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West Ham United

Fyodor Smolov has a chance to show West Ham what they are missing in World Cup opener

The Russian forward was heavily linked with West Ham earlier this year.

Mathew Nash

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The World Cup gets underway in Russia tomorrow afternoon, with the host nation taking on Saudi Arabia in Moscow. The home side will be hoping to make their territorial advantage count and get off to a flying start. The man tasked with grabbing the goals for Russia on this occasion is Krasnodar forward Fyodor Smolov.

Many are tipping the 28-year-old to have a similar breakout performance at the World Cup as a certain Andrei Arshavin did at the European Championships in 2008.

With 14 goals and six assists for his club this season, the Russia forward will look to grab the goals for his nation, working off of big-man Artem Dzyuba in attack.

For West Ham fans, they may get a taste of what they are missing.

The Hammers have long been linked with a move for the attacker. Back in January, it was reported by Sky Sports that West Ham were in talks to sign the Russia captain.

(Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Then, The Sun reported that a £15 million deal was close. That was in March, with Sky Sports also reporting the player wanted a deal tied up before the World Cup began.

Well, unless something drastic happens in the next 24 hours, that failed to materialise.

West Ham seemingly did not pursue Smolov as vigorously as previously reported and that could be a shame.

Fans in his homeland are positive he will be the catalyst for any success from Russia at the World Cup this summer and if he does bag a hat-load of goals West Ham will not want reminding of their apparent disinterest in concluding a deal.

Smolov has the perfect opportunity to show West Ham just what they are missing and put himself in the shop window for another club to come calling.

Sports journalist based in Bristol. Previously spent five years writing for HITC Sport. Everton fan for my sins.

West Ham United

Some West Ham fans want Andriy Yarmolenko to start v Arsenal

The Ukrainian winger has been used as a substitute so far this season.

Mathew Nash

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West Ham United’s start to the Premier League season has not exactly gone to plan. After an impressive summer of spending and appointing Manuel Pellegrini as manager, big things are expected at the London Stadium.

However, an opening day defeat to Liverpool might have been tolerated, the loss to Bournemouth will not. The Cherries won 2-1 in London yesterday as West Ham struggled to get into any sort of rhythm.

It led to plenty of criticism of the team selection online. West Ham fans would like to see new signings Issa Diop and Lucas Perez get a chance. Others would also like to see Mark Noble dropped.

But the most common theme revolves around their Ukrainian winger.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 12: Andriy Yarmolenko of West Ham United during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United at Anfield on August 12, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Plenty of West Ham fans would like to see Andriy Yarmolenko given a chance in the West Ham starting XI next weekend.

The Hammers paid Borussia Dortmund £22 million for the player this summer. It looks a great signing, considering his previous form with the Ukrainian national team and Dynamo Kiev.

But hip trouble has been bothering him, leaving him behind Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio and Felipe Anderson in the pecking order.

But with West Ham struggling, many fans on Twitter are calling for the 28-year-old to be moved into the starting XI for the clash with Arsenal next week…

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Mark Lawrenson believes West Ham could struggle this season

The Hammers will need to improve significantly on last week’s performance.

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Photo: Getty Images

West Ham‘s tenure under Manuel Pellegrini did not get off to the best of starts last weekend as the Hammers were dismantled by Liverpool at Anfield.

The Hammers host Bournemouth at the London Stadium this weekend, Pellegrini’s first home match in charge, and a much more positive result is expected despite the fact the Cherries won 2-0 against Cardiff City on the opening weekend.

Despite being carved apart by Jurgen Klopp’s side, the general consensus from pundits Paul Merson, Michael Owen and Mark Lawrenson is that West Ham will enjoy much better fortunes this weekend and will pick up points.

However, Lawrenson did not hold back in his predictions for the BBC and warned the Hammers they could be set for another tough season if they do not improve their game defensively after being ‘far too open’ against the Reds last time out.

“I was at Anfield on Sunday to see West Ham’s 4-0 defeat by Liverpool, and they were far too open. If they are going to keep leaving the back door open like that all season, they are going to be in trouble.”

