7 Reasons Why West Ham’s Top Six Ambitions Are More Credible Than They May Seem

?With the race to finish in the Premier League top six looking more open than ever, a whole host of teams have the opportunity to challenge for a potential place in Europe.

West Ham are one side with aspirations of breaking into the European stratosphere, and the early seasons signs have been okay. Barring an opening day pummelling from Manchester City, things have improved somewhat – with the surprise defeat to Crystal Palace last time out ending a run of six games without defeat.

Hammers’ fans should remain optimistic though, even though they passed up the opportunity to go seventh an incredible five times last season. This campaign looks rather different, however, with the east London boys looking like they are up for the fight of scrapping their way in.

Here, 90min looks at seven reasons why European qualification is a real possibility for Manuel Pellegrini’s side…


Defensive Stability

Issa Diop

?Now it’s not often that the words ‘defensive stability’ and ‘West Ham’ go hand-in-hand but three clean sheets after seven matches is a very decent start. 

Considering last season, the Hammers only kept six clean sheets during the whole campaign, three in seven is a considerably better record. Part of this is down to the heroics of Lukasz Fabianski (who’s injury may make clean sheets a lot harder to come by) but the partnership of Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna is starting to look quite solid. 

Ogbonna has been the surprise of the season for West Ham, with many fans writing him off before a ball was kicked. But the former Italian international looks to have turned his form around, and has been a regular since the 1-1 draw at Brighton. 

Hopefully, when Fabianski returns, clean sheets will be easier to come by as back-up ‘keeper Roberto has looked far from convincing, but so far the defence has seen an improvement from last season – as the Irons attempt to end a Premier League season with a positive goal difference for only the second time in their history.


Away Form

Watford FC v West Ham United - Premier League

?So far, the Hammers are unbeaten away in the league this season, with their last away defeat coming at Old Trafford in April. 

Picking up points on the road is key for any team who want to challenge the European places, and so far West Ham have done so on each occasion this season. You could argue that Brighton, Watford, Aston Villa and Bournemouth aren’t the most difficult away games in the world, but any away point in the Premier League is usually deemed a good one, so Hammers fans can have no complaints.

Notoriously, away form has never been great for West Ham – so maybe this form is a sign that this season could be a different story.


Competition for Places

Jack Wilshere

This is the first time in a long while that West Ham have a good looking squad, with actual depth to it.

Jack Wilshere and Fabian Balbuena are among those who have, on the whole, had watching briefs in east London, with £25m summer signing Pablo Fornals also struggling to force his way into the side.

When everyone is fully fit, it could be argued that West Ham have a stronger squad on paper than both Manchester United and Chelsea – with the former already being beaten 2-0 by the Hammers at the London Stadium. 

Credit has to go to Manuel Pellegrini and director of football Mario Husillos for using the summer transfer window to strengthen the squad in the right places, by signing a mixture of first team starters and solid back-up options.


Sebastien Haller?

Sebastien Haller

?After ?years of searchingWest Ham may finally have a striker who can score goals on a consistent basis. 

The Frenchman became the Hammers’ record signing in the summer, joining from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer. Not only does he score goals, his hold up play and ability to bring others into the game is top class, with many saying that Haller was the reason that former strike-partner Luka Jovic got his move to Real Madrid. 

Arguably, Haller got the better move of the two anyway – and four goals and one assist in seven games is a decent return for someone who had never played in England before.


Players Returning From Injury

FBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-MAN UTD

Last season, it could be argued that West Ham were cost a potential seventh place finish due to the amount of injuries they had. 

Andriy Yarmolenko was out for pretty much the whole season after tearing his achilles against Spurs in October last season, while Manuel Lanzini, who many believe has been West Ham’s best player this season, didn’t ply until late last season after rupturing a cruciate ligament for Argentina prior to the World Cup.

Ryan Fredericks was also out for a while, leaving the Hammers to rely on 34-year-old Pablo Zabaleta and inexperienced Ben Johnson at right full-back.

This season has been a different story though. Yarmolenko is back and has scored three times already and Lanzini has provided the creative spark that was missing. Fredericks, meanwhile, has been an ever present and the club are playing an entertaining brand of free-flowing football. Known in parts unknown to many of us as the ‘West Ham way’.


Declan Rice?

Declan Rice

After a shaky start under Manuel Pellegrini, Rice has established himself as one of the first names on the team-sheet – as well as becoming an England regular. 

His ability to break play up and just sit in front of the defence gives West Ham the added protection that they so desperately needed last season. The 20-year-old is arguably the best thing to come out of West Ham’s academy since his midfield partner Mark Noble, and both have excelled so far this season. 

Rice has openly stated that he loves the club and has quickly established himself as a firm fan favourite, and he may be a key reason in helping the Hammers’ achieve their ambitions.


