‘I thanked the huge warrior and heartfelt Vladimir Coufal for his excellent work in Slavia’, announced the president of Slavia Prague on Twitter.
This tweet would’ve gone unnoticed by most West Ham fans not likely to follow Eastern European football club owners, but two days later, after a late night medical exam and photo shoot West Ham would welcome their first new “summer signing” in October.
Holding the claret kit aloft with eyes wide open in pure joy, Vladímir Coufal has created a buzz, and just like his fellow Czech international and former Slavia Prague teammate Tomáš Souček, he came in the middle of the night without much fan knowledge or tracking.
So who is Vladímir Coufal?
The Eastern European football leagues seem to be an untapped market, unnoticed by the Western eye with all the hype and spotlight generated by England, Germany, Spain and Italy.
But this 28-year-old right-back, signed for only £5.4million, has already seen victories and prominence on the European stage that most West Ham players only dream of.
Coufal is a Czech international having been capped eight times for the senior team.
He and Souček raised their league’s trophy twice in the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons as Champions of the Czech first division league “Fortuna Liga” as well as lifting the trophy for the Czech equivalent of our FA Cup.
Coufal has experienced 11 Champions League matches with Slavia Prague and a combined 36 Europa League matches with Slavia Prague and other first division team Slovan Liberic – even reaching the quarter finals.
‘He is very strong, plays with intensity and is very consistent. He also likes to run a lot, like me, because he is up and down on the right side, maybe 11-12km minimum every match. He is a very modern right-back.’
Nothing is better than the words of a former captain, especially when they come from Tomáš Souček who West Ham fans recognise as a workhorse, and they exemplify Vladimir Coufal’s work rate perfectly.
Coufal was recorded as fourth overall in the 18/19 Champions League for distance run per match, second to Souček for Slavia Prague.
Vlad usually never drops below 11km a match and guards his flank thoroughly marking his man.
Czech football fan Tomas Danicek stated that though not naturally pacy or fleet-of-foot, Coufal is known to be a chaser and builds up incredible top speed after a few awkward starting steps to track his man.
This relentless marking and pursuit led to fouls in his formative years as he put in hard tackles but Vlad has cooled down recently rather positioning himself intelligently so that he is able to stop surprise attacks from competitors.
Danicek states that as well as tracking back, he also counter-presses forward and was fourth in the Fortuna League last season for making recoveries in the opposition’s final third which have led to goals.
Expressed in his own words Vlad loves ‘attacking football’ and for this reason, although not technically labeled as a right wingback, he regularly operates as one.
According to Danicek, Slavia Prague utilised their fullbacks in a freeform style of play that includes tight triangular passing, high up the pitch play, and direct balls to attackers higher up the pitch – a perfect potential match up with Bowen.
Vlad tends to pass forward with an 88 per cent long ball pass completion rate. West Ham fans could see properly delivered service to the boots of Bowen and Haller.
When crossing into the box he tends to drive low and to the near post or high and to the far post which could see an easy tap in from the attacking threats that West Ham offers or a link up with a Tomáš Souček run-up header that West Ham fans have started to glory over.
One area that he may struggle with is releasing an early long diagonal cross instead of taking on defenders as his footwork and dribbling skills are not exceptional, though Vlad banters that he’s better on the ball that Souček
‘The West Ham fans will love Vladimir and he will feel connected to them. His style of play is very fast and intense. He will give 100% for this club. I am looking forward to seeing him play, because he has all of the qualities that are needed to play in the Premier League.’
Once again Tomáš Souček’s words praise Coufal, combined with numerous Czech fan statements give West Ham a reason to believe Vlad will easily take to the Premier League’s pace and power.
While some Slavia Prague fans say that he won’t be as exceptional as Souček, Coufal will fit perfectly into Moyes’ newly discovered 3-4-3 system where wingbacks and work ethic can make the difference.
This will be good news for West Ham who need cover in this position as Ryan Fredericks tends to be injury prone with recent hamstring injuries and Ben Johnson’s inexperience makes him shaky.
Maybe the signing was made because of the Tomáš Souček effect, or because it was a bargain purchase, but the West Ham family can be sure this move completion resulted in a Czech mate.