Soucek signing gives fans reason to hope after frustrating window

The Czech international formed a great partnership with Declan Rice in midfield

This has been a highly frustrating transfer window for West Ham fans.

There are questions over Declan Rice’s future, and we’ve seen a long list of current or previous targets join other clubs.

It can feel difficult to find positives, but the one player we have actually signed is a big one, in both physical and footballing stature. 

He may be a familiar face, but Tomáš Souček signing on a permanent deal is reason for excitement among the despondency plenty of us will be feeling.

The Czech international initially joined on loan, extending that until the end of the campaign so he could help us stay up, then signed permanently once survival was confirmed. 

The key part of this is just how much he — and fellow January recruit Jarrod Bowen — helped in keeping the Hammers in the league.

Souček was an instant hit, thanks to impressive performances against Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City. 

Despite the fact we got just one point from those two games, he offered a real presence in midfield, as well as the leadership qualities that have even had him put in the frame to succeed Mark Noble as captain when he steps down.

Thirteen of West Ham’s 39 points across the campaign came from the 12 games Souček started. 

This comes despite that run including meetings with Man City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United. 

Of course, this was not all down to the 25-year-old, with Michail Antonio winning Premier League Player of the Month for July. He did play his part though.

The obvious contribution is the three goals he scored, especially when it is considered how important they were in securing vital points. 

Having had a goal controversially disallowed against Chelsea, then seeing his side go 1-0 down, Souček climbed above Cesar Azpilicueta to bring the scores level. 

It was this effort that put West Ham on their way to the win that would push the club forward towards survival.

Just four days later, at St James’ Park, when Declan Rice’s header cannoned off the crossbar, Souček smashed his volley past Martin Dúbravka from close range. This put West Ham 2-1 up over Newcastle United, in a game that would eventually end 2-2.

Then came the Czech’s header in the blistering start against Watford, when he got above both Christian Kabasele and Kiko Femenía to power Bowen’s cross past Ben Foster. 

To do this in such an important game in the Premier League relegation battle showed his ability to step up in big moments, while also reiterating how dangerous he is in the opposition box. 

His efficiency in front of goal has continued in pre-season, with the big man scoring in both of his first two friendlies — against Ipswich Town and Brentford.

He also has his say in games outside of goalscoring. He can be a strong defensive influence next to Rice, as signified by the fact he made 2.2 tackles per game last term, while committing 0.8 fouls and being dribbled past once. 

He also uses his athleticism and intelligence to make 1.7 interceptions and is usually the favourite when it comes to aerial duels.

Another thing that is highly encouraging to see upon his signing is the excitement he feels about making his loan deal permanent. 

During his unveiling interview, the 25-year-old spoke about the pride he has in being a Premier League player, how he and his family have settled in England and his aspirations for a higher finish this time around.

Considering everything that has gone on, it will be questioned whether his aspirations are being matched by others at the club. 

However, having someone who scored twice in six Champions League matches for Slavia Prague last season, who is displaying a great attitude joining the club is without doubt something to be positive about.

This was shown during lockdown, when it was suggested his dedication to training and maintaining fitness was an “outstanding example” to his fellow teammates. 

With all of the above considered, bringing him in for below £20m could turn out to be an absolute bargain for the Hammers.

If anything, this makes the hope around keeping Rice for another season even stronger. That is because it would be a real treat to see the pair partnering at the base of West Ham’s midfield, with Souček bombing up and down the pitch, while Rice sits back a bit more, dictating the game and breaking up opposition attacks. 

The time for Noble to be slowly phased out of the starting lineup has come and having this duo would make that process much easier.

Bringing in Souček, of course, won’t excuse a lack of transfer business if more recruits aren’t brought in. 

However, it is definitely a move that will help David Moyes ahead of the new campaign. By bringing in Souček and Bowen in January, then making the Czech’s contract permanent, West Ham have got in a great position to push forward by showing ambition and ingenuity in the transfer market. 

We just have to hope that this is a catalyst, rather than an opportunity that is wasted with inactivity.

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