The Board

Ashley Barnes


It’s not often a middle-aged bloke running onto the pitch with a corner flag in his hand can change the direction of a club, but thankfully on this occasion, it worked. 

3-0 down at home to Burnley, with fans frustrated at the lack of spending, the lack of ambition and above all, the move from Upton Park, West Ham fans turned on the owners after a series of dismal displays. 

Since then, the club’s hierarchy – owners David Sullivan and David Gold, along with vice-chairman Baroness Karren Brady, have overseen the appointment of a Premier League winning manager, forked out well over £100m in transfer fees and given the manager the freedom to identify transfer targets alongside trusted associate Mario Husillos.

That, above all else, could be key in West Ham booking some highly sought after easyJet flights next year.


Let’

England Train in Special Jersey as Nike Celebrate Black History Month

?Nike has launched a a special training jersey in celebration of Black History Month UK in recognition of black British athletes and their contribution to sport, with the England squad donning it at St George’s Park ahead of their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.

The unique jersey has been designed as a symbol of solidarity and a shared identity. Beyond the aesthetic, this bold visual is all about making a positive statement and inspiring change.


The whole England squad was kitted out, while Raheem Sterling, Tammy Abraham and Marcus Rashford all feature as part of the wider celebration from Nike to mark a “long-term commitment to create change and inspire the next generation of black British athletes”.

NikeTown London is hosting a photography exhibition celebrating black British athletic performance and contribution to sport. ‘Black in the Day’ also invites the community to share stories through Nike’s 1948 space in Shoreditch.

Throughout Black History Month UK and beyond, Nike and its partners will stress a continued commitment to “levelling the playing field for all black British athletes and creating pathways and opportunities for future generations”.


Nike is investing in training for BAME youth in London in order to provide “development opportunities and pathways” for positive change and has partnered with Sported to mentor 12 entrepreneurial young Londoners over the next 12 months.

Nike is also working alongside the National Council for the Training of Journalists and Press Association Learning to address limited visibility of women’s sport in the UK media, beyond simply specific sporting moments that garner short-term attention, with coverage often diminishing when major tournaments come to an end.

Phil Neville

As part of that Nike is investing in the future of sports journalism with a free course designed to equip budding young sports journalists with the skills and knowledge to contribute to a growing conversation about women’s sport.

In addition, Nike has teamed up with a youth football charity called Football Beyond Borders’ and a Croydon-based community project mentoring young people named ‘Gloves not Gunz’.

Let’

TAG Heuer Announce New Young Player of the Season Award for Premier League

?TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper for the Premier League, have announced the creation of a new ‘Young Player of the Season Award’ for the 2019/20 Premier League season.

The company became the first official timekeeper and official watch of the most watched division in world football after an agreement was reached at the start of the 2016/17 season, a deal which was extended in 2018 for an unspecified further length of time.

The creation of the new award was spoken about in a statement released by TAG, which read: “TAG Heuer, the Official Timekeeper for the Premier League, are excited to announce a new Premier League award for the 2019/2020 season; The TAG Heuer Young Player of the Season Award.

“The award which will sit alongside the already established end of season awards consisting of ‘Goal of the season’, ‘Manager of the season’, Player of the season; and will be presented to the best-performing Young Player of the Season in the Premier League. To be eligible for the award, players must be aged 23 or younger at the start of the season.

“The TAG Heuer Young Player of the Season shortlist will be released in April and will be determined using official match data to select eligible players with outstanding performance and statistics across the 2019/2020 season. The shortlist will then be voted on by the general public and the Premier League Awards Panel, with the eventual winner being announced in May 2020.”

Martin Atkinson

Chelsea pair Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount will be frontrunners for the award come the end of the season, having both burst into the Blues’ first team under Frank Lampard and contributed the majority of the club’s goals as they go through a period of rebuilding. 

The young player field is likely to be packed with British stars, with James Maddison, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Daniel James all in the mix. 

Let’

Evaluating the 6 Candidates Who Could Replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United

?Manchester United are at one of the lowest ebbs of their modern history. There is a genuine argument that last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to a downtrodden Newcastle side was the worst performance by any Red Devils team in the Premier League era.

Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not shoulder all of the blame for his side’s lowly 12th position in the Premier League, United’s shoddy run of form could see him receive his P45.

Countless candidates are already being touted to take over from the Norwegian at Old Trafford. Some seem like they could be a good fit and others, well, don’t.  

Luckily, 90min have trundled through this swamp of rumour and speculation and evaluated all of the most likely candidates for the post. So sit back and strap in United fans – it’s going to be a bumpy ride. 


