The Hammers are one of the hardest teams to peg coming into the 2017/18 campaign. They currently have 7 players injured – Aaron Cresswell, Manuel Lanzini, Andy Carroll, Michael Antonio, Diafra Sakho, Sofiane Feghouli, Chekhou Kouyate – but have transferred in a few playmakers that should help them get through a pretty tough schedule to start the season. Marko Arnautovic and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández are the two big names here, and both could provide great value for a number of FPL managers this season.
Hammers start the season away to Manchester United, but have great fixtures immediate after, facing Southampton (A), Newcastle (A), Huddersfield (H) and West Brom (A) from weeks 2-5. That stretch is followed with a tough home match versus Spurs in Gameweek 6, and then back into the green fixtures with Swansea (H), Burnley (A), Brighton (H) and Crystal Palace (A). While starting the season with three road starts might prove difficult, keep in mind that they do not possess too much of a “home field” advantage going into just their second season playing home matches at the London Stadium.
Buying: Chicharito, Forward, £7.0m
Chicharito last played in the Premier League from 2010-14 with Manchester United, scoring 37 goals in 103 league appearances while being often used as a super sub during the Sir Alex Ferguson era. The Mexican “Little Pea” also spent 2014-15 on loan to Real Madrid, where he was the first Mexican player to feature at Real Madrid in 22 years (Hugo Sánchez being the last before him), scoring 7 goals in 23 league appearances, and just 9 in 33 total matches. Hernández, now 29, returns to the Premier League after completing a very successful two year stint at Bayern Leverkusen where he tallied 11 goals in 20 starts (26 total matches) in 2016-17 after scoring 17 goals in 25 starts (28 total matches) the year before. The 6 less goals last year may show a player that is slowing down – slightly concerning for a striker known to score because of quick bursts of speed – but with Andy Carroll’s never ending injury issues, you have to assume Chicharito will be featured at the top of the Hammers’ attack for most of the year.
At £7.0m, he could be a lockdown third striker all season and has already been picked up by an incredible 20.3% of managers, ranking third among all forwards in the fantasy universe, ahead of Liverpool’s Firmino (17.7%), Everton’s Rooney (still feels weird to type that – 17.6%) and Arsenal’s Lacazette (17.0%). Honestly, he’s a player that needs to be very closely monitored, as the sheer volume of managers owning him might make his price fluctuate wildly depending on his performance against Manchester United.
While it would be a storybook tale to see Chicharito score in his West Ham debut versus his old club at Old Trafford, ManU is one of the best defensive teams in the league and will not be conceding many goals at home this season. I have a feeling it will be a tough match, and if Hernández blanks, savvy owners will be able to buy him for less than £7.0m once pre-season owners panic and his price drops. Even if he starts the season in-form and scoring at a ridiculous rate, you should be able to acquire funds elsewhere and transfer him in before any potential giant price raise – and in that case, getting him at £7.2m or £7.3m would not be the end of the world.
Avoiding: Snodgrass, Midfielder, £6.0m
I just cannot see how he gets enough playing time to be fantasy relevant. He was a big fish in a little pond last year with Hull City, and did not get used in the attack at all once he was transferred to West Ham. His price is way too expensive and you can do much better for a 4th midfielder than ol’ Snoddy boyo.
Holding: Arnautovic, Midfielder, £7.0m
The 28 year-old Arnautovic comes over from Stoke City, where he put up 6 goals and 7 assists in 32 matches in 2016-17 and 11 goals and 6 assists in 34 matches in 2015-16. He has the most upside of the currently healthy Hammer midfielders and should see plenty of playing time in an attacking role until the likes of Lanzini and Antonio officially return. However, that might be sooner rather than later, with Lanzini training this week for the opening day fixture and Antonio scheduled back versus Southampton on August 19th. Couple their reappearances with a difficult first match against Manchester United, and it might be smart to wait a few weeks as we look for clarity on how and where he fits with his new club.
I personally will be taking the wait and see approach with Arnautovic, as well as for his injured teammates Lanzini (£7.0m) and Antonio (£7.5m). However, if it becomes obvious through a few weeks that he is a fixture piece in their attack, you have to keep him in mind as a potential 3rd or 4th midfielder, especially if you play an early wildcard.
Watching: Joe Hart, Goalkeeper, £4.5m
I think there are better options for men between the posts at £4.5m than the ex-Man City keeper, however you could also do a lot worse. He’s nailed down the starting keeper role and could be in line for a few early clean sheets, as Hammers truthfully have some of the easier fixtures to start the season (ManU GW 1 and Spurs GW 6 withstanding).