Cheikhou Kouyaté has been an outstanding addition to West Ham’s squad this year. He defends, attacks, adds dominance to our midfield and has even managed to score three goals and set up two assists in the league so far this season. The 25-year-old has been a mainstay in the Hammers team, and has missed just seven games through injury or international duty. Of the other 21 league games in which he’s featured, he’s played the full 90 minutes on nearly every occasion.
Normally, the above would be enough to guarantee a player to be West Ham’s signing of the season, but in a year where we’ve brought a tremendous amount of talent to Upton Park, will Kouyaté end up being the best of the summer signings? He certainly has the potential to be. Kouyaté settled into the squad straight away, and has been influential in West Ham starting the season as well as they did. He brings strength to midfield, and performs extremely well under pressure.
The Senegalese midfielder always looks composed, and can be counted on to make both key tackles and strong passes. According to whoscored.com, 79.5 per cent of Kouyaté’s passes have been successful (and 90 per cent of his passes whilst he was playing in the African Cup of Nations.)
He’s an extremely versatile player, which has been a major benefit to the Hammers this season. Kouyaté is able to play at professional level as both a defender and a midfielder. West Ham have largely utilised him as a midfielder, but when a defensive crisis struck our centre-backs, Kouyaté easily slid into defence and put in outstanding performances whilst in the back four.
It was almost a disappointment to see him move back to midfield, where it not for the gaping Kouyaté-shaped hole that opened up there in his absence. He’s also scored goals for West Ham, and none more beautiful to me than his absolute cracker against Manchester United at Upton Park. There’s no contesting the impact he has on the pitch and equally important is that he comes across as a valuable part of a good team atmosphere at Upton Park.
His online social media accounts are peppered with pictures of him and his teammates socialising (especially selfies of him and his fellow countryman and BFF Diafra Sakho.) There’s no reported drama with Kouyaté; he does his job, does it well, and we’re lucky to have him as part of our squad. He’s a certain fan favourite, and he recently won the fan-voted Player of the Month and Goal of the Month for his excellent performances in February
He’s certainly a strong contender to be our best signing of the season. There are only two things that could hold him back from the accolade – the top-notch performances from some of his other new teammates, and that awkward moment where he went missing after AFCON and had to be dragged back to England to play for West Ham.
That was, admittedly, a bit strange. After all, this has been a season of smart signings for West Ham. Messers Aaron Cresswell, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia have also been outstanding this season – but should Cheikhou Kouyaté finish the season playing the same football he’s played thus far, the crown for being our best signing should fit snugly on his head.