After a surprise top-six finish last term, West Ham will need to deal with the added pressure of European football.
West Ham's pre-season started earlier than most, and David Moyes' club built up a head of steam before putting six goals past Celtic. Some of the younger players in the squad may be called into action more this term, and midfielder Conor Coventry staked his claim with goals in two of the earlier friendlies and former Celtic youngster Armstrong Oko-Flex opened his account.
The individual highlight came in a 1-0 win over Brentford, though, where Saïd Benrahma scored a stunning goal against his former club, and the Algerian will hope to kick on in his second season in east London.
"We've got a lot of hope that he will get in and find his goalscoring touch, and assists and all those bits to do with his game," David Moyes said. "We want good competition and hopefully we'll have lots of people threatening to score goals this season." While pre-season is never a total guide to what will follow, given the comparative lack of intensity, there are plenty of positives to take away from what we've seen up to this point.
Part of the challenge for the Hammers will be hanging on to Declan Rice amid reported interest from members of last season's top four, but the club have been relatively quiet so far. Fabián Balbuena and Felipe Anderson are the two senior players to depart, while some academy talents have left on loan but aside from goalkeeper Alphonse Areola - a loan signing from Paris Saint-Germain with an option to make the move permanent next summer - the arrivals have mostly been players for the future. Well, apart from the deal to make Craig Dawson's loan from Watford permanent, that is.
A new centre-back looks like the main priority, following Balbuena's departure, with Kurt Zouma and Phil Jones among the names mentioned but no business completed at the time of writing. Further forward, some fans will surely still hope a deal can be done for Jesse Lingard after the Manchester United man's goals on loan last season gave the London club the momentum to stay in the top six for almost the entire second half of the season. West Ham only used 24 players last season - Leeds, with 23, were the only club to use fewer - and the addition of at least six extra games in the Europa League may call for additional reinforcements in order to avoid burnout.
What the odds tell us
After increasing their points total by 26 points year-on-year last term, a repeat would put the Hammers in the mix for the title, but the Betfair Exchange odds of 320.00 reflect how unlikely bettors believe that is to happen. Even a top four finish may be beyond Moyes' men, despite them missing out by just two points last time around. The odds of that are in at 17.00, though Betfair Sportsbook has them odds-on for a top-half finish. As for relegation, you can get 13.50 on the exchange, which shows how far this team has come since leaving it late to avoid the drop in 2019/20.