Modibo Maïga arrived from Sochaux in July of this year. At the time of his arrival, it was clear that Sam Allardyce was trying to build a squad that was good enough to endure the difficulties of the Premier League on a weekly basis. He is now 25-years-old, which should mean that he is a player still learning his trade but with solid foundations.
This is the first time Maïga has played in England and, as we all know, the Premier League is one of the most difficult leagues in the world to adjust to, so I’m not going to say that he should be an instant hit, but so far he has had a mixed start to his West Ham career.
As clichéd as this sounds, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the stupidly named Capital One Cup this year because I was more bothered about the league fixtures and results, so poor Modibo slipped off my radar a bit when he scored for us against Crewe Alexandra in the League Cup.
I was pleased to hear that he’d scored, and although I probably did watch the six seconds of highlights on the BBC, I can’t remember the goal and I can’t even find it on YouTube for research purposes. The same goes for his second goal for us against Wigan. But anyway, he got off the mark very quickly, which is always a good sign.
He was playing at Sochaux as a striker, which is why in the 10/11 season he scored a decent 15 goals, but he only managed nine in 11/12 in Ligue 1. It sounds as though he had a rocky last season in France, supposedly not wanting to play for his club any more, but instead wishing to join Newcastle. There were reports that he would get his wish in January 2012 however he reportedly failed a medical. This led to a falling out with staff and fans at Sochaux, so he has obviously a little bit of a temperamental man, but we never seem to shy away from those, do we?
Unfortunately for him, we have a selection of strikers to choose from now. It’s commonly known as a great problem for a manager to have, but of course, you have to be able to keep everyone happy. Andy Carroll has been taking the main forward role since his arrival, but with Ricardo Vaz Te sidelined after dislocating his shoulder, Maïga might have fancied his chances to strike up a partnership with Carroll. The frustration of not starting games has possibly been worsened by Allardyce’s choice to play Maïga on the wing, as he hasn’t looked 100pc comfortable in such a role this season.
His goal against Southampton was a sight for sore eyes. It was a sign of the quality striker he can be. This led to calls for the chant “super, super Modibo, super Modibo Maïga” to be sung for the following fixture at Wigan. I don’t know if it didn’t take off purely for it’s tongue-twisting nature, or if actually we needed to see a bit more. Against Wigan he showed flashes of what he is capable of with his feet, but the game as a whole was a bit of a writeoff, so anything would have shone that day.
Against Newcastle I saw signs of selfish play. Several times he took the ball well, made a few magical moves with his feet and then just didn’t know when to stop. I can recall a couple of times he dribbled beautifully into the box but kept going long enough for a Newcastle defender to reclaim the ball. That or he just ran out of room to carry on, and couldn’t get a cross in to Carroll or Nolan. Maybe he was over keen to prove himself as a goal-scorer, but it just didn’t happen for him on the day.
He was offered a rare start at Upton Park when we hosted Stoke. I thought he might have been given a bit of a talking to after the Newcastle display because when we played Stoke, he showed more of his passing a movement skill, which was pleasing on the eye. He can be counted in the many players that night that didn’t do anything wrong. However, things took a turn for the worst at White Hart Lane for Maïga. Watching Matt Jarvis pull his shirt on from the bench made me almost hope that someone was carrying a bit of a knock, because there is only one word for a 30th minute switch and that is “embarrassing”.
It was the moment when Allardyce clearly noticed that Jarvis is just a better wing player than Maïga. It’s fair to say that we bought Jarvis for the purpose of playing on the wing and swinging in crosses, but I just would have liked to have seen Maïga get to 45 minutes, more for his dignity than anything else. So what does this mean for the future appearances of Maïga? I’d like to think that now Jarvis has returned from a few little injuries, he can provide the consistency we need and Maïga can maybe provide support to Andy Carroll. It’s just hard to see where he will fit in.
Allardyce obviously prefers to have Carroll supported by Nolan and Noble, and then on the occasions that another striker has been needed, Carlton Cole seems to be the choice. January also throws up the annual selection problems that the Africa Cup of Nations competition brings. Maïga will be representing Mali at the 2013 cup after scoring three goals in the qualification rounds to help them through to the finals. While this is a great honour for him, it doesn’t help continuity in the squad and he might find it hard to break into the starting line up on his return.
There is no doubting that this man has style, pace and raw talent. He just needs to know that he’s wanted and I think that he needs to know where his position will be. At the moment he seems to be a bit of a stand in, and we don’t want him to be another one that gets away to move on to bigger and better things.