Mauricio Pochettino 

FBL-ENG-PR-BRIGHTON-TOTTENHAM

?The bookies favourite to take over from Solskjaer was one of the most popular managers in world football until a recent poor run of form made it unfashionable to sing his praises. 

?Tottenham have only won once in their last six games, with defeats to lowly Colchester United and a 7-2 mauling by ?Bayern Munich being particularly distressing. Many suggest Pochettino has done all he can at the club.

His experience at rebuilding a club, like he has done at Spurs, makes the 47-year-old a very attractive candidate, however there are doubts as to whether the messy situation at United would appeal to him. Despite his recent blip, Pochettino’s stock remains extremely high and he may want to wait for a more appealing job to become available in the future.  


Massimiliano Allegri

Massimiliano Allegri

?Six Serie A titles, four Coppas Italia and two Champions League runners-up medals. Massimiliano Allegri’s record as a manager speaks for itself. 

?Tactically versatile and a supreme motivator, Allegri got his first big managerial break at ?Milan. Whilst at San Siro, he led his side to their first Serie A title for seven years in 2011, before being hired by ?Juventus in 2014. 

He took over from the remarkably successful Antonio Conte and did not disappoint. Allegri brought a more relaxed attitude into training that continued to bear results, as evidenced by the five league titles the Old Lady would secure during his time at the club. 

It’s hard to judge how much of a success the 52-year-old would be at Old Trafford. Obviously his time at Juventus suggests he would be prepared for the intense scrutiny that comes with sitting in the Old Trafford hot seat, but he has little experience at rebuilding an unsuccessful team from scratch.


Brendan Rodgers 

Brendan Rodgers

?You know what this Manchester United team needs? Character. Character and honesty. Why not give Brendan a call? 

Jokes aside, Rodgers’ early success at ?Leicester City has made a lot of his critics reevaluate their feelings towards the man who came so close to ending Liverpool’s Premier League title drought in 2014. 

Leicester are currently playing attractive, possession-based football with a killer instinct, something Manchester United haven’t exhibited for a number of seasons. The Northern Irishman’s record of developing young players also suits him well to the position. 

Brendan Rodgers

There are a number of issues with this appointment though. By departing the King Power Stadium, Rodgers would arguably be giving up a genuine chance to get the Foxes into the Champions League this season. 

Secondly, and much more importantly, appointing an ex-?Liverpool manager perhaps is not the best way to get the United fan base back on side. Back to the drawing board on this one.  


Laurent Blanc

FBL-RUGBY-FRA-CHARITY-GAME

Seeing as their last appointment of a former player is going so well, why not keep the theme going and offer the job to Laurent Blanc. 

Blanc spent two season at Old Trafford during the twilight of his career, bouncing back from early criticism to help the Red Devils secure the Premier League title during the 2002/03 season – the last of his long career. 

The Frenchman then moved into management after hanging up his boots. Following spells with Bordeaux and France with a move to PSG, where he won three league titles before departing the club at the end of the 2015/16 season. 

Since then, Blanc has remained out of the game but he may be tempted to return should his old club come in with an offer. 


Julian Nagelsmann 

Julian Nagelsmann

?The hippest, most daring option United should have on their shortlist, Nagelsmann would give United a distinct tactical identity and, if afforded enough time, would surely create a dynasty at the club. 

The German made a name for himself at Hoffenheim with his innovative 3-5-2 formation and eccentric fashion choices, helping Die Kraichgauer qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. 

He recently moved to RB Leipzig and has continued to show his talent, with his side well placed to mount a title challenge in what is an extremely tight Bundesliga this season. 

It’s perhaps too early for Nagelsmann to take over a side of United’s magnitude, but then again, why not tie down one of the most exciting young managers in the world for what is destined to be a long and painful rebuilding project?


Erik Ten Hag

Dutch Eredivisie"ADO Den Haag v Ajax Amsterdam"

Infamous for guiding Ajax into the Champions League semi-finals last season, prior to this Erike Ten Hag lived a previous life as the coach of Bayern Munich’s B team during Pep Guardiola’s time in charge of the club. 

The Spaniard’s influence is evident in how Ten Hag likes his team to play. Continuing the legacy of Johan Cruyff at Ajax, the Dutchman insists on his side being technically competent so that they can keep possession and move intelligently between the lines. 

Despite this, Ten Hag would be somewhat of a left field choice for the United job owing to his lack of experience at the highest level. 

He would however, impart an attractive attacking style on the team and give a lift to fans who have been forced to watch such drab performances for so long.

Let’

When & Where to Watch Manchester City’s Players During the October International Break

?Despite being arguably the best team in the world, the international break may have come at the perfect time for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola.

However, for a team with so much quality in their squad, it may be surprising to hear that there are only nine of their players away on international duty. 

