‘Alvarez will shine and Kudus can add firepower if he stays fit’

We hear from Dutch West Ham fan Arjan Drissen on his hopes for our two signings from Ajax

Edson Alvarez (WHU) at the West Ham United v Manchester City EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th September, 2023.

As a Dutch West Ham supporter for 21 years, and someone who takes delight in Ajax’s misfortune, as I’m from Eindhoven, I was absolutely delighted to see us being able to fend off competition to sign Edson Alvarez and Mohammed Kudus.

In their own rights, these two internationals provide experience, steel, heart and technical ability. But what can we West Ham fans expect from our two new star signings? Starting with the Mexican international Edson Alvarez; he was like a bull in a China shop in the best possible way for Ajax.

Where other midfielders, such as Hakim Ziyech and Ryan Gravenberch, were there for their passing and technical ability; Alvarez was there to add some venom, some grit and defensive steel for Ajax. He played a pivotal role in Erik Ten Hag’s system as he would often patrol a big area of the midfield to cover for the gaps that his more attacking-minded teammates left behind. And he did all that at the age of 23 years old.

Alvarez had big shoes to fill at Ajax as he was brought in to replace Barcelona-bound Frenkie de Jong and although the two have very different styles of play, he more than succeeded in being a worthy successor to the Dutch international. Having to replace Declan Rice as a defensive presence in the middle of the park should not be unfamiliar territory for the former Club America man.

Alvarez was also one of those players opposition fans loved to hate due to his tough tackling and antagonising behaviour but he was a fan favourite for the Ajax fandom as he was always someone that could be counted on to put 110% effort into his game. Alvarez’s strengths are his tackling ability, his reading of the game, especially when the opponent tries to press or counter attack Ajax, his heading both offensively and defensively at corners and free kicks.

His downside can be his discipline; in four seasons at Ajax he picked up 27 yellow cards and three red cards. That and the fact he sometimes got easily provoked by opponents or instigated fights with opponents is something he needs to be mindful of. But ability-wise, I have every bit of confidence in him succeeding at West Ham. Players like him and Lucas Paqueta already are used to physical football because that’s the style most South and Central American teams adopt. And technically Ajax have developed that part of him as well.

As for Kudus; the Ghanaian had a less smoother start to life in Amsterdam. Although his ability was clear for all to see, injuries and competition for places with the likes of ex-Southampton forward Dusan Tadic, Sebastian Haller, ring a bell anyone?, Brazilian internationals David Neres and Anthony, now at Manchester United, along with Steven Bergwijn, formerly of Spurs, all at Ajax, Kudus struggled to find a spot for himself.

At times the former FC Nordsjaelland player was used as an attacking midfielder, other times as a centre-forward in Ajax’s hallmark 4-3-3 system or as a right winger upfront. It was really last season that he showed his calibre and quality as he scored 18 goals in 42 games total playing as a centre-forward.

A big part that helped him score so many goals was the confidence then new manager and former Toffee defender John Heitinga instilled in Kudus. Instead of trying to make Kudus play in a role the team needed him to play, he accommodated the team to fit around Kudus. With Dusan Tadic playing behind him as an attacking midfielder, Ajax’s new number 9 racked up the goals.

Kudus’s main attributes include his technique, pace and directness. He is not the type of striker to nutmeg a defender and do a step-over for the sake of it. Rather, he attacks his opponent head on and uses his speed, power and rocket of a left foot to get goals.

In some ways he very much compares to our Michail Antonio, but what Mickey sometimes lacks in the passing department, Kudus has that in his locker as well. As long as he can stay healthy, famous last words, West Ham have a very potent attacking threat on their hands.

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