Premier League season previews: West Ham United

Matthew Lewis

West Ham managed an impressive mid-table finish on their return to the Premier League, and are hoping for a repeat performance.

West Ham comfortably survived relegation on their first season back in the Premier League, with the ever-reliable Sam Allardyce leading his team to an impressive 10th place finish. They head into this campaign with a team good enough to avoid any calamitous second season slip-ups, though it's hard to see them achieving more than another comfortable mid-table finish.

They've been quiet on the transfer market so far, with the exception of converting Andy Carroll's loan deal into a permanent one. The Hammers are still chasing extra attacking options before the season begins, with a squad that doesn't look significantly better or worse than the one they had this time last year. Should they repeat such a secure mid-table finish again this time around, few would have many complaints.

Last year: 10th

Key player: Mohamed Diamé

Senegalese midfielder Mohamed Diamé was one of the Hammers' star players last season, after joining from Wigan Athletic on a free transfer. The powerful 26-year-old was excellent at recovering possession and breaking forward from midfield, in an energetic box-to-box role alongside captain Kevin Nolan. Having established himself as one of the most important cogs in Allardyce's team, the manager will be praying Diamé is still at Upton Park when the window shuts.

Potential breakout star: Ravel Morrison

Ex-Manchester United troublemaker Ravel Morrison spent last season on loan at Birmingham City, appearing in 27 of the Championship side's league games. For the first time, the 20-year-old's off-field antics were secondary to his on-field actions, and the midfielder established himself in the starting 11 as the season drew to a close. Set to stay at West Ham this season after an impressive pre-season campaign, the attacking midfielder should find first-team opportunities, if only from the bench.

Additions: Andy Carroll, Răzvan Raț, Adrián

West Ham's big signing of the summer has seen striker Andy Carroll arrive from Liverpool for a club-record fee of £15 million. He spent last season on loan at Upton Park, and was Allardyce's preferred central striker in a 4-3-3. Still only 24 and a tall, physical player perfect for the Hammers' style, this is a good move for all parties concerned. Elsewhere, Romania's veteran left-back Răzvan Raț has arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk for his first taste of English football, and is set to compete with Joey O'Brien for a spot in the starting eleven. Finally, goalkeeper Adrián has arrived from Real Betis to battle the aging Jussi Jääskeläinen for the first team gloves.

Departures: Gary O'Neil, Carlton Cole

A couple of well-known faces have left Upton Park this window, though neither player's departure comes as a surprise or a concern. Striker Carlton Cole has been at West Ham since 2006, though the arrival of Andy Carroll saw him downgraded to the role of super-sub. He's been released on a free transfer with Gary O'Neil, who, used in rotation with Mark Noble, started just under half of the Hammers' games last season. O'Neil has joined Queens Park Rangers in the Championship. Elsewhere, Emanuel Pogatetz's loan has ended, and he's joined Bundesliga side Nürnberg, while Marouane Chamakh has returned to Arsenal.

Could still leave: Mohamed Diamé

Arsenal and Everton are reportedly chasing Mohamed Diamé, though there aren't any imminent departures. It wouldn't be a surprise if no one else left Upton Park this window.

Rumoured transfer targets: Salomon Kalou, Silvestre Varela, Marko Arnautović, Zdravko Kuzmanović

With the departure of Cole and Chamakh this summer, Allardyce has made reinforcing his strike force the priority. He'd like at least one further attacker to operate alongside -- or as a backup to -- Andy Carroll. Lille's Salomon Kalou, Porto's Silvestre Varela and Werder Bremen's Marko Arnautović have all been among the names mentioned so far. Inter Milan's midfield backup Zdravko Kuzmanović has also been linked, though doesn't seem to be too keen to leave the nerazzurri.

Projected opening weekend starting XI: Jussi Jääskeläinen; Răzvan Raț, Winston Reid, James Collins, Guy Demel; Mohamed Diamé, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan; Matt Jarvis, Modibo Maïga, Ricardo Vaz Tê

With injury set to rule Andy Carroll out of the opening game of the season, it's easy to see why Allardyce is so keen to reinforce his side's attack. Should he stick with the 4-3-3 he used last season, it's likely that former Sochaux striker Modibo Maïga would start in the centre of an attacking trident. The only debutant in this lineup would be Răzvan Raț at left-back.

Season prediction: 13th

While West Ham have spent big to bring Andy Carroll to Upton Park permanently, they've not done too much transfer business elsewhere. Their squad and manager are good enough for them to survive relegation reasonably comfortably, though there's been no significant improvement on their starting eleven from last season. With Norwich, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Sunderland -- all of whom finished below West Ham last season -- expected to improve on their previous finishes, the Hammers could find this season slightly trickier.

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