West Ham have made a poor start to the league season, and as Kevin Hatchard writes, this weekend they face one of their least favourite opponents...
"West Ham have lost their last four Premier League games against Wolves, and haven't even scored in any of them."
West Ham v Wolves
Sunday 27 September, 19:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Hammers stricken on and off the field
It's a worrying time to be a fan of West Ham. The club captain Mark Noble has raged on social media about the sale of sparkling young talent Grady Diangana to West Brom, co-owner David Sullivan admits the club has made a slew of failed signings, and the Hammers have lost their first two games of the league season. To make matters worse, manager David Moyes and players Issa Diop and Josh Cullen are self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. Moyes will coach the team remotely, as long as he doesn't have a Zoom quiz to do or a TikTok video to make.
However, there are some rays of light in the gloom. In the league cup, West Ham have hammered Charlton 3-0 and Hull 5-1, with talented striker Sebastian Haller bagging a brace in each game. Although the Frenchman is clearly lacking confidence in the Premier League, he is one of several Hammers players who could soar if the team can start playing to his strengths.
It's also worth noting that West Ham played well in their 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, and they actually won the xG battle, according to our friends at Infogol. They ended last term in decent nick with a four-match unbeaten run, and at the London Stadium, they have only lost three of the last eight, which isn't an awful record for a team that's been battling relegation for quite some time.
Michail Antonio is likely to spearhead the attack, despite the encouraging form of Haller. Players like Robert Snodgrass and Andriy Yarmolenko are pushing hard for starts, while Noble is still short of full fitness.
Big-spending Wolves have eyes on the prize
After finishing seventh in back-to-back seasons, this is Wolves' time to shine. Manager Nuno has penned a new long-term contract, the club has backed him with big-money signings like striker Fabio Silva and right-back Nelson Semedo, and key players like Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and Ruben Neves are still in the building.
Nuno often talks about his team competing in every game, and even thought Wolves lost 3-1 to a strutting Manchester City, they pushed the champions hard in the second half, squandering several good chances. On the opening weekend, two goals in the first six minutes saw the Old Gold sweep to a 2-0 win at Sheffield United. Wolves' away form is a case of famine or feast - they have won six, lost four and drawn only two of their last 12 PL games away from Molineux.
Jonny is still out injured, while new signing Marcal has a knock from the Manchester City game. Semedo is expected to make his debut on the right of the midfield four, with Ruben Vinagre covering on the left. Daniel Podence looked very lively against Manchester City, and Traore caused the Hammers no end of problems on his last visit to the London Stadium.
Wolves worth backing at odds-against
I'll be honest here, my initial feeling about this game was that the doom and gloom around West Ham was a bit exaggerated, but the more I've thought about it, the more Wolves seem like a great price to win at 11/102.14. They have won their last four league games against the Hammers, and haven't conceded a single goal. Also, the mini-break they had after the Europa League quarter-finals seems to have given them a much-needed boost.
I can't see West Ham's defence being able to deal with the movement and trickery of Podence and Traore, and Jimenez has scored in both Premier League games so far.
I'll back the visitors to win.
Don't expect a firefight
Wolves' last six away games in the top flight have all featured fewer than three goals, and I suspect West Ham will try to contain them. Three of the four PL meetings between the two in the last two seasons have seen an Under 2.5 Goals bet land, and all four of them have seen only one team score.
I think Under 2.5 Goals is priced fairly at 4/51.8, while backing No in the Both Teams To Score market is 1/12.0.
Jimenez to maintain his scoring streak?
The in-form Raul Jimenez is priced at 6/5 on the Sportsbook to score in 90 minutes, while Podence is an attractive 3/1.
On the West Ham side of things, Michail Antonio has scored in six of his last nine Premier League appearances, netting a total of nine goals in that spell. He is 9/4 to score at any time.
Kevin Hatchard Premier League P/L
Points Staked: 4
Points Returned: 0
P/L: -4.0 points
Back Wolves to win at 11/102.14