Can Aguerd hit the ground running in east London or will he take time to settle?

Rennes fans speak highlight of the Moroccan who impressed during his two seasons in France

David Moyes (West Ham manager) at the Arsenal v West Ham United EPL match, at the Emirates Stadium, London, UK on 11th December, 2021.

As West Ham head into another important season with more European football and the potential for Premier League progress, new signings are going to play a key role in Moyes’ plans.

So when Nayef Aguerd signed from Rennes for around £30million this summer, it seemed as though Moyes had finally got someone who had been on his radar, and the Hammers faithful were happy. 

Early signs were good for the left-footed centre back who impressed against Reading in pre-season, with fans taking to Twitter to single him out as a top performer. 

As we wait to get further news of how injury will affect Aguerd following a significant injury setback and ankle surgery, he can still play a big part in this long season. To get more of an idea how he’ll fit into the team, I asked some Rennes fans how they felt, firstly about losing a player they considered to be one of their best, but also how he can settle into the Premier League. 

A gem?

What has become clear through talking to Stade Rennais fans and seeing their reactions to his departure is that they will miss having him around, and we could have found a gem here.

On departing the Ligue 1 side, Aguerd sent a heartfelt message to say: ‘I would like to thank the whole club from the bottom of my heart. My team-mates who I have fought 80 fights with in the last two seasons and who will remain my second family.

‘The supporters, for their unwavering support in the good and bad times and all the club’s employees. I gave everything from the first to the last day in matches and in training, on and off the pitch and will be your first supporter. I sincerely wish you the best.’

And it seems the fans feel the same way about him. One Rennes fan told me: ‘Take care of him, he will miss us a lot’, while another said that ‘he’s a good guy. Won’t make any trouble.’

Character

Between the sentiments of the Morocco centre back and that of his supporters, we should have no concerns over his character and demeanour.

I’ve heard good things all round about both his influence and ability on the pitch too. A Rennes fan described Aguerd’s character in defense.

‘Nayef Aguerd is a character player with us, he was the boss of the defense. He talks a lot with the rest of the defense and with the goalkeeper, always on the lookout. He doesn’t let anything pass, with him you will acquire more great serenity.’

This sounds all very positive. Too often West Ham fans have complained about defenders not shouting or listening properly.

Granted, the defensive situation has markedly improved at the club in the last decade and communication has become better with a very ‘together’ squad. 

Ability

But to know that a new signing comes with this naturally ingrained is settling. He should fit in well and it won’t matter who his playing partners and goalkeeper are on any given game. 

What about his footballing ability? Well, his fans also had their say about his skills in his own box.

‘Really good in the air. Might sometimes be a little bit weak shoulder-to-shoulder but smart enough to compensate most of the time,’ said one fan. 

It’ll be nice to have a solid header of the ball to deal with incoming corners from the opposition. Again, it’s something Moyes has improved in the squad, but with swinging crosses and corners being such a prevalent attacking option in both the league and Europe, that’s a vital skill. 

Added to that, if he has the determination and pace to make up for errors and potential weaknesses in his game, that’s good and something that can be worked on by the coaching staff. 

Good pace

He’s also been highly spoken of heading towards the opposition box according to two Rennes fans: ‘He has a very good heading game and very often scores from a corner or a set kick thanks to his large size,’ said one. 

Followed by another saying he has ‘good pace and good vision… Control and passes are always clean. He’s scored a few headers.’

Having been very highly ranked in Ligue 1 last season, we should be confident that Aguerd is exactly what we need at centre back. His temperament, relationship with fans, willingness to win the ball and ability to go forward all feel very West Ham. 

When asked how he might get on in English football, one of the Rennes fans told me: ‘He’s a great collective player. In Rennes he took about a year to reach his full potential, I think he will adapt very quickly to the English game, no worries about him.’

We can allow him a few games to settle in on his return to fitness. But at 26-years-old he’s that bit more experienced now than he was when he started in France. We all wish him a speedy recovery! 

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