When West Ham United announced that Manuel Pellegrini would be taking over from David Moyes as permanent manager in late May, many predicted an exciting future for the club that has battled relegation in the past two seasons.
Many also predicted that change would be afoot, there have been many examples of how this has been implemented in the first few months of the experienced Chilean’s reign, but none more vivid than the pre-season results.
Now, if you ask any fan, pre-season results aren’t at the highest of their agendas, even the most passionate, in fact, some would happily wish this period away in order for the new season to start quicker.
However, pre-season and the results in the friendlies and competitions that are held over the summer months set the tone for the campaign ahead, the thing that supporters really care about.
As soon as he arrived at London Stadium, Pellegrini laid out a rigorous schedule for his players, some of whom are exciting new faces, which included two separate trips to Europe with a cluster of friendlies in England sandwiched in between.
Some would argue that the PL title-winning gaffer designed his pre-season so that his team would win matches, many of the fixtures being with sides from much lower and less competitive leagues.
But, this is often the case for the bigger teams and it is never a bad idea to get into the habit of winning, even if it is against Sky Bet Championship or League One opponents, for example.
The Hammers still had to emerge victorious in those matches, and this, they did, five out of seven times.
Ironically, the first and only defeat of pre-season would come in the very first test, a run-out against Swiss second division FC Winterthur in the Alps, albeit it was a narrow one, 3-2.
Once the training camp in Switzerland had concluded, the players flew back to England and began training at the club’s Rush Green training complex once again.
As the intensity picked up off the pitch, the results started to flow off it, first up was a mid-July trip to Wycombe Wanderers, a side fresh from promotion from England’s fourth tier to the third.
While the Irons only achieved a one-goal triumph, the victory triggered an unbeaten run that survived for the rest of pre-season and is now intact as Pellegrini’s men prepare for their first Premier League outing of the campaign.
Hammer of the Year Marko Arnautovic scored the only goal at Adams Park, he would go on to net four more times through the summer, taking his tally to an impressive five, the star of pre-season for the East Londoners.
The Austrian was at the double a week later, with his team leaving the home of Championship Preston North End with a 2-2 draw, in the next seven days, two more Championship teams were taken on away from home.
First to Aston Villa at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium and perhaps the most eye-catching performance of the lot, a silky display that culminated in a 1-3 victory over the former UEFA Champions League winners, Michail Antonio, Arnautovic and Robert Snodgrass in the goals.
Three days after that, the Hammers ventured to Suffolk to take on Ipswich Town, club-record signing Felipe Anderson scoring what was dubbed the first of many in Claret & Blue before Arnautovic clinched a win in the latter stages after Town had equalised.
For the final phase of pre-season, West Ham jetted off to Austria for the Betway Cup, which they lifted for the first time in its fourth year, by beating Bundesliga outfit FC Mainz 05 on penalties following a 1-1 draw, in which Toni Martinez poached home for the East Londoners.
All that was left after that was the seventh and final friendly, once again, it would be played at high altitude in Austria’s Alps, French side Angers SCO being downed by a first-half strike from the returning Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.
Something the Hammers simply haven’t done in recent times is enjoy strong pre-seasons, often with the distraction of early European football commitments, only winning six matches in the last four seasons.
This time around, Pellegrini’s men almost reached that total in just one pre-season with five, a figure that was coupled with just the one loss and one draw for good measure.
Over the seven games, 12 goals were scored by the boys in Claret & Blue, with only eight goals conceded and three of them coming in the anomaly of the Winterthur defeat, two clean sheets were also banked.
It may only be pre-season and the real tests are all still ahead for Pellegrini’s West Ham, but if this last month has been anything to go by, all is set for a ground-breaking campaign at London Stadium.