Saturday 17th August
West Ham United vs Cardiff City
So, after what feels like an eternity, we finally get back under way tomorrow afternoon! My wife tells me that it feels like the football season never stops, but I assure her that the 90 days since we played Reading have felt like forever.
A lot has changed at West Ham this summer, with a stalwart departing (Carlton Cole), a number of new faces appearing (Adrian San Miguel, Razvan Rat, Stewart Downing), and a couple of players returning (Alou Diarra, Ravel Morrison, Andy Carroll).
But even more has changed for our opening opponents.
Last time we faced Cardiff City, they played in blue and were financially shot. This summer, the side that play in a very Welsh red have broken their transfer record on three separate occasions.
For me, one of this trio stands out. Steven Caulker may turn out to be a fantastic signing at what seems like an inflated figure of £9m, and Andreas Cornelius has undoubted potential, but the signing of Gary Medel strikes me as a real coup for a promoted side.
The Chilean made 76 appearances in two years at Sevilla, pulling the strings from the heart of midfield. He's also picked up over 50 caps for his national side. There are a few areas of Medel's game that stand out to me.
Firstly, for a defensive midfielder-cum-centre back, he has a fantastic desire to get forward. Last season he bagged 6 La Liga goals, a career best, and created a decent amount of chances too with his fantastic range of passing.
Something West Ham will certainly need to look out for is his ability to strike a ball from range. Last season, the Hammers regularly restricted opponents to long range efforts. This often led to simpler saves for Jussi Jaaskelainen to collect in goal, but also meant we conceded more than our fair share of spectacular goals.
The image below shows the range of Medel's goals last season. As you can see, allowing the midfielder to have a go may not be the best course of action to take on Saturday afternoon.
The other area that really stands out about Medel is his passing. Not only did he post an excellent success rate of 87% (higher than any single West Ham player last season), but the intent of his passing was something that means he is likely to fit into the Premier League very well.
As you can see in the image below, almost two thirds of the Chilean's 1,606 attempted passes went forwards. This is particularly impressive considering the nature of the modern La Liga, in which ball retention and tika-taka are key.
Something of a disappointment for Cardiff City fans is that new signing Andreas Cornelius is doubtful for this one with an injury. In his possible absence, it is anticipated that Fraizer Campbell will lead the line for their first ever Premier League game.
This should be good news for West Ham fans. In the Premier League for Sunderland last season, the one time England striker played 12 times, 10 of these from the bench, and he was removed in the two games he started, he also managed only the one goal.
Campbell also only managed success in 4 of his 13 aerial duels in the Premier League last season. This should be music to the ears of the likely centre back pairing of James Tomkins and Winston Reid. Both of the defenders measure in at more than 5 inches larger than Campbell.
The image below shows the comparative success rate of the trio in the air, giving some kind of sense of the dominance the pair should expect in this area.
Unfortunately, the availability of performance data from the Championship if extremely limited, so it's difficult to make too many conclusions about the way that Cardiff play.
However, given the ball playing nature of midfielders like Medel and Peter Whittingham, and the diminutive nature of forwards like Campbell and former West Ham duo Craig Bellamy and Nicky Maynard, it seems fair to assume they will stick to a passing game through the midfield.
It'll be interesting to see how this one pans out, as we all know that newly promoted sides often have draw on the excitement of the occasion to upset the odds.
That said, I'd expect the Hammers to continue our strong home form from last season, and to build on a positive preseason to beat the Red-Bluebirds.
If I were pressed on a prediction, I'd go for a 2-1 home win.
