By Adam Clark
West Ham United's deadline-day capture of Argentine World Cup stars Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez was arguably the transfer coup of the summer.
The signings should have seen the Hammers kick on from last year's impressive campaign, which saw them finish ninth on their return to the Premiership and push Liverpool all the way in the FA Cup final, only to lose penalties.
In reality, six defeats in 10 games this term have left Alan Pardew's side closer to the foot of the table. Victory at home to Blackburn last weekend has released some pressure but he won't expect any favours from Arsène Wenger's Arsenal this weekend.
With Sunday's clash in mind Arsenal.com spoke to Tom Harvey of the East London Advertiser to get the low-down on the Upton Park outfit.
THE STORY SO FAR
"There are so many theories as to why things haven't gone to plan. One is second season syndrome and the notion that maybe we overachieved last season. Then there's a lot of people pointing to the Argentines and saying they've unsettled what was a very English club. Then there's the takeover talk that continues to rumble on without anything being confirmed. [Whatever the reason] we went on a terrible run where we lost games and couldn't score, but hopefully we turned a corner against Blackburn last weekend. Dean Ashton getting injured was also a massive blow. He was superb last season and had become the main focus point of the team. The big players from last year, like Nigel Reo-Coker and Yossi Benayoun have struggled too, and if they're struggling the team's going to struggle. If they can get better things will soon pick up."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Alan Pardew has had a funny relationship with the West Ham fans. When he came in he didn't get instant result and the fans got on his back a little. He sold a lot of key players, like Joe Cole and Michael Carrick and brought in younger, lesser players for lesser money. I think the play off win over Preston [in 2005] saved his job and obviously last season things changed. Earlier this season the team were trying hard, they just weren't getting any luck, and it was good to see the fans realising that and getting behind Pardew last Sunday. Having said that we have got a tricky few games coming up and if we were to lose them the writing could perhaps be on the wall."
"With Tevez and Mascherano, as with any foreign players, it's taking a while to settle in. In this day, people want instant results and they're two of the biggest players to have ever signed. People thought we'd be flying up the league by now but it's going to take time. Tevez has looked good in flashes but hasn't really been fit and Mascherano looks composed and spreads the ball well. I do think they will come good when they're fit and adjust to the Premiership. [Goalkeeper] Rob Green has come in for the last few games after injury and he's been very impressive."
THE BOY MOST LIKELY TO...
"Hogan Ephraim. He's from Islington actually and is a striker or attacking midfielder who's been touted as the next best thing. He's been on the bench a couple of times and he's definitely one to look out for. Kyel Reid, a pacey, tricky left winger is another of whom a lot of great things are expected."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"I don't think you can lose as many games in a row as we have and get into Europe. It would take an amazing run to do so and I just think it will be too hard to make up ground. Mid-table would do now. People were talking about the Champions League when Tevez and Mascherano came in but you've got to be realistic now. We are better than a lot of the teams down at the bottom but they haven't been on runs like we have."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"Four years ago we finished seventh under Glenn Roeder and the next season everything that could go wrong, went wrong. A side with [Jermaine] Defoe, [Michael] Carrick, [Joe] Cole and other great players went down. No one is good enough to stay up anymore, and everyone has got to get results. If we get to January and we're still down there it's going to be a real dogfight. A lot of our players are young and it would be something new and tough for them. It is a fear that lightening could strike twice but hopefully last week's win will help us move away from the bottom."
"West Ham aren't the sort of team to shut up shop and run down time. They have never played like that and I don't think they ever will. The game on Sunday should be a good one, between two good footballing sides. I imagine we will line up the same as we did against Blackburn [4-4-2] with Konchesky maybe coming in for George McCartney. That means Teddy Sheringham up front, and at 40 you shouldn't be relying on him to provide the goods, but he's still a great player. The question is who will start up there with him. I'm not sure Tevez will make it but maybe Harewood will come in for Zamora."