- Winston Reid: A pivotal player last season with heaps of ability and a favourite at West Ham. Reid is a defender that knows how to defend well and, as Big Sam has said recently, a defender that commits to defending is hard to find these days. He is hard working, and has quite a bit of pace for a central defender. With a pass success percentage of 76.5% last season, he is also able to pass the ball out of defence, which could be important when playing the new attacking football the fans has called for.
- James Tomkins: I think it is important Tomkins starts this season to solidify his partnership with Reid. The two are relatively young and could be our centre backs for many years to come. He made more clearances (8.9 per game) and won more areal duels (4 per game) then Kompany last year. That’s not to say he is better than Vincent Kompany, but Tomkins is definitely a solid player for West Ham with a bright future.
- Mark Noble: Mr West Ham himself has to be a definite starter for the Hammers this season. He was Hammer of the Year last time out and rightly so. The heart of the team, Noble travelled the equivalent of over nine London Marathons this season and has played in every West Ham Premier League game. He has had an average of 1.5 key passes per game compared to the 1.3 per game of Garth Barry, two players I believe to be very similar. The rest of the midfield will chop and change but Noble will stay a key figure when fit and available.
- Kevin Nolan: Probably my most controversial choice but this choice has been made just by looking at facts. Nolan is a long time servant of Big Sam and is the captain of West Ham. He was also the clubs top scorer this season with seven goals, and looks in good shape this pre-season. While there are plenty of players able to slot in behind the striker I don’t think the likes of Mauro Zarate or Ravel Morrison are quite ready for a regular starting position in the Premier League. Maybe come Christmas they will be that bit more experienced and we might come to see Nolan on the bench a bit more often, but as long as Nolan can keep out of trouble and avoid red cards he will be a starter for the next dozen or so matches.
- Andy Carroll: If you had asked me to pick out five starters last summer, this man would be a no-brainer. While it is still an easy choice, it’s not quite as clear cut as last season. With Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate in the squad, there is some much needed, quality competition in the front line. The big man will not be displaced easily, though. He was the talisman signing last summer and is the epitome of Big Sam’s style of football. But he isn’t just there to make Gold and Sullivan feel ratified for shelling out big bucks, when he was fit last season he played well, scored two goals and assisting four more, in 12 games. He also won 8.9 aerial duels per game on average, with Peter Crouch winning 7.6 in second place in the Premier League.
I think players like Cheikhou Kouyate, Diego Poyet and Morrison will all rotate in the middle of the park this season whislt Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing will need some competition out on the wings if we are to provide decent crosses to Carroll. With Ivan Strinic expected to sign in the next few days, himself and Cresswell will both rotate in the left full back roll with Guy Demel filling in the right full back spot. I hope the spending is not over yet as there is still a lot left to be desired in many positions. James Collins is not enough cover in the centre back roll and an extra player is badly needed, and at least one more winger is in demand with Ricardo Vaz Te the only real cover out wide.
(All stats are from www.WhoScored.com)