Head to Head
51% Head to Head Win % 20%
28 Won 11
16 Drawn 16
11 Lost 28
88 Goals Scored 54
54 Goals Conceded 88
D W L D L W Last 6 D W D D D D
9 Goals Scored 7
8 Goals Conceded 5
L W D W D W Home/Away Form L W L D D D
13 Goals Scored 7
8 Goals Conceded 7
Form Player (All Comps)
Kevin Nolan - Gary Medel
66.19 Last 6 -
4 Goals Scored 0
0 Assists 1
35 Appearances 32
10 Goals 6
2 Assists 3
28 Chances Created 19
1018 Passes 1606
801 Passes Completed 1404
78.7% % Completed 87.4%
07 May 2012
1-0 Kevin Nolan 15'
2-0 Ricardo Vâz Te 40'
3-0 Nicky Maynard 90'
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-4-2
Robert Green - David Marshall
Guy Demel - Kevin McNaughton
James Tomkins - Mark Hudson
Winston Reid - Ben Turner
Matthew Taylor - Andrew Taylor
Mark Noble - Liam Lawrence
Gary O'Neil - Aron Gunnarsson
Jack Collison - Stephen McPhail
Kevin Nolan - Peter Whittingham
Ricardo Vâz Te - Kenny Miller
Carlton Cole - Joe Mason
West Ham United: George McCartney, James Collins,Andy Carroll
Cardiff City: Aron Gunnarsson, Andreas Cornelius
West Ham United: n/a
Cardiff City: Andrew Taylor
Opposition Last Time Out
vs Hull City
Goals Scored: 2
Goals Conceded: 2
Starting Formation: 4-5-1
Kevin McNaughton Ben Turner Ben Nugent Andrew Taylor
Craig Noone Aron Gunnarsson Kim Bo-Kyung Jordan Mutch Craig Conway
subs: Joe Lewis, Peter Whittingham, Tommy Smith, Rudy Gestede, Nicky Maynard, Simon Lappin, Frazier Campbell
Top 5's (min 5 apps)
Kevin Nolan 10 - 8 Aron Gunnarsson
Andy Carroll 7 - 8 Peter Whittingham
Mark Noble 4 - 8 Heidar Helguson
Ricardo Vâz Te 3 - 7 Craig Noone
Mohamed Diamé 3 - 7 Fraizer Campbell
Ricardo Vâz Te 4 - 8 Craig Noone
Joey O'Brien 4 - 8 Craig Bellamy
Andy Carroll 4 - 6 Andrew Taylor
Mark Noble 3 - 6 Aron Gunnarsson
Gary O'Neil 3 - 5 Peter Whittingham
Mohamed Diamé 84.1% - 0% Unavailable
Mark Noble 82.6% - 0% Unavailable
Joe Cole 80.5% - 0% Unavailable
George McCartney 79.8% - 0% Unavailable
Joey O'Brien 79.2% - 0% Unavailable
Chances Created per game
Mark Noble 1.5 - Unavailable
Gary O'Neil 1.5 - Unavailable
Joe Cole 1.5 - Unavailable
Andy Carroll 1.4 - Unavailable
Matt Jarvis 1.4 - Unavailable
Successful Dribbles per game
Mohamed Diamé 2 - Unavailable
Guy Demel 0.8 - Unavailable
Ricardo Vâz Te 0.7 - Unavailable
Matthew Jarvis 0.5 - Unavailable
Joey O'Brien 0.4 - Unavailable
Tackles per game
Mark Noble 3.6 - Unavailable
Mohamed Diamé 3.5 - Unavailable
James Collins 1.9 - Unavailable
Winston Reid 1.8 - Unavailable
George McCartney 1.8 - Unavailable
Aerial Duels Won per game
Andy Carroll 9.3 - Unavailable
Carlton Cole 3.9 - Unavailable
James Collins 2.9 - Unavailable
James Tomkins 2.7 - Unavailable
Winston Reid 2.4 - Unavailable
Sam Allardyce - Maky Mackay
42.5% Current Club Win % 46.6%
40 Won 49
25 Drawn 32
29 Lost 24
40.1% Managerial Career Win % 40.1%
334 Won 84
224 Drawn 58
274 Lost 67
2 League Titles 1
0 Cup Wins 0