After a decent 0-0 draw against Newcastle last Saturday, the Hammers have a good chance to get another three points against Stoke City in our third league match of the season.
The Potters are under new management in Mark Hughes, having replaced Tony Pulis in the summer. The Staffordshire side will be confident ahead of the game at Upton Park after getting their first win of the season against Crystal Palace at the Britannia Stadium, which followed a narrow defeat to Liverpool on the opening day.
They may have a different man in the hot-seat, but Stoke will still be a test for any side. The 2011 FA Cup runners-up may not have a great deal of attacking prowess, but with a centreback pairing of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross, a ballwinner in Steven N’Zonzi and a top-class goalkeeper in Asmir Begovic, they’ll be a tough nut to crack for any side.
Mark Hughes has a lot to prove as a manager after his disastrous spell in charge of Queens Park Rangers. The Welshman has a decent Premier League record as both a player and manager, but he will want to rebuild his reputation that was so damaged in West London. But this won’t be easy at Stoke, a club that had an alarming dip in form in the final third of last season, which ultimately cost Tony Pulis his job.
Over the season, Hughes will probably try and change Stoke’s style of play from a direct team to one that can play football on the floor. The idea sounds good but this will take time. Tony Pulis tried to change how Stoke play football in recent seasons by bringing in technical players such as Charlie Adam. But the results didn’t come to fruition and they ended up reverting back to the tried and tested direct approach that has served them so well. The Potters have a decent defensive unit but the problem last season was scoring goals.
They only netted 34 goals in the Premier League, which was the second worst in the division after QPR. Jon Walters was the top Premier League scorer for Stoke with eight goals while Peter Crouch bagged seven. Hughes has signed defenders Marc Muniesa and Erik Pieters, but hasn’t strengthened in the attacking department, so goals could be hard to come by again in this campaign. As for West Ham, a point was gained on Tyneside but it so easily could have been three. Kevin Nolan and Stewart Downing both missed chances which they would have buried on another day.
The Hammers go into this match with a good record at home against Stoke. In five previous Premier League meetings at Upton Park, Stoke have won on only one occasion. If West Ham are to get into the top ten this season, we need to beat teams like Stoke at home. The finishing needs to improve from last weekend but if the wingers get plenty of crosses into the penalty area with plenty of support from midfield; we should create plenty of chances and hopefully a few goals.