The new Premier League season is just a few weeks away and West Ham have been crafted into an exciting unit by Manuel Pellegrini.
Seven new recruits have been drafted in by the former Manchester City boss, including expensive deals for Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop and Andriy Yarmolenko, and they have just three more games to settle before the trip to Anfield on the opening weekend.
The pre-season campaign has been a mixed bag for the Hammers so far, having lost to FC Winterur, narrowly defeating Wycombe and being held to a 2-2 draw by Preston, but significant improvements were shown on Wednesday night against Aston Villa.
Marko Arnautovic, Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass were all on-target for West Ham in a 3-1 victory, with Andre Green scoring a spectacular goal for Villa that only proved to be a consolation.
Here is three things West Ham fans can take from the tie…
Rice works as a midfielder
After a meteoric rise into the first-team last season, eyebrows were raised when West Ham signed both Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena to provide competition to Declan Rice. On top of that, Pellegrini’s continued pursuit of another centre-half following Winston Reid’s injury setback suggested that 19-year-old Rice may be unfancied by the new boss.
Clearly that is not the case though as we witnessed Rice playing a different sort of role in the victory over Aston Villa, as he sat in defensive midfield for the opening 45 minutes of the game – and impressed in his cameo in the position.
Strong, quick and good on the ball, it isn’t too surprising that we are seeing that Rice could thrive in this position and his versatility will prove to be a tremendous asset to West Ham in the 2018-19 campaign.
Playing good football under Pellegrini
It can often take a while to settle under a new manager but the signs on Wednesday evening were good, as Manuel Pellegrini witnessed his side play some very decent football – with the only negative being conceding a late consolation.
West Ham were dominating in the first-half and showed an excellent one and two touch passing move for Michail Antonio’s opening goal, while the build-up play for Arnautovic’s effort was also very slick – including the reverse pass from Felipe Anderson to Arthur Masuaku, who provided the assist for the Austria forward.
The Hammers were also solid defensively, with neither Anderson or Antonio afraid to help out at the back, and the entire squad looked to be lifted after a turbulent campaign last term.
“Anybody watching that first half, and the second half in spells, would see us coming in off the line and the full-backs getting around. That’s exactly what the boss has brought to the table.”
Antonio can still be an asset
The 28-year-old former Nottingham Forest man is one of the players within the squad widely tipped for an exit to balance the finances after Pellegrini’s spending spree but Michail Antonio’s display last night gives the club something to think about.
After the captures of Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson, first-team football will be a battle for Antonio to secure but the Hammers will need depth and competition across their ranks if they are to push into the top-half.
On top of that, Antonio is the sort of player who can come back to haunt West Ham if a sale to a Premier League rival is approved.