Can Diafra Sakho shine with the Baggies and how do West Ham go about replacing him?
With uncertainty hanging over the future of West Bromwich Albion forward Saido Berahino, Baggies boss Tony Pulis has taken measures to prepare for an impending exit with an approach for West Ham United’s Senegalese striker, Diafra Sakho.
According to Sky Sports News, a fee for the 26-year-old in the region of £16 million has been agreed, and if the move goes through Pulis will have made an astute addition to his forward line, with the striker having shown superb form in his first season with the Hammers after joining from French club FC Metz in 2014, including a six match scoring streak.
Sakho notched 12 goals in the 2014/15 campaign but failed to rediscover his spark last season, having spent three months on the sidelines through injury. Having become unsettled and unable to break into the first team thanks to the imperious form of Enner Valencia, Andy Carroll and of course Dimitri Payet, Sakho handed in a transfer request back in July and chose not to link-up with his West Ham teammates during their pre-season tour of Austria. Now, the want-away forward seems to have got his move, and with Berahino looking to be heading through the exit door amidst his own poor run of form, Sakho may get his chance to take centre-stage with the Albion.
What Pulis will be looking for the Senegalese to do is to rediscover his goalscoring touch to help fire the Baggies up the table. Albion lack a prolific goalscorer and have suffered from a failure to score goals, recording the second to lowest amount of Premier League goals scored in 2015/16 with a mere 34 in 38 games, stuttering to a 14th-place finish. Only rock-bottom Aston Villa were worse off with a total of 27.
With record £12million signing Salomon Rondon not setting things alight at the Hawthorns, Rickie Lambert misfiring and their only other senior centre-forward in Berahino desperate to leave, it is likely that Sakho will be thrown straight into the first team picture at West Brom. He has shown that when in form he is a constant goal threat with his pace and finishing, and he is able to link-up play and play off teammates, shown by his instrumental performances in West Ham’s front three.
When Sakho’s 2015/16 season was blighted by injury, the Senegalese became somewhat of a forgotten man following Dimitri Payet’s arrival at the club, as the Frenchman began to steal all the headlines to become the club’s star-man. Now, he has the chance to be the main man again, and his ability to link play may also help the Albion’s misfiring forwards rack up more goals, and along with his own contributions, he may be just the tonic to propel the Baggies up the table.
With first-team football a reasonable guarantee at the Hawthorns, West Ham now have a void to fill in reserve. Slaven Bilic’s now first-choice attacking trio may have been unaffected, but they need to now bring in a forward of similar standing to provide competition in attack and provide a means of changing a game when the Hammers need it.
Hence, Hammers boss Slaven Bilic has been seeking out targets to add to his attacking arsenal at the Olympic Stadium and according to Squawka via the Daily Star, the East London outfit may be looking to join the race to sign Real Madrid’s Jese Rodriguez as a replacement for Sakho.
The Real attacker is an option in a very similar mould to the Senegalese. He is a versatile attacker, often deployed out wide who can not only create a lot of chances but score goals. If he were to have anything near the effect that Payet has had, he would make West Ham’s three pronged attack a very dangerous prospect indeed, and with his effective hold-up play and retention of the ball may even provide competition for Andy Carroll in the centre of the attacking trio, as well as getting Enner Valencia hot under the collar over his place in the side. His creativity would also render him useful in potentially getting the East London club’s goal-shy forwards back on the scoresheet.
The Canary Islander would be available for £15million plus add-ons, but it is believed that the club would want to include a buy-back clause as part of the deal, having learnt their lesson from the case of Alvaro Morata, which may or may not sway the prospect of a deal for Bilic and the club.
The Star also reports that Bilic may do away with the prospect of signing a like-minded creative forward all together and instead add to his spearhead options by recruiting a goalscorer to rival Andy Carroll through the middle. The man rumoured to be the port of call is Fiorentina’s Germany international forward Mario Gomez.
With Enner Valencia and Dimitri Payet having positive impacts pushed out wide, Bilic has been in need of a forward who can score goals. None of West Ham’s out-and-out centre-forwards reached double figures in the league last season. Carroll came the closest with nine, and the most goals came from the midfield in Payet, who scored 12 to finish as the Iron’s leading marksman. So a complete re-assessment of West Ham’s needs in attack may be the way forward for Bilic, and on the back of a loan spell at Besiktas where Gomez scored 26 times, there is no reason to believe that the German wouldn’t be ideal.
His international pedigree also shows that Gomez can perform against high quality opposition, with 29 goals for Die Mannschaft having been capped on 68 occasions. The German may play a different role entirely to Sakho at West Ham, but what the club needs from its forward players is goals, and for this reason he may just be the right man to step into his place. With no approach having yet been made however, it will be interesting to see how this one would play out. Having let him leave on loan last season, La Viola may be prepared to allow the German to leave Tuscany, or they may still have room for him in the first-team picture in Florence after his imperious form in Turkey. Though were any deal to be done, it would be a clever bit of business by Bilic and the club’s hierarchy.
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