As a Swansea City fan I really must take this opportunity to congratulate West Ham – not on winning the Play Off Final and gaining promotion back to the Premier League but for absolutely obliterating our rivals Cardiff City 5-0 in the semis.
It is good to see West Ham back in the big time though as I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for a club that has been renowned through the years for playing good football and producing talented young players. Having said that I must confess to absolutely despising Sam Allardyce; an arrogant, ignorant man with an ego the size of Frank Lampard’s waistline and a style of football uglier than a naked Susan Boyle without makeup!
I know a number of Hammers fans had the same opinion of Allardyce but I wonder if that’s all changed now that promotion has been secured? Sam’s unfeasibly large face would have made an enticing target for the brickbats had he not got promoted through the backdoor of the play offs but I guess he’s bought himself some credit having achieved the ultimate aim.
Big Sam has certainly been busy in the transfer market since promotion and some
of his signings look like good additions; Jussi Jaaskelainen is the very necessary quality keeper required whilst George McCartney and Mohamed Diame look like solid additions.
If there’s a weakness in the West Ham squad at the moment I’d say you are a bit short up front – neither Ricardo Vaz Te nor Nicky Maynard look like Premier League quality strikers to me, Carlton Cole always flatters to deceive and new boy Modibo Maiga is too much of an unknown quantity for me to make a judgement on.
Much then will depend on Maiga settling in and thriving in the Premier League and there will again be a heavy onus on Kevin Nolan to get his usual double figures haul from midfield. If both of those things happen and Allardyce can bring in another quality proven striker (and by that I mean anyone other than Andy Carroll!) then I can see West Ham comfortably staying up and consolidating this season.
Looking slightly less long term, how do I assess the Hammers chances against the Swans at the Liberty? Well, you’re going to get hammered. But then I would say that as I am just a tiny bit biased.
In all honesty it will be a tough game for both sides; the Hammers won’t fancy a trip to Fortress Liberty to face a side that cruised to safety in the Premier League last season. On the other hand, the Swans are still trying to adapt to the loss of Brendan Rodgers after he decided to end his promising managerial career by moving to Merseyside to take on the poisoned chalice that is Liverpool Football Club.
A place on the dole queue and an eighteen month stretch for petty theft awaits methinks!
Rodgers replacement is Michael Laudrup and the Great Dane has been busy adding some quality to the Swans squad whilst retaining the style of play that we have become renowned for over the last few years.
The loss of Steve Caulker back to parent club Spurs has been offset by the bargain capture of Chico Flores, a cult hero in the making. Spurs also stole Gylfi Sigurdsson from under our noses but Laudrup has replaced the Icelandic international with the free scoring midfielder Michu, and at just £2million from Rayo Vallecano, Laudrup has saved the Swans about £5million in the process.
Another midfield arrival is Jonathan De Guzman on a season long loan from Villarreal and he’ll be expected to supply the ammunition for Danny Graham, Michu and another new loan signing Itay Shechter (another striker I know absolutely nothing about!).
Although Laudrup is continuing the recent Swansea trend of playing a passing game, a major difference has been evident in our pre-season games; Laudrup is discarding Rodgers’ ultra-patient pass and move and asking his players to be more productive with their passing.
That’s led to us attempting a lot more risky passes rather than holding on to the ball for the sake of it, and that in turn has led to more goals – for and against. West Ham might well feel they can take advantage of this shift in style and the inevitable uncertainty in the Swans ranks as they get used to a new manager and a radical change in personnel.
It’ll be a real clash of styles too, with Allardyce sending out a robust side looking to play the percentages and attack quickly through the pace of Vaz Te and Cole plus the intelligent running of Nolan. Laudrup on the other hand will be looking to keep the ball firmly on the deck and weave a way through with his “passing with purpose” philosophy.
It should be a cracking match and I hope the Swans come out on top in an entertaining fixture. Whichever way it goes, I hope all Hammers enjoy their trip to South Wales and enjoy a successful season back in the Premier League.