– Lawrenson is the only of the three pundits predicting a draw.

While West Ham fans may not like to admit it after an exciting summer, Lawrenson does have a point as the Hammers business caught the eye in attacking recruits but defensively the business has felt rather sub-par.

Pellegrini is relying on Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena to immediately adjust to the rigours of Premier League football, which is never an easy task, while there is a lack of depth in defensive midfield for the Hammers to choose from.

It seems that West Ham’s approach to this season will be to play attacking football and hope to be a high-scoring side that manages to edge their opponents but that could be a costly decision, particularly in matches where the Hammers are away from home.

A team that had the joint-worst defensive record in the Premier League last season, alongside relegated Stoke City, should certainly have placed more focus on restructuring that defensive line and it could come back to haunt Pellegrini in the coming months.

(Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Former Arsenal defender Paul Merson was also critical of West Ham’s defence last week, stating to Sky Sports they were ‘all over the place’, but supporters will be thrilled by the superb observational skills shown by Merson as he rightly said they will not face Liverpool every week. Cheers Paul.

There are more positive angles to West Ham though as last weekend was never really going to be a game where Pellegrini could show what his side are truly going to be about this season as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool stripped the Hammers of any signs of displaying their attacking edge.

Michael Owen also made a very wise point in his predictions for BetVictor, correctly stating it would be extremely unwise to write the Hammers off after just one match – despite the performance being incredibly mediocre.

A home match against Bournemouth is the ideal opportunity for West Ham’s newly-assembled side to click into rhythm before a gruelling campaign that lies ahead, although the early signs suggest a return to European football could be too much to ask for in Pellegrini’s first year with the club.

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Three key takeaways from Pellegrini’s West Ham press conference

The Hammers are looking for a result after defeat last weekend.

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Photo: Getty Images

Manuel Pellegrini takes charge of his first West Ham home match this weekend, with the Hammers welcoming Bournemouth to the London Stadium.

The east London side were dismantled by Liverpool on the opening weekend, suffering a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool that left the heavy-spenders rooted to the bottom of the Premier League at the very, very early stage of the campaign.

Improvements are needed for the hosting of Bournemouth, who beat Cardiff City last weekend, and we have identified three key takeaways from Pellegrini’s pre-match press conference.

Injury update

West Ham need all the good news they can get their hands on after last week’s mauling at the hands of Liverpool and Manuel Pellegrini has provided that. While his comments are as you expect, naming the three long-term absentees, it’s what he doesn’t say that is interesting.

Fans will notice that Aaron Cresswell is not mentioned, suggesting that the experienced full-back will be available for selection after not being risked for the defeat to Liverpool due to fitness concerns – and he could therefore come into the side to replace Arthur Masuaku.

“We have no new injury news. The same three players – Andy Carroll, Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini are still out, but all the others are OK.”

Howe praise

Eddie Howe became the darling of English football after he led Bournemouth to the Premier League and kept the Cherries in the top-flight. While that love affair may have come to a close, with the club crashing back down to earth, he still earns plenty of praise.

Pellegrini has spoken highly of his competitor ahead of the hosting of Bournemouth and he may need to be careful, as Howe is the sort of manager West Ham should probably look towards if things do not work out well under the Chilean boss.

“Eddie Howe has done very well. He’s a very good manager and keeping them in the Premier League in that first season was a very good job. They have been there a number of years now and he’s doing very well.”

Fan patience

Asking fans to be patient is usually the kiss of depth and Manuel Pellegrini avoided using those specific words during his pre-match press conference. However, he did make it clear that it will take time for the dust to settle after a frantic summer window.

Fans will want a positive result at the London Stadium this weekend but the Hammers enter the match with a newly assembled squad still learning the ropes, many of whom are in the Premier League for the first time, while the majority of Bournemouth’s squad is well accustomed to the rigours of English football – many of whom have been with the club for a while.

“I hope our fans can understand that this is our first game at home but we are continuing to work with the squad. I don’t think we will have any problem with the fans.”

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