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Where would Lyon’s Rachid Ghezzal fit in at West Ham United?

Scott Challinor

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Slaven Bilic has had an interesting attacking conundrum to deal with at West Ham United this summert as they bed into their new Olympic Stadium home. The Hammers’ leading scorer last season Dimitri Payet scored 12 goals from the left-wing, whereas none of Bilic’s forwards broke into double figures in the Premier League, Andy Carroll coming the closest with nine.

Despite this, it seems that Bilic has kept his emphasis on providing goals from out wide to provide more effective service to his misfiring forward line as well as easing the pressure on them to come up with the goods. To this end, the Croatian has already recruited Valencia’s live-wire Algerian Sofiane Feghouli and Swansea City’s Ghana international Andre Ayew, but even with his options out wide strengthened, the Hammers are looking to add further firepower to their flanks with the signing of another Algerian international, Rachid Ghezzal of Olympique Lyonnais.

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Sky Sports News claims that Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has made public an approach from West Ham regarding the Algerian winger, after a report from French sports outlet L’Équipe that the East London club tabled a £6.9million bid. 24-year-old Ghezzal was a bright spark for Olympique Lyonnais last season, scoring eight goals and providing seven assists as the club finished second in Ligue 1 behind Paris Saint-Germain to secure a UEFA Champions League spot.

The Algerian has one year left to run on his current deal at the Stade des Lumieres and Lyon are desperate to keep hold of their man in the midst of the Irons’ interest, having already rebuffed their approach for Alexandre Lacazette earlier this summer. But with West Ham interested in bringing in yet another wide man, where would Ghezzal actually fit into their side?

What is clear is that there is a lack of out-and-out centre forwards at the club. Senegalese striker Diafra Sakho is still keen on a move away since a move to West Bromwich Albion collapsed, and with an exit potentially in the pipeline, Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia, along with latest loan signing, Argentine forward Jonathan Calleri, are the only three centre-forwards at the club likely to feature in 2016/17. Though Bilic favours a three-pronged attack, with a centre-forward flanked by either two other forwards or wingers. The recruitment of Ghezzal and his role in the side may well depend on either a change of formation, or what Bilic intends to do with Andre Ayew and Dimitri Payet.

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Payet featured on the left of midfield for the majority of last season for West Ham, and it seems likely Ayew will play on the right given the fact Calleri has now been brought in from Uruguayan club Deportivo Maldonado. Though if Ayew is deployed through the centre, which may be likely given the signing of Sofiane Feghouli Bilic may opt to switch Payet to the right flank, meaning Ghezzal would feature on the left wing for the Hammers.

Alternatively, Bilic may opt to deploy the mercurial Payet in more of a free role this season, which would mean that Ghezzal may feature on the left wing in his stead. It would be a task for the Algerian to provide competition to dislodge last season’s player of the year from his position on the left flank, and it is highly likely given his talent that Feghouli will be the first choice option on the right, with Ayew adding firepower in the middle or providing competition for the former-Valencia man. For Ghezzal to feature regularly in the first-team in the front three, Payet featuring in a free role behind a forward, any of Carroll, Ayew, Valencia or Calleri, may be the way forward for Bilic’s Hammers next season.

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Given the injury problems that have hit Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia in previous seasons, Bilic has been in need of forward reinforcements nonetheless, so Ghezzal may be a signing with emphasis on providing strong back-up in case of injuries, however it is not inconceivable that rather than play the Algerian in the front three, he may feature on the left of Bilic’s three-man midfield if he persists with his favoured 4-3-3 formation.

Ghezzal would certainly provide a direct, attacking engine to that midfield down the left, and would help in bringing play forward as well as providing creativity to overlap or support Dimitri Payet, which could make West Ham’s left wing attack a force to be reckoned with. With Payet the crux of West Ham’s creativity, Ghezzal would add an extra outlet and allow Payet to play more directly, with the Algerian focusing on winning the ball and playing passes forward for the Frenchman to profit from. Ghezzal’s goal contribution would also be another welcome asset to the Hammers, particularly if their centre-forwards continue to miss the target.

Ghezzal certainly has the talent to break into West Ham’s first team, but with so many wide options with Dimitri Payet, Andre Ayew, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and Sofiane Feghouli all capable of playing wide roles, depending on Bilic’s setup, he may have a difficult time trying to break into the front three. Therefore a role deeper in the midfield three seems the likeliest way that Ghezzal would fit into Bilic’s plans, unless Payet will be used in a more central role behind the front three, with two deeper lying midfielders to shield the back four.

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Ghezzal’s creativity would certainly provide a fresh outlet in attack, whilst Payet wreaking havoc behind the centre-forward may add a new dimension to West Ham’s attack, with Payet having operated well in the free role for France at Euro 2016, and profited by scoring goals, and transferring Payet to add more of a threat down the middle may be critical not only in getting the forwards firing again, but in allowing Ghezzal to feature on the left-side and contribute creativity of his own to the team from out wide.

If the Hammers are able to get their man, it will be interesting to see where and how the Croatian manager chooses to use the 24-year old, though with other clubs thought to be interested including Everton according to the Evening Standard, and Lyon equally keen to retain him, the Irons will be in for a real battle if they are to coax the Algerian to East London.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Ronan Caroff

23 year old from Stoke-on-Trent. Avid Port Vale fan. Also follow Derby County & OGC Nice closely. BA Hons Modern Languages Graduate (University of Oxford). My prior experience in Sports Journalism comes from Volleyball & Floorball, having worked on major tournaments with the CEV, FIVB, & IFF. Have been contributing pieces to The Boot Room since 2016. Views are my own.

