West Ham United has started awfully, getting demolished 4-0 at Manchester United and losing a late 3-2 heart-breaker at Southampton. Along with the winless beginning and lopsided goal differential, rumblings regarding the job safety of Slaven Bilic have intensified. But like the flame to a moth, the mermaid to a seafarer or the all you can eat buffet to Big Sam Allardyce, a favorable upcoming schedule beckons lovingly not only to the wayward team on the pitch, but also to the fantasy manager.
After opening the season at a pair of imposing sites in Old Trafford and St. Mary’s — and against excellent keepers in David De Gea and Fraser Forster roaming the line behind well-organized defenses — things get considerably friendlier as the Hammers stay home in London Stadium six times in their next 11 games. More importantly, included in that set of just under a dozen fixtures are all three promoted squads (Brighton & Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town and Newcastle) as well as middling to subpar sides Burnley, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Swansea City, Watford and West Bromwich Albion. On the surface of things, that means that nine of the next 11 opponents could be considered extremely to somewhat favorable match-ups, with only Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool on the upper-tier outskirts.
Given that the Hammers are set largely to face a mix of promoted squads and poor offensive sides, it would normally be tempting to consider West Ham’s keeper and defenders. However, with the team in such disarray defensively, it makes more sense to focus on the other end. At St. Mary’s, thankfully there was a surge of hope given by a spirited offensive performance from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Michail Antonio, Andre Ayew, Mark Noble and Diafra Sakho despite being a man down following the deserved dismissal of teammate Marko Arnautovic for a dirty elbow.
A Look at the Upcoming Opposition by the Numbers
Just how attractive are the upcoming fixtures? Let’s look at the defensive prowess (or lack thereof) of the teams in West Ham’s upcoming fixture list, based on 2016/17 goals conceded numbers. (*Note: Since Newcastle, Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion obviously did not play in the Premier League last season, for those teams I substituted the combined averages of the three promoted sides Burnley, Hull City and Middlesbrough.) By way of comparison, all teams allowed an average of 1.40 goals per game (1.20 at home and 1.60 away).
West Ham GW3-13 Opponents 2017-18.csv
|Goals Allowed per Game
|Goals Allowed at Locale per Game
|Goals Allowed per Game
|Goals Allowed at Locale per Game
|3 - 13
(Note: The opposing team is listed in capital letters if West Ham is at home, lower case if West Ham is away for that fixture.)
Takeaways from the Chart
- According to the averages, interestingly there is no advantage for West Ham having more games at home than away. Opposing teams allowed 1.50 goals per games overall and 1.49 at the locale in which it will be facing the Hammers (home or away). Then again, with six home games compared to five away games, a major advantage would not have been expected, though a slight one surely would have been appreciated.
- Much of the expected joy comes from facing all three promoted sides and welcoming two of them to London Stadium. Burnley, Hull City and Middlesbrough together allowed leaky averages of 1.66 goals per game overall and 1.95 goals per game on the road in 2016/17. This season so far, though, Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle have combined to allow only seven goals in their six games. It’s an extremely small sample size, so don’t let it give you too much pause, but you may not want to entirely dismiss it either.
- The overall average of 1.50 goals allowed per game may not look like much of an improvement over the average of 1.40 that all teams allowed. However, this fixture list represents almost a third of West Ham’s remaining season, so while a bigger advantage might be appreciated, it would be wise not to get too greedy. After all, Tottenham’s averages of 0.68 overall/0.89 away, Liverpool’s 1.11 overall, West Brom’s 1.16 home and Burnley’s 1.05 home somewhat skewed the total averages. (Speaking of small sample sizes, West Brom has started out like gangbusters defensively with clean sheets home to Bournemouth and at Burnley. But having been a pretty good defensive team last season combined with the level of opposition so far, that is not a total shocker.)
- Given the aforementioned skewing, an important takeaway is that compared to the overall 1.50 average of the chart, seven of the 11 teams West Ham will face allowed higher averages.
- Going even further, if you compare it to the 1.40 overall goals allowed average of all league teams, eight of the 11 teams West Ham will face allowed higher marks.
- Yet another way to look at it: the 1.50 goals against translates to 57 goals allowed for the season. The closest teams to that mark were 13th place Stoke City (56) and 16th place Burnley (55). So basically it’s like playing the Potters and/or Clarets for the next 11 games.
