At the end of the 2013-14 season, many of the West Ham faithful believed that they had seen the last of Sam Allardyce. Termed as one-dimensional, route one and boring in their approach, the club had flirted with the possibility of relegation before finishing a respectable 13th. It came as a surprise to many when the club announced that they had no intention of showing Allardyce the door. However, it was made very clear to “Big Sam” that the team had to shed his boring approach as well as break into the top half of the Premier League.
It is a tough ask of Allardyce to change the approach he has adopted throughout his managerial career while at Bolton, Newcastle or Blackburn. However, with his neck on the line, Allardyce will surely look to play an exciting brand of football, so as to please the fans and management alike. Of course it will take some time and a number of additions to change their tactical approach.
One of the major additions to the Hammers’ squad to help move towards this more attacking style has been Enner Valencia of Ecuador. Valencia impressed one and all with his displays for Ecuador at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. As the leading goal scorer for his country with 3 goals, the 25 year old striker had a memorable tournament. Having signed him for a fee in the region of £12 million from Mexican club Pachuca, West Ham will be hoping that he is the answer to their lacklustre performance in front of goal last season.
Going by his World Cup performance, Valencia might seem to be in a similar mould as Andy Carroll, i.e. strong lad with a great leap. However, there’s more to Valencia’s game than that. While predominantly a centre-forward, Valencia can also play on the right wing. He has shown good pace and dribbling ability with Pachuca and Ecuador with his bullish runs. Thankfully for West ham, he does not carry a background of injuries which seem to derail them season after season. So how does he stand when compared with his new team-mates?
Valencia scored a total of 18 goals in the Mexican League last season as compared to his peers at West Ham, none of whom got into the double digits. While it can be argued that these were scored in the Mexican league, it is important to note the combination of goals scored.
Valencia represents a complete striking option. The statistics reveal that he is not just a strong lad with a good leap. Having knocked a decent number of goals with his head and either foot, he has shown the ability to be a complete striker. Interestingly, none of these came from the penalty spot. Having a striker of such quality provides the midfield with a number of options, something that they lacked last season. At 52%, the striker has a very good shot accuracy despite having taken more shots than his peers. The club would benefit immensely if he maintains his accuracy in front of the goal.
While he boasts of a statistically superior pass completion of 80%, he does not make as many key passes per 90 minutes as his peers. He makes significantly fewer key passes at 0.56 per 90 minutes when compared to his new strike partners. Often deployed at the tip of the formation, Valencia created 0.60 chances for his team-mates, while his peers had a higher number per 90 minutes and understandably so. On the other hand, he would definitely benefit if the likes of Carroll stayed fit and created chances for him to knock into the back of the net. He is not the worst when it comes to assists per 90 minutes, but at 0.05 assists per 90 minutes, we would have to wait 20 games to see an assist. Sam Allardyce will definitely want this figure to improve significantly to create a balanced strike force.
Valencia likes to dribble and take players head on, but that doesn’t mean he lacks brute strength. He is known to win duels on both sheer brute force and pace, a combination very few players possess. Overall he has won a decent 43% of the duels he has been involved in. Despite having lesser success in aerial duels at 33%, the player makes up by winning more than 50% of the duels on the ground.
At £12 Million, Enner Valencia is the costliest transfer out of the Mexican League ever. However, how this translates into better football and results for West Ham remains a question to be answered. Another major worry expressed by the fans has been whether the player has the ability to step up from an inferior Mexican League to the Premier League. While Valencia might have had a great time in and around the world, the fans would definitely be hoping he can maintain the form throughout the season. With a 30% sell on clause inserted by Pachuca, failure of the player will hurt them financially as well and it is a risky piece of business for a player who has never featured outside Southern America.
At the time of the transfer it was believed that Sam Allardyce wanted to create a strike partnership between Andy Carroll and Valencia. However, with Carroll injured and sidelined for months, the manager must be working out an alternate plan of action. Valencia hasn’t been able to feature in the pre-season as he awaits his work permit visa, and every passing day will add to the anguish of Allardyce. Having added Moura Zarate to the squad, the manager has certain combinations to try before the beginning of the season to put the best foot forward and West Ham will be hoping to get Valencia training as soon as possible.