slower should John Terry (£6.5m) return to the team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Other Arsenal players to keep an eye on ahead of the Double Gameweek include Kieran Gibbs (£5.6m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (£7.2m) and Lukas Podolski (£8.2m), whilst the Gunners’ capability to concede a goal or two should also draw the eye to West Ham’s players this week, particularly given that the first leg of their double comes at home to bottom club Queens Park Rangers.
Kevin Nolan (£6.5m) features in 12.8% of teams already and that number only looks like going up ahead of those two tests, whilst the return from injury of Mohamed Diame (£4.7m) is also a boost to Sam Allardyce and his squad.
Elsewhere, the Manchester City defence looks likely to keep a clean sheet at home to a powderpuff Fulham attack, and with Vincent Kompany (£7.1m) now available after his red card at Arsenal was overturned he’s likely to take his place at the back alongside the likes of Matija Nastasic (£5.6m) and Gael Clichy (£5.6m).
Tottenham’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday looks to be one in which attacking players will shine in, and with Wayne Rooney (£11.8m) now back to fitness he’ll offer an interesting alternative for managers who can’t quite afford Robin van Persie (£14.1m).
Twenty-four hours earlier, Michu (£8.3m) will go in search of a first Premier League goal since before Christmas – a drought by his standards – as Swansea host Stoke in a clash of styles, whilst Southampton’s recent improvement will be tested by Everton when the two sides meet at St Mary’s on Monday night. Saints defender Luke Shaw (£4.0m) is proving to be a valuable wildcard addition to several teams.
Romelu Lukaku (£6.5m) could be one too, and on Saturday night the West Brom forward lines up against an Aston Villa outfit who have shipped goals recently.
Like Norwich, Villa might want to avoid the headlines on Sunday morning.
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Many thanks to our guest post from @shots_on_target . This week he looks at some selection choices with the next 5 or 6 gameweeks in mind.
Here is my appraisal of transfer target’s that should serve you will for the next several gameweeks and beyond. The players featured are those that have the right mixture of good form and good fixtures, regardless of price. Obviously I am trying to aim slightly off the beaten path as there is no need to highlight the likes of Van Persie and Tevez . These are all picks that aim to strengthen your squad on a mid to long term basis, rather than one week punts or trying to pick up a cheap or temporary option, with a particular focus on the next 6 game weeks. All should be guaranteed game time, high points potential and value for money.
Demba Ba (Newcastle) £7.7m 18% owned FIXTURES: NOR (H) RDG (A) MUN (H) SUN (A) WBA (H) LIV (A)
Already bagged three this season from 5 shots on target and 15 shots in total. This kind of production is perfectly reasonable return from a high quality striker, and his overall record in the Premiership is enviable (26 goals in 50 games with Newcastle and West Ham). Reports that Cisse is suffering from illness eases concerns over his gametime in the near term. Obviously is a slight risk having been named a sub recently but I think he’s too good not to start.
Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) £7.1m 7.2% owned FIXTURES: WIG (A) MCI (H) SOT (A) AVL (H) RDG (A) EVE (H)
Fulham showed Top 4 attacking form last year at home but struggled away. This year they top the charts for total shots on target with 33, 10 more than next placed Tottenham. But they top the charts for shots on target away from home too, with 14, 3 more than next best Spurs, so they are able to create chances away from home, and with the audacious Berbatov leading line, he, and they, are going to score goals. I would even consider Berbs as a captain option for Fulham’s home fixtures.
Also consider: Luis Suarez (£9.4m)
Middle of the Park
Kevin Nolan (West Ham) £6.1m 8.7% owned FIXTURES: NOR (A) SUN (H) QPR (A) ARS (H) SOT (H) WIG (A)
Featured in my Midprice Midfielders article last week Nolan’s attacking intent, fixtures and goal-scoring record at this level get him into my best picks for the coming 6 weeks regardless of price, which is very, very generous considering West ham’s impressive start.
Also consider: Hatem Ben Arfa (£7.7m), James Morrison (£6.0m)
See also last week’s post on Midfield options here… https://fantasyyirma.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/guest-post-midfield-selection-advice-by-shots_on_target/
At the Back
Leighton Baines (Everton) £7.1m 14.6% FIXTURES: SWA (A) SOT (H) WIG (A) QPR (A) LIV (H) FUL (A)
Not the best immediate run of fixtures but Baines is a season long pick in my opinion with games against Sunderland, Reading and Norwich to come after the next 6. Baines looks to be on track to recapture his FPL form on the 2010/11 season that saw him return a 178 point season. Last year he suffered but with Pienaar back in the team and Fellaini moved up front they are creating plenty of space and opportunity for the England man to join in the attack.
Glen Johnson (Liverpool) £6.4m 2% FIXTURES: MAN (H) NOR (A) STO (H) RDG (H) EVE (A) NEW (H)
Liverpool are well off the fantasy radar right now and Glen Johnson has suffered a price drop since the start of the season. You probably won’t want to pick him up for the forthcoming fixture against United but after that things start to brighten up with plenty of clean sheet potential in games versus Norwich, Stoke and Reading in particular. Johnson has been involved plenty in Liverpool’s attacking play with an impressive 6 key passes and 7 shots. Liverpool were dealt a harsh opening schedule but Johnson has shown promise that the forthcoming fixtures could reward some investment.
Guest Blogger Profile: @shots_on_target
Football and stats fan who finds nirvana within the game of fantasy football!!