Which Hammers Look Tempting on Offense?
So where does that leave us? Well, we definitely start in a pretty good place given all of the above. There are definitely a few games where you will want to consider rotating your West Ham players out, but most of the time you should feel secure rolling with them. But it’s not only the expected production due to favorable fixtures that should tempt you, it’s also the affordable prices.
Striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (£7.1 Official, $11.15 Fantrax)
Little Pea has scored 15 points in Official and 31 points in Fantrax. He has also taken the most shots (five) of any Hammer. You could have gotten Chicharito for $8.70 before his price shot up in Fantrax following his poacher’s brace against the Saints, but even at current cost he remains an attractive cut-rate alternative to the likes of Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, Everton’s Wayne Rooney, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette, and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.
Even more amazingly, despite his price uptick in Official FPL, Chicharito is only the 24th most expensive striker!!! Believe it or not, he costs less than Liverpool’s Divock Origi and Tottenham’s Vincent Janssen.
Striker Diafra Sakho (£5.5, $5.22)
It is unclear if Sakho will slot into the starting line-up, but he gave himself a good shot with an active performance coming in after Arni’s dismissal. Sakho’s header off the crossbar led to Chicharito’s second goal, and he has taken three shots in only 52 minutes across the two games. That has translated into five points in Official and seven points in Fantrax, pretty good for 52 minutes. Due to his uncertain starting status, I wouldn’t necessarily take a flyer on Sakho just yet, but let’s talk again if he gets the nod from the first minute and performs well at Newcastle.
Midfielder Michail Antonio (£7.5, $8.37)
A fantasy favorite, the ever-active Antonio should definitely be on your radar after his recent return from injury. He took four shots (three SOT) in only 68 minutes against Southampton, with one counting as an assist in Official as the subsequent spill from Forster led to Chicharito’s first goal.
*Midfielder/Striker Andre Ayew (£7.0, $4.51)
Ayew has not done anything thus far, but hey, it’s only been two games. Relax, it’s coming! After all, he nabbed 12 goals and five assists for Swansea City in 2015/16 and followed that up with six goals and three assists for West Ham in only about half as much time last season due to an early injury. [*Ayew is listed as a midfielder in FPL and as a striker in Fantrax.]
Midfielder Manuel Lanzini (£6.9, $7.56)
After injury to start the season, Lanzini has returned to training. Of course, he’s also the latest in a line of about 1,700 players linked with Barcelona transfer rumors (not only as a target of Barca but also for Liverpool should Philippe Coutinho head to the Catalan club). Either way, Lanzini is unlikely to start this weekend, but after notching 14 goals and six assists over the past two seasons, he will be a welcome addition if and when he does come back into the fold.
Midfielder Mark Noble (£5.5, $6.37)
While West Ham has already conceded two penalty kicks, the Hammers have not yet earned the benefit of any on the other end. Last season, Noble and Lanzini each took two PKs. In the prior campaign, Noble took three of four with Andy Carroll kicking the other. It is certainly possible that Chicharito, Lanzini or even Arnautovic (when he returns from suspension) will grab primary PK duties, but if Noble is the main man, he should provide nice returns as a periodic goal scorer. Either way, he can get in on the action sprinkling in assists here and there, as Noble has the most key passes (five) of any West Ham player across the first two games, and he has contributed at least four helpers in all but one of the past five seasons.
Is it Really Only the Offense We Should Look at?
The defense has looked absolutely pathetic so far, with particularly dreadful performances from Jose Fonte and Pablo Zabaleta. Winston Reid may be a while returning from injury. Even so, don’t forget that side of things entirely. It would be no surprise for keeper Joe Hart and his defenders to nab a few clean sheets. Left back Aaron Cresswell has looked dangerous bombing forward and delivering service, including the delicious cross that led to Sakho’s aforementioned header off the bar. The wing defender contributed two goals and four assists in each of 2014/15 and 2015/16. And even while being shaky on the back end filling in for Reid, Fonte threatened on the offensive end with three shots (one on target) against the Saints.
So are you loading up on West Ham players? Or are you skeptical that the Hammers can really turn things around? Let us know in the comments!
Does West Ham’s upcoming schedule have you jumping on the bandwagon?
This poll is closed
Yes, the Hammers are set to explode
No, not after their awful start
Unsure, will wait and see