Manuel Pellegrini welcomes his former Premier League club to London Stadium as the Hammers take on Manchester City in a tasty affair on August 10.
West Ham finished last season in 10th and will be optimistic of improving on that achievement, especially with summer signings Sebastien Haller and Pablo Fornals bolstering their attacking options.
Pep Guardiola’s side have rapidly become one of the most formidable outfits the Premier League has ever witnessed and City enter the season targeting a third league title on the bounce.
Last season the Irons failed to collect any points against City, losing 4-0 at London Stadium and 1-0 on in Manchester. If they are to amend that this season, they will have to pose a different threat to an excellent side and, defensively, must offer resilience and organisation – something often lacking in east London since their switch to Stratford.
Here are five things that could give the West Ham fans a flicker of optimism going into the clash on August 10:
1. Manchester City’s high line
Guardiola has brought a different philosophy into English football and has established his blue-print ever since. His first season with City was a transitional phase yet pundits were quick to question the Spaniard’s tactics – Gary Neville claimed the Sky Blues would never win a league title adopting Guardiola’s formula.
However, he has demonstrated ever since that statement was widely incorrect, winning successive league titles and revolutionising the identity and philosophy of Manchester City.
Despite their success, City remain persistent with playing a high line and this is where the Hammers need to capitalise. The fast-paced build up of West Ham’s attacking options will be crucial and the likes of Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio can be used as outlets to catch out Guardiola’s defence.
If Pellegrini’s side can discover a formula to transition into an attacking phase before City are set defensively, they could inherit some unexpected success.
2. Full-back frailties
The Premier League champions are packed with an abundance of talent across the squad but full-backs remain their weakest area of the composition.
The wide options West Ham have at their disposal are more than capable of causing City problems. Kyle Walker and 22-year-old Oleksandr Zinchenko will find life difficult if the Hammers can utilise their wide players effectively and integrate their attack-minded full-backs – Ryan Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku – into the attacking phases of play.
Opting to deploy attacking full-backs is a risk with the quality City have going forwards but the Hammers will need to display a certain level of attacking impetus to challenge and compete with the Premier League champions.
3. Jack Wilshere
The England midfielder has endured a thoroughly successful pre-season thus far and could be a crucial component in West Ham’s bid to top the champions.
The 27-year-old has demonstrated his ball-playing ability and has dicatated the midfield battles for the Hammers so far.
With his tenacity and ability to retain possession, he could be a key factor in helping the east London club overturn City and they will certianly be aware of the abundance of talent he inherits.
The first match of the season offers a certain level of unpredictability – something the Hammers can take advantage of come August 10.
The unknown is both frightening and exciting for the West Ham faithful and the element of surprise could be a key weapon if they are to cause City problems.
Guardiola will not know what to expect, but neither will Pellegrini, which makes this match-up an intriguing affair.
5. Never back the early kick-off
The old cliché of ‘never back the early kick off’ is something for the superstitious but the Hammers did inherit success when this came into play.
Last season, West Ham achieved victories against Manchester United and Arsenal at London Stadium, both of which kicked off at 12.30pm.
When you face opposition as frightening as City, sometimes these superstitions are what give the fans a fraction of hope that something special could happen on the opening day of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign.