Scout report: West Ham's Sofiane Feghouli
In this segment, we take a look at the background, strengths and weaknesses of West Ham's latest recruit Sofiane Feghouli.
After a remarkable season where they finished 7th in the Premier League and above modern-day English giants such as Liverpool and Chelsea, West Ham United are ready to mount another challenge for Champions League football. While they have qualified for the Europa League competition for the upcoming season, the hierarchy at the club believes that it is only a small step to greater successes.
In a bid to achieve the same, the Hammers have already signed Algerian winger Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia on a free transfer. In this piece, we take a look at the former Valencia man’s strengths and weaknesses and analyse how good or bad a signing he would be West Ham.
Though he plies his trade for the Algerian national team, Feghouli was born and brought up in France. After being rejected by Paris Saint-Germain post a trial, the winger began his career at Ligue 2 side Grenoble in 2004. After spending a fair amount of time developing his skills in the age group, he finally made his debut on 27 April 2007 at a tender age of 17 in a league game against Reims.
Impressed by his performances, the hierarchy at Grenoble decided to hand him a critical role for the next season and the player repaid their faith in full as he helped his side achieve promotion to Ligue 1.
His move to Valencia in the summer of 2010 did not begin as per expectations as he struggled to come to terms with the league and struggled for a starting spot and was eventually loaned to Almeria, where he made a restricted impact.
It was the sale of Juan Mata that presented the Algerian with another chance to impress at Valencia and the player grabbed the chance with both the hands. Over the course of the next 5 seasons, the player became a critical part of the club’s strategy, making 202 appearances. His goal involvement to games played ratio made good readings as he scored 31 times and assisted 40 times during his time at Valencia (Goal Involvement to Games Ratio of 0.35).
It came a surprise to many that West Ham were able to sign a good player for free so early in the transfer window. However, Feghouli himself admitted that a number of clubs across Europe were keen on signing him and it was Slaven Bilic’s efforts and ambition that impressed him.
“After meeting with leaders and coaches, I studied the offer from West Ham and the sports project. It was a pretty easy choice. It has become a first choice from the moment I spoke with Slaven Bili. He showed a real interest in me,” the player told the club’s website on joining them.
During his early days as a footballer, the Algerian was hailed as “The Next Zidane” for his impressive ball control, trickery and vision. While he might not have lived up to the legendary footballer’s tag, let us not take away the fact that Feghouli would add immensely to the West Ham attack. Despite preferring to play on the right-wing he can also play as an attacking midfielder when required, thus presenting Bilic with flexibility to set up his team.
The player’s biggest strength during his time at Valencia was his strength. He has shown an ability to take on his man and beat him with pace and trickery, a team that would instantly make him a dangerous prospect for opposition defenders in the Premier League.
With the likes of Andy Carroll and Antonio Valencia in the side, Feghouli’s abilities to put in quality crosses in the box will come to good use in the coming season. He is also a tricky customer with the ball at his feet often finding his teammates in critical spots in the pitch and should the opposition defenders choose to afford him time and space he could prove to be dangerous.
Another key strength of the player, which would serve West Ham in good stead, is his defensive contribution. He is not afraid to fly into tackles and has also shown an ability to break up the play of the opposition via interceptions.
The biggest concern with regards to the player is his abilities in front of the goal. He has never scored more than 6 league goals in a season, a stat that does not present great readings in a league where every player is expected to contribute his fair share of goals. The player has been accused of going missing during the games in the past and will need to improve on his consistency to ensure he has a place in Slaven Bilic’s long term plans.
Another aspect that could come to the fore in the coming season would be his ability to cope up with pace and physicality of the Premier League, an aspect that has led to the downfall of many good players over the last few years.
The move to sign Feghouli was a great representation of the club’s ambition going forward. The fact that they beat the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal to the sign of the Algerian only sweetens the deal for the Londoners.
West Ham have been handed an easy start to the coming season, with many claiming that the Hammers have the easiest set of first 11 matches. They will have to grab the opportunity presented with both their hands to ensure that their dream to play in the Champions League remains intact come the business end of the season.
The Algerian will need to fire on all cylinders to live up to the expectations being placed on his shoulders and we believe he will come good for the Hammers.