The players who have been called up are ready to get going for their nations over another (long) two weeks. Let’s have a look at who they are and when they take to the pitch.

All TV/live stream information relates to UK availability.


Rodrigo (Spain)

Rodri

Manchester City’s summer signing has played well since arriving in England, yet it still feels as though he has some way to go before replacing Fernandinho adequately in the heart of midfield.

However, despite starting for the Sky Blues, Rodri is yet to nail down a place in the Spanish starting XI as there is a wealth of competition for his place. With two tricky away fixtures in Norway and then Sweden, the midfielder will be hoping he gets a chance to prove himself ahead of the European Championships next year.

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Norway vs Spain Saturday 12 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) Sky Sports Football
Sweden vs Spain Tuesday 15 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) Sky Sports Premier League

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

FBL-AFR-2019-MATCH52-SEN-ALG

The Algeria captain has been in fine form for his club this season, and will be hoping to take that into the international break. ?Mahrez will be busier than most though, as his side have three fixtures rather than two. 

Algeria start with two friendly fixtures against DR Congo and Colombia, before they take  on Morocco in the second leg of the African Nations Championship following a 0-0 draw in the fist game.

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
?Algeria vs DR Congo ?Thursday 10 Oct @ 20.45 (BST) ?Not in UK
Algeria vs Colombia Tuesday 15 Oct @ 20.00 (BST) Not in UK
Morocco vs Algeria Friday 18 Oct @ TBF (BST) Not in UK

Raheem Sterling (England)

Raheem Sterling

?Sterling has now confirmed himself as one of Manchester City and England’s best players, and continues to impress every week for club and country.

Incredibly, his team mate Kyle Walker continues to be left out of the England setup, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka seen as the future in the right-back position.

With two crucial qualifiers coming up, England will be looking to Sterling as one of the key men to help them get six points from six.

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Czech Republic vs England Friday 11 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) ITV1/ ITV Player
Bulgaria vs England Monday 14 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) ITV1/ ITV Player

Claudio Bravo (Chile)

Claudio Bravo

Despite struggling for game time at City, Bravo is still Chile’s number one in between the sticks, and is expected to start both friendly games against Colombia and Guinea. 

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Colombia vs Chile Saturday 12 Oct @ 17.00 (BST) Not in UK
Chile vs Guinea Tuesday 15 Oct @ 17.00 (BST) Not in UK

Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)

Serge Gnabry,Nicolas Otamendi,Marcos Rojo

With Sergio Aguero being left out, Otamendi is the only City player to be called up to the Argentina squad. However, his performances for City have been calamitous at times, illustrated by their recent form.

The centre back started and picked up a yellow in his nation’s 2-2 draw with Germany on Wednesday night, and will likely feature again in their friendly against Ecuador.

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Ecuador vs Argentina Sunday 13 Oct @ 15.00 (BST) Not in UK

Oleksandr Zinchenko (Ukraine)

Oleksandr Zinchenko

Zinchenko has come under scrutiny over the last few games for his performances at left-back for ?City, but he should return to his favoured position in midfield for Ukraine during the two qualifying fixtures.

Ukraine are on fire in qualifiers, sitting at the top of their group and currently unbeaten. They take on Lithuania and then Portugal, and should they come out with two more wins from those games, then qualification will be pretty much certain.

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Ukraine vs Lithuania Friday 11 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) Sky Sports Red Button
Ukraine vs Portugal Monday 14 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) Sky Sports Premier League

Gabriel Jesus and Ederson (Brazil)

Gabriel Jesus

Although he is City’s no.1, Ederson continues to sit on the bench for Brazil behind Liverpool’s Alisson Becker. However, with Alisson injured, he is likely to start in both friendlies against Senegal and Nigeria.

?Jesus will also feature heavily, despite failing to nail down a starting place at City. For Brazil though, he is a key man, and will continue to forge a partnership with Roberto Firmino and Neymar up front. 

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Brazil vs Senegal Thursday 10 Oct @ 13.00 (BST) Not in UK
Brazil vs Nigeria Sunday 13 Oct @ 13.00 (BST) Not in UK

Bernardo Silva (Portugal)

Bernardo Silva,Marten de Roon

Joao Cancelo’s omission from the Portugal squad is surprising, but with some more game time for City, it isn’t likely to be something that lasts long.

However, Silva’s call up is no surprise, with the little magician continuing to prove himself as one of the world’s best players. He will be pivotal in his nation’s qualifying games against Luxembourg and Ukraine.

Game Date/Time Channel/Live Stream
Portugal vs Luxembourg Friday 11 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) Sky Sports Premier League
Ukraine vs Portugal Monday 14 Oct @ 19.45 (BST) Sky Sports Premier League

Let’