‘Jarrod is not big or strong enough to play up top on his own’

Hammers Chat’s Gonzo outlines why Bowen must not be the answer to striker problems

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

Jarrod Bowen’s move to striker became somewhat of a necessity given the injury to Michail Antonio before he, himself, was injured. Quite why the Hammers forward was allowed to play for Jamaica, given his complaints about a sore knee, is anyone’s guess.

Fortunately, the ligament injury is not too severe, and Antonio is expected to be available for selection by January. However, the situation temporarily forced the elevation of Jarrod Bowen into the role of striker. It has seemed for some time as if David Moyes had been grooming Bowen for the role. But the consecutive outings against Olympiacos in the Europa League and the Premier League game against Nottingham Forest saw Bowen deployed as a striker.

Concerningly, on both occasions, I thought Jarrod looked better when he dropped back into wide positions later in the games. That is not to say that I think he’s incapable of playing the position, far from it.

When West Ham are playing counter-attacking football and the opposition is committing players forward, I think the tactic suits Bowen. It allows him to get into the sort of position which saw him score the winner against Fiorentina in Prague.

Unfortunately, he’s far less effective when facing an entrenched defence. Put simply, Bowen is not big and strong enough to play with his back to goal. He is often bullied by central defenders and loses the surprise element he utilises so well from wide positions.

Bowen also struggles to shoot early when deployed against a low-block defence, which is why he often drifts back wide to allow himself enough space to turn. West Ham will still need to spend big on a physical striker, and we’ll ideally do so in the upcoming January transfer window. 

Whilst it’s encouraging to see Divin Mubama involved and scoring against Burnley, the fact remains that the club has not adequately replaced Sebastien Haller. While Bowen can and will deputise occasionally, I’d rather it wasn’t his full-time role.

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