Tottenham Hotspur

Alex Grimaldo would be the perfect replacement for Danny Rose at Spurs

The Barcelona academy graduate and Benfica left-back has caught the eye of Spurs’ spies.

Liam Thomas

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Tottenham
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Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly ready to splash out £27million on Benfica left-back Alex Grimaldo, as Danny Rose looks set to leave the North London side this summer.

Grimaldo joined Portuguese giants Benfica in 2016 after leaving Barcelona’s renowned La Masia in search of some first-team action and has since lit up the Portuguese top flight with some impressive performances.

Record reports that Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has put aside £27million of his transfer kitty to make a move for the talented 22-year-old should his current left-back, England international Danny Rose, leave Spurs this summer.

And with the quality Grimaldo has shown during his time at Benfica, there is no doubt he would be the perfect replacement for Rose.

The 22-year-old notched up three goals and seven assists last season, and the fact he was nurtured and produced in Barcelona’s famous youth system makes his signature even more lucrative.

However, despite the apparent interest from Pochettino and Spurs, the North London club have yet to make a move for the Spaniard and are reportedly waiting until current left-back Rose decides whether he is staying or leaving.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Grimaldo fits the bill for Tottenham and he is precisely the type of player that the North London clubv so desperately missed last season in the hunt for some much-needed silverware.

For Pochettino, he is the ideal replacement for Rose and has already proved himself at one of Europe’s biggest clubs as being a dynamic and fast modern full-back with an abundance of talent.

The perfect fit, surely? It is not often players of Grimaldo’s age and pedigree become available at a relatively low price and, even if Rose chooses to stay at Tottenham, missing out on Grimaldo’s signature would be a golden opportunity missed.

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English Premier League

Newcastle should forget Rondon and give Mitrovic another shot

Rafa Benitez is looking to secure a striker this summer, but should Newcastle put more faith in returning loanee?

Jamie Watts

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Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.

The Spaniard is allegedly keen on Venezuela international Salomon Rondon and could offer him a route back into the Premier League, from the recently relegated West Brom, according to the Northern Echo.

However, the 28-year-old may not be the best option to spearhead the side at St James’ Park.

Rondon has failed to bag more than 10 goals in a domestic season since arriving from Zenit St Petersburg, while his 28 strikes in 120 games makes for pretty poor reading.

It goes without saying stats are not everything, but Newcastle will need a reliable scorer to ensure safety, and perhaps he is not worth the risk.

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Strangely, Benitez seems reluctant to recall former fan favourite Aleksandar Mitrovic despite his recent resurgence, and is pursuing other targets that employ a similar game to the Serbian.

On loan in the Championship last term Mitrovic regained his confidence and eye for goal, and he was pivotal in Fulham’s  push for promotion, netting an impressive 12 goals in 11 games for the Cottagers in a period he described as “the best four months of my career”.

The former Anderlecht man seems to have curbed his disciplinary issues and simplified his game up top, with his link-up play representing some of the finest in world football last term. And the time could be perfect for his return to Tyneside.

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It is evident from rumours surrounding Rondon and Sporting Lisbon talisman Bas Dost (Marca), that Benitez is actively seeking a physical linchpin to orchestrate play in the final third and Mitrovic could be his best option.

Newcastle are not famed for their spending in transfer markets and they have a ready-made solution returning to the club imminently.

Benitez should reevaluate his current pursuits and give Mitrovic one last chance. On last season’s evidence, the results could be brilliant.

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English Premier League

Cenk Tosun could become an elite striker under Marco Silva next term

Everton’s star talisman could benefit massively from Marco Silva’s regime at Goodison Park.

Jamie Watts

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Everton‘s star striker Cenk Tosun recently vowed to reach new levels and is convinced he can be even better next season, after impressing in his debut campaign in a shackled Toffees side, in quotes via the official club website.

And the Turkish international will be thrilled by the appointment of Marco Silva, as he will likely be spearheading a far more progressive and attacking team next term.

The highly-rated forward netted an impressive five goals in only 12 starts for Sam Allardyce’s side, after joining from Turkish giants Besiktas in the winter window and helping Everton to reach a comfortable eighth-place finish in the process.

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Known for his clinical edge in front of goal, the Turk did not disappoint, boasting an impressive 42 per cent accuracy rating for shots-on-target, bettering the likes of Tottenham‘s Harry Kane on 41 per cent.

However, his output was limited by Allardyce’s pragmatic style, with the striker often feeding on scraps in attacking areas, and he undoubtedly has higher levels to hit if Silva can accommodate the 27-year-old properly and surround him with like-minded attacking players.

The recent names circulating in the Everton rumour mill certainly suggest Tosun’s supply line will be richer after the summer, with the likes of Sporting Lisbon’s Gelson Martins and Bas Dost being touted as potential arrivals (A Bola).

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The new Everton manager is sure to see Tosun as a vital member of his squad going forward, as the club aim to see results for their £27 million investment.

While owner Farhad Moshiri’s ambitions of European football at Goodison Park dovetail with the Turkish international’s Champions League pedigree.

Considering the numbers Tosun managed under Allardyce, there is no telling how many goals he could bag under the tutelage of Silva in an attack-minded outfit. And many could be surprised at his impact next season.

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