The Runner Sports

West Ham’s Problem In The Midfield

With the ability to add new players now passed with the summer transfer window closed, West Ham will have to assess their current squad and make use of them the best that they can. Two players who stick out as not having a solidified position are Andre Ayew and Edimilson Fernandes. Both of these players have been moved around the pitch in this young season and not coincidentally have factored into West Ham’s less than great start to the season.

Edimilson Fernandes

Fernandes is currently partaking as a squad player for Switzerland in the international break as World Cup Russia 2018 nears. Simply listed as a forward, Fernandes’ position seems to be elusive to the managing team of Switzerland, as well as West Ham. What cannot be denied is his raw talent and ability. It has earned him a spot in the Premier League as well as a roster spot on his international team. But the ease of fitting him into the team stops there; Fernandes offers a lot to his team other than a straight up, natural position.

In West Ham’s loss to Newcastle, Fernandes started on the left wing. While playing in this position he was invisible on the pitch. He eventually was switched to a midfield position where he would have been more comfortable, however, it was a defensive midfield role as Lanzini was brought on from the bench. This move was an absolute unpredictable and short sighted move by West Ham manager Slaven Bilic. Fernandes has a nose for the net and can shoot well from outside the box. A CDM role ignores these attributes and also puts unfair pressure on him to remain defensively responsible in a section of the field he is not used to playing.

Ideally, Fernandes would be playing in a CAM (center attacking midfield) position, slotted in behind the striker. Fernandes can flourish here as the room to move forward would allow him to use his long legs to get up the pitch in attack, and playing behind or just off the striker gives him the responsibility of patrolling the top of the box, looking for shooting opportunities. He can play the right side but if he does he is best suited for a right wing back position. As mentioned, his greatest attribute is his speed, and wing back does force him to play defensively at times but will more so make best use of his legs. Fernandes did feature at right wing back last season and did well. Having a third center back relieves defensive pressure on him, allowing him to take advantage of a less steep learning curve.

Andre Ayew

Now, the more uncomfortable of the two problem players to address, Ghanian international and roaming, homeless Hammer, Andre Ayew. The previous holder of the record transfer fee for West Ham, Andre Ayew, was bought as a “forward” who fancied himself a striker, when skill and ability dictated else. Ayew undoubtedly has a nose for the net and has found a ball at his foot within a few yards of the goal multiple times last season, but his reliance on other’s brilliance has worn thin this season as an injury (and suspension) riddling the beginning of his season has seemingly affected his offensive production.

Stepping on the pitch in the 2016/17 season, Ayew was almost immediately hurt which saw him miss all of the first half of the season, rejoining his squad in the midst of a shocking relegation battle. His goals were needed, timely, and factored into the Premier League securing end to the season for West Ham. What this earned him was the appreciation of West Ham fans who pled his case all off-season to start for the club. But where do you start him? With new comers Chicharito and Arnautovic filling the striker and left wing roles, and young stars Antonio and Lanzini filling the right wing and CAM positions, there simply is no spot for Ayew on the team sheet. Even with two strikers in the formation, a healthy Andy Carroll would surpass Ayew on the depth chart as the physical target man is not able to be defended and would pair with Chicharito better.

What is certain about Ayew is that his speed is not blowing anyone away. At 27 years old, he is certainly not getting any faster, and realistically he cannot blow by defenders with speed that strikers who are built similarly can, such as Jermaine Defoe. Without elite speed, and without dominant size (listed as 5’7″), Ayew does not offer much in the way of a striker. His best attribute as a striker would be his luck of having the ball fall to him, however, this is unreliable and is not a factor West Ham can gamble on.

In the recent international break, Ayew received immense criticism as he was not played due to him not wanting to play by the tactics or game plan drawn up by the manager. Perhaps he has grown accustomed to Bilic’s minimalistic approach to tactics at West Ham, but either way, it is troubling news for any Hammer supporter to hear.

 

So where does Ayew fit into the squad? Well if it were up to me, he would not factor in at all. West Bromwich Albion were reportedly interested in a swap deal for left winger Nacer Chadli during the summer transfer window. At the time this seemed insane, but the dip in form has me reeling for a way back to this deal. Chadli has more speed, better dribbling, and better playmaking skills than Ayew has shown in his string of games and would have offered an option to alleviate left wing pressure on Arnautovic throughout the season. But, since I cannot manage the team and I do not have a time machine, I will slot Ayew in as the first forward bench substitution. Allow him to come in after the 65th minute and use freshness of his legs to maximize their ability. Run him on the left and right wing, as well as striker position if need be, but do not let him start. I would even like Arnautovic to play up top and to have Ayew cover the left side.

Many view Ayew as a drifting player who plays best without any nailed down position; give him the number 10 position on the field and allow him to play it how he dictates. This is moronic for a player who has shown such limited decisiveness on the pitch and a lack of overall playmaking. When he is not stuck to a position, he tends to run on the heels of his striker up top, limiting the spread of offense by preparing to poach goals before the chance is even created. Defensively, he lacks passion and effort as he would rather play up than in the mid or defensive field. What may be most damning about Ayew is that he is a player who would benefit from a proven, hard-nosed, strict manager who demands accountability and responsibility. The manager he currently has does not have these demands and the necessity for fit forwards has allowed Ayew to have a first team position without having to earn it. He is a walking indictment to his manager who is already on shaky ground. Simply put, if West Ham is healthy Ayew should not start.

Adam Smith
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Adam Smith

West Ham United Writer at The Runner Sports
Proud supporter of the Claret and Blue, West Ham United!
Actively interested in transfer news, match reports, developing story lines, and all things West Ham United!
Adam Smith
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