Match CentreOpposition View

View From The Opposition – Newcastle United, West Ham United

The responses to our request for fan groups to join our Premier League panel has been fantastic. We continue our series of articles with a look at West Ham United and Newcastle United.

Newcastle United @JakeJackmann

Q. What are the fan expectations?

The summer has been spent concentrating on the conflict between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley with little discussion regarding the season ahead. The on-field issues have become very much secondary as a Newcastle United fan. We finished tenth last season, which was perhaps flattering as we were involved in the relegation battle. It says more about the lack of quality and competitiveness outside of the top six rather than a statement of our own quality.

Benitez said at the end of last season that he wanted to finish in the top ten on merit this season. That would have been our expectation ahead of the summer, but a lack of money being given to the manager and his uncertain position, another season battling at the wrong end of the league is likely. I do not think we will go down as Benitez is too good a manager to allow that over a full campaign, despite the deficiencies in the squad. If he leaves next summer as expected, that is when I will be worried.

Q. Which position does your team desparately need to improve?

Benitez has done very well to put together a well balanced squad on a shoestring budget since taking over. We do not have many clear weaknesses, but more quality in the squad was wanted and it has not arrived, yet. Our main problem is our lack of a goal-scorer. Dwight Gayle was excellent in the Championship, but our style has changed since then. We now look to play without the ball and he can be isolated up top. I still rate him, but he does not suit us in the Premier League.

It looks likely that we will have Yoshinori Muto and Salomon Rondon before the start of the season. They provide more options for Rafa, but are they good enough to score 15 plus goals? Probably not. It was hoped that we would break our transfer record for a quality striker this summer. We have not and Mike Ashley’s stubbornness to understand the modern transfer market has held us back again.

Q. Name a player from your club that will shine?

There are two players I am excited about for the coming season. Kenedy has returned for a full season and that is very good for Newcastle. He provided an injection of quality during the second half of last season and was a major reason why we climbed the table in 2018. His tally of two goals and two assists does not truly show his impact. I would expect him to be even better this season.

Meanwhile, Ayoze Perez could be set for his best season in England. He has spoken about his desire to play for Spain and he has the potential if he continues to develop under Benitez. Last season, he was frustrating for long periods, but he finished with a bang with six goals in his last eight matches. It would not surprise me if he carried the momentum into the new season.

Q. Where will your team finish in the league and how will they do in the cups?

I think we will finish lower mid-table in the league. We finished tenth last season and our squad has got better over the summer, albeit the first eleven has not improved as much as Rafa would have liked. The ambition of teams around us means that a repeat top half finish is unlikely. However, we still have enough to steer clear of danger with this squad and Benitez at the helm. I would expect the cups to be a write off again as our squad is not good enough to go far in one.

Q. Predict the title winners, teams relegated and domestic cup winners?

It is difficult to see any team other than Manchester City winning the Premier League. They have the best squad and the best manager, although Liverpool supporters can be confident of challenging. This should be the year that Jurgen Klopp wins his first trophy at Anfield in one of the domestic competitions. The other will probably go to Manchester United. Mourinho will not have another trophyless year. Cups are impossible to call this early though.

The relegated teams are more difficult. Cardiff City are almost certainly going to be one, but I think they are preparing for that. They have made some excellent signings from the Championship like Bobby Reid and Alex Smithies. They are likely planning long-term, taking the Premier League money and preparing to win the Championship next season. Given their squad, it is not a bad strategy. The other two could come from as many as ten teams, but the two currently catching my eye are Huddersfield Town and Burnley.

Huddersfield finished with the second worst goal difference last season and they have not done enough in the market to address it. Lossl and Kongolo are good permanent signings after loans, but their defence still has issues. Meanwhile, they were the joint-lowest scorers and neither Diakhaby or Sobhi will do a great deal to improve that. If they bring in a quality attacker or two, my view may change, but right now, they look like they will struggle. Burnley will seem a bold shout after their previous season, but they have not made any additions at the time of writing and their Europa League campaign will be difficult on the squad. Their results outperformed expected goals models and a return to the mean is likely. If they make the group stages of the Europa League, they could find themselves at the wrong end of the table by Christmas. Last season, positive momentum carried them to a great season. This year, the opposite could be true.

Q. Your thoughts on Palace and how we will do this season?

Palace were one of the best teams outside of the top six last season, both statistically and on the eye. There is quality throughout the squad and a top half finish should be seen as a minimum. Keeping Wilfried Zaha is crucial, but that looks likely at the moment. Christian Benteke is surely going to have a better season in front of goal and a couple of quality additions before the close of the window will create positivity around Selhurst Park. Yohan Cabaye will be a miss, but he can be replaced. I would be shocked if another relegation battle ensued.


West Ham United @WestHam_Central

Q. What are the fan expectations?

Fan expectations are HIGH and it’s hardly surprising! With our summer business and the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini, the aim is surely to be the best of the rest (after the top six).

Q. Which position does your team desparately need to improve?

Despite our awesome window, we still haven’t signed a defensive midfielder. It is an area that has been a problem season upon season upon season and it’s a slight concern that our money is running out and we haven’t invested in one yet. We get hit on the counter too frequently and the lack of an experienced, quality defensive midfielder costs us almost every time.

Q. Name a player from your club that will shine?

Felipe Anderson this, Andriy Yarmolenko that. This is Arnie’s team. Marko Arnautovic has been a revelation since his switch from a winger to a centre forward (thanks Moyes!) and he’s expected to score every time that his name is on the team sheet. This season will be his best of his career…I promise that!

Q. Where will your team finish in the league and how will they do in the cups?

Many think we will finish 7th…I’ll go with 8th. A tiny bit less optimistic! I’m not sure who will grab 7th but we are scared of Europe so it wouldn’t surprise me if we just miss out. Cups? I’ll go with round five of the FA Cup and the final of the Carabao Cup (not sure if we will win it though!)

Q. Predict the title winners, teams relegated and domestic cup winners?

  • Premier League – Manchester City
  • Relegated – Cardiff City, Watford, Huddersfield Town
  • FA Cup – Liverpool
  • League Cup – West Ham (I decided!)

Q. Your thoughts on Palace and how we will do this season?

People think I ‘hate’ Palace but I don’t. You are a good team with good players. You have James Tomkins who I love and a boss who has transformed you into a top team. I think your season will depend on Wilfried Zaha. If he stays, he can drag the team to new heights, if he goes, I fear you won’t replace him properly (get Michail Antonio for example and he gets injured) and your season will be a write-off. I predict that you will finish mid-table.




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