Five Talking Points - Premier League kick-off


The important points for discussion as West Ham United prepare to travel to Chelsea on Monday evening...
Team selection

Slaven Bilic may be without injured trio Aaron Cresswell, Manuel Lanzini and new boy Gokhan Tore on Monday, but he will still have plenty of options when it comes to picking his team.

The manager has two fine goalkeepers to choose from, alongside three international centre-halves. At full-back, he will opt between Michail Antonio and Sam Byram at right-back, while new boy Arthur Masuaku could be given a Premier League baptism of fire at left-back.

In midfield, Norway’s Havard Nordtveit looks set to play an important role in front of the back four, with Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate ahead of him. The impressive Reece Oxford and dependable Pedro Obiang could also be involved on the night.

Two more new boys look set to fill the wide positions in Sofiane Feghouli and Andre Ayew, with Andy Carroll up front, but Dimitri Payet and Enner Valencia will both hope to feature too.

The race for No1

Last season, West Ham benefitted hugely from having two outstanding goalkeepers to call upon in Spaniard Adrian and experienced Irishman Darren Randolph.

Despite some headlines suggesting he may seek a guaranteed starting place elsewhere after starring for his country at Euro 2016, Randolph has signed a new contract to remain in Claret and Blue. Adrian, meanwhile, has returned to fitness in pre-season after missing the end of last term through injury.

Both men were given a chance to impress against Domzale in the UEFA Europa League, but who will be between the sticks for the start of the Premier League campaign?


Repeat performance

A year ago, West Ham United travelled to a big-name London rival with a new manager, new players and with, the pundits said, no chance of pulling off a victory.

At the final whistle, the Hammers had beaten Arsenal 2-0 and those same pundits were purring over Slaven Bilic’s side and, in particular, the performances of French playmaker Dimitri Payet and Academy youngster Reece Oxford.

On Monday night, the stage will be Stamford Bridge rather than the Emirates and the opposition Chelsea. Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is the attitude of the pundits, who would not be at all surprised if West Ham started the season with another landmark away win.

New Blues

Two players previously linked with West Ham United are likely to make their Chelsea debuts against the Hammers on Monday evening – France midfielder N’Golo Kante and Belgium striker Michy Batschuayi.

A Premier League title winner with Leicester City last season, Kante will add bite and athleticism to a midfield that appeared pedestrian at times a year ago. Batschuayi, meanwhile, enjoyed a fine personal season amid turbulent surroundings at Marseille last term, following that up with a goal for his country at Euro 2016.

Both will be keen to impress another new Blue in manager Antonio Conte, whose tactical acumen has arrived at Stamford Bridge after a wildly successful spell at Juventus and a decent stint as Italy manager.

A Bridge too far?

West Ham United’s record at Stamford Bridge has been poor in recent years. Indeed, the Hammers travel to west London on a ten-match winless Premier League run at the home of Chelsea.

Last season, Slaven BIlic’s side were the better team, led twice and deserved to win, only to be denied at the last by a controversial Cesc Fabregas penalty – awarded when Michail Antonio was penalised for bringing down Ruben Loftus-Cheek a yard outside the box.

Paolo Di Canio scored twice on West Ham’s last victory in SW6 back in September 2002, but will that record be broken on Monday night?