Quest begins for reinforcements and competition for Rice and Soucek

Should we be looking closer to home or further afield in our search for another midfielder?

A West Ham defensive wall at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

For a while it has been clear that we’ve needed another central midfield option. 

Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek have been a formidable force this season, but Rice’s recent injury has highlighted the lack of depth we have in the position. 

With Noble entering his last year, it is imperative that a central midfielder is at the top of David Moyes’ wishlist this summer. 

As is always the case with West Ham, silly season is upon us. We’ve already been linked with half of the central midfielders in Europe including multiple ageing, overpaid veterans.

Players such as Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been linked to us in recent weeks. 

A few years ago I would’ve expected one of those to be the new central midfield signing, but David Moyes seems insistent on young and hardworking options. 

I’ve looked at five realistic options for the summer that may be more to Moyes’ liking.

Firstly, starting off in the Premier League is Burnley’s Josh Brownhill, who has made 28 league appearances in another impressive season for Burnley. 

Brownhill is well known for his high interception rate — 2.3 per game compared to Rice’s 2.2 and Soucek’s 1.5. 

Similarly, he has a high pass completion of 79%. He is valued at around £7m but is contracted to Burnley until 2024. 

Brownhill’s hard-working, never-say-die attitude is Moyes’ type and I believe that he is a very good option this summer. 

Another option is Sheffield United midfielder Sander Berge, who was actually linked to West Ham before we decided to buy Tomas Soucek a few windows ago. 

Despite being injured for most of this season after knee and thigh problems, Berge’s performances after signing for Sheffield in January 2020 show real promise. 

The Norwegian is built similarly to Soucek and stands at 6 foot 3. He is very good aerially and is also strong at driving with the ball. 

It is unlikely that he will be happy to play in the Championship next season and the possible temptation of Europe may prove an added incentive. 

Last but not least is Cameroon international Andre Zambo Anguissa, who has had an outstanding season at Scott Parker’s Fulham and is another, like Berge, who is unlikely to want to play Championship football for a season. 

Anguissa’s best strength is his dribbling. He has averaged 2.7 dribbles per game, fourth most in the league and higher than any other central midfielder by 0.3. 

Unfortunately, Anguissa’s transfer fee is likely to be higher than others. Fulham signed him for £22.3m in 2018 and his value has only risen since. 

Moving down into the Championship I think there could be a steal on if AFC Bournemouth don’t gain promotion through the play-offs. 

Danish international Philip Billing stuck with The Cherries when they got relegated, but he may be looking for a route out of the Championship this year. 

Billing has got eight goals and four assists this season in 22 starts and 11 substitute appearances. He is a very confident dribbler and is also very good in the air. 

Looking further afield a very viable foreign option is Sparta Prague midfielder Alex Kral, who has been linked to usa few times this season. 

Kral plays in the Czech league where Soucek and Coufal came from and it has been reported that we are very interested in utilising the league more in the upcoming window. 

Kral also plays in central midfield alongside Soucek for the Czech national team so is a player who is unlikely to need much time to settle. 

Kral’s game is more similar to Rice than Soucek. He likes to lie deep, intercepting and tackling before starting the attacking phase. 

Interestingly Alex Kral is managed by the same agent as Vladimir Coufal. If there was a deal that was going to come off, it may be this one. 

I think all of these options are possible and they would all add something to the West Ham squad for next season. 

Who we actually sign will depend on the budget we set aside for a central midfielder. It is likely that both Berge and Anguissa will cost over £20m with the others costing around £10m. 

For me, I think as important as a midfielder is, a striker is the priority. 

My first choice would be Alex Kral. I think another gamble from the Czech league could work well and we would definitely be able to secure him for a budget price. 

If that were to fail, I’d go for Josh Brownhill. A solid option.

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