André Ayew’s injury setback is, without doubt, a big blow to Bilic’s plans. But the club has to now focus on the longer game with Ayew, a man who is passionate about playing football and has relished in having opportunities to play in the English Premier League. Bilic made the forward West Ham’s record signing in this summer’s transfer window, because he felt he was a ‘game-changer’, with the Hammers boss recognising his quality and seeming ability to handle pressure and win games. To help matters, Ayew is also friends with Dimitri Payet with them having played together at Marseille. Th is is something he cites as a factor in his decision to move to East London, to play with one of the modern game’s stars.
Despite the positivity following his record move from Swansea, true to the ‘West Ham way’, Ayew was injured in his first appearance in claret and blue in the very first game of the season away to Chelsea. Th e immediate signs weren’t good but as we now know, he will miss just less than the original four months quoted through injury as he won’t require surgery. He is unlikely to appear for the Hammers, before December when he will have completed his rehabilitation programme. However, if a call up to the Africa Cup of Nations is on the cards, which it probably is, he’ll be missing again in January.
Despite this, we want to know more about our record signing in anticipation of his future career with West Ham and maybe find out how he will cope with the setback he, and the club, has faced through his thigh injury. André comes from a particularly footballing family; his father, Abedi Pele is still considered to be one of the greatest African footballers to have graced a soccer field having captained Ghana to several African Cup of Nations trophies.
He also played for Lille and Marseille picking up Champions League, European Cup and Ligue 1 titles along the way. André’s two brothers, Ibrahim and Jordan, play for Asante Kotoko in Ghana and Aston Villa respectively. There’s clearly a positive gene in the Ayew family. There were murmurs amongst West Ham fans on the cyber terraces that this was a strange signing by Bilic, but even in the days leading up to his signing, Slaven made it clear that Ayew was the man he wanted to solve the attacking puzzle on the pitch.
Without doubt, West Ham have some incredible talent on offer, but it just doesn’t always come off, does it? Could André prove to be the consistent goal-scorer and game changer we all crave? Despite being listed as a striker in many media sources in recent weeks, Ayew is a natural left-winger but willing to be versatile in forward positions, as proven in his Swansea spell.
His career path has been fairly strong, starting at Marseille at the age of 18, gaining valuable domestic and Champions League experience from an early age. His first season ended with 15 appearances and that was good enough to see him included in the Ghana squad for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. He was also linked with a move to the Premier League to play with Arsenal, a move that never transpired.
Two of his eight seasons at Marseille were spent on loan, once to Lorient where he scored three in 24 appearances (mostly from the bench), and once to Arles-Avignon netting four times in 26 games. On return to Marseille in the 10/11 season, Ayew had impressed Didier Deschamps enough to earn a contract extension and more regular football. This move paid off for him and his manager; André relished in his opportunity and scored 11 league goals and two cup goals. Not only that, he picked up Marseille’s Player of the Season award for his efforts.
All in all, in the five years following his loan spells, Ayew tallied up 60 goals for Marseille in all competitions, which averages out at a goal every three and a half games. His time in France showed his willingness to impress, something that continued to shine once he moved to the Premier League in 2015 to play for Swansea City.
The Ghanaian made an instant impact, scoring three times in his first three games against Chelsea, Newcastle and Manchester United, earning him the August Player of the Month award for the Premier League. The 26-year-old spent just one season in south Wales, but it was enough time to learn a bit about how well he would cope with the pace and quality of the English league. He netted 12 times for the Swans in 34 starts in the league. Interestingly, he played 86 minutes per game on average, missing around four consecutive weeks through injury.
There was a lot of good to be analysed from that single season in which he primarily played in a more central role than his preference of left wing. Ayew proved to be good with his head for a start – he can get good power and accuracy with a slight glance towards goal, something that could prove useful in East London.
When watching back through his goals, you can’t help but notice that he also showed a great level of understanding with wingers, in particular Montero. He seemed to be able to create space for himself with his quick thinking and forward reading of an incoming ball. As for his international career, André Ayew has picked up a second and third place finish in the Africa Cup of Nations, but nothing much more than that.
With a total of 12 goals in a senior international shirt and 46 appearances under his belt, Ayew continues to be an integral part of the Ghana squad. This time includes a brief spell of international ‘retirement’ for both André and brother Jordan who had fallings out with the Ghana FA. Some cited a lack of discipline as the reason for the Ayews breakdown in relationships.
Twenty-six year old André has served seven suspensions in his career, but only picking up two red cards. Maybe being shown the yellow card is something he needs to be careful of on his return, in order not to miss even more of the season through petty bookings. Having looked through the life and times of André Ayew, we see that he’s worth a punt. Is he worth a £20 million punt though?
This begs the question of why Bilic failed to tempt him to Upton Park on a free transfer last season at the first time of asking, when we had everything to play for. When we look at the likes of Payet and Lanzini making the move to East London with the glory of playing at the Olympic Stadium on the horizon, why did Ayew choose to up-sticks to south Wales instead of linking up with his pal Dimitri? Perhaps he saw a better challenge on offer at Swansea? Or felt that Gomis was a better player for him to be linking up with?
Marseille openly admitted that they couldn’t afford to give Ayew the wage increase he deserved and that only a Premier League outfit could meet his wishes, which maybe leads us to conclude that salary was a large part in his decision. It’s so difficult these days to judge a player based on his price tag. As fans, we complain that so-and-so isn’t worth the money, but the reality is that football has lost touch with, well, reality.
Being a free transfer for Swansea worked to Ayew’s advantage, if you ask me. The pressure is far less and we know how much that burden can affect players on and off the field. To be a club record signing will surely bring its trials and tribulations, and one hopes that fans don’t judge based purely on his price tag.