Sam Allardyce continued his summer of first-team restructuring on Wednesday with the acquisition of Modibo Maiga from Ligue 1 side FC Sochaux. The highly-rated 24-year-old arrives on a four-year deal thought to be in the region of £4.7m and is the fifth player to make his way to Upton Park since the club’s promotion, following the transfers of Jussi Jaaskelainen, George McCartney, Stephen Henderson and Mohamed Diame:
The Mali international has already received Premier League interest this year – he failed a medical last January at Newcastle, with the Magpies turning instead to Papiss Cisse to boost their strikeforce. A versatile player, he is primarily a centre forward but can also play on the wing; at 6 foot 1, though, Big Sam is likely to play him through the middle as he goes about addressing his options up front. The new boy made all the right noises upon his arrival earlier in the week, going on to say:
I am really happy and excited about joining West Ham United. I know West Ham are a big club in England and I’m really looking forward to representing them. They have huge tradition and it is like joining part of a family and that is one of the main reasons I wanted to come here. I know some of the big names that have played for the club in the past and I am proud to be part of a new team back in the Premier League.
Maiga first start in professional football came in his native country for Stade Malien at the age of 15. He featured just three times there before making his way to Morocco to turn out for Raja Casablanca where, despite failing to score in 22 appearances over the course of a couple of seasons, he won the Arab Champions League and Moroccan League. As a 20-year-old, he was snapped up by French side Le Mans and flourished in a team that also featured the likes of Gervinho and Stephane Sessegnon – Maiga returned 15 goals and six assists over 88 appearances prior to signing for FS Sochaux in time for the 2010/11 campaign.
His first season at Sochaux was a spectacular success, with 15 goals and three assists from 36 appearances, though Maiga suffered in comparison last term. The club’s refusal to allow him to join Newcastle in August 2011 saw him go on strike in order to force a move through – eventually returning to the first-team, he found the net nine times and produced a pair of assists from 23 league matches as his side stuttered to a 14th place finish. Maiga has represented his country on 31 occasions and notched five times – no doubt we’ll be subjected to plenty of “the next Freddy Kanoute” headlines over his time at Upton Park.
A powerful striker, Maiga will also bring plenty pace to the Hammers’ up front options next season. His dynamic game is suited to the speed of the Premier League and will perhaps stand him in good stead in terms of game time next term, providing he can keep his temperament in check. Allardyce still seems undecided on Carlton Cole – 12 of the forward’s 43 appearances last term came from the bench and while Ricardo Vaz Te impressed with 12 goals in 18 appearances upon his January arrival from Barnsley, question marks remain over his ability to produce in the Premier League.
At present, plenty speculation surrounds the West Ham front line. Moves for Andy Carroll and Dimitar Berbatov have been mooted and, while neither may come to fruition, the intent is clear – Big Sam is looking to freshen things up in the forward positions. Looking at the stats, Maiga is clearly best utilised as part of a front two – those 15 goals in 36 appearances in 2010/11 saw him partnered up front in a 4-3-1-2 but Sochaux’s move to 4-2-3-1 last term clearly dented his potential.
If he can nail down a regular role under Allardyce, Maiga could earn interest as a cut-price option in our Fantasy squads. Similar to Cole and Vaz Te, he comes in at 5.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) though intriguingly, the Sky Sports game has priced him as the cheapest of the trio at just 6.1 – many are likely to hold fire at the moment, however, with the Hammers certain to continue their summer spending.
Certainly, the opening set of fixtures have been kind to West Ham. Over the first five Gameweeks, Allardyce’s men play host to (AVL, FUL, SUN) and with trips to Swansea and Norwich also on the agenda, confidence in their budget and mid-price Fantasy assets will be relatively high. In terms of ownership, looking at the Sky Sports game, Maiga is the least popular of the Hammers forwards so far – while he’s likely to sneak under the radar of many, then, the new boy may well be quick out the blocks.
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For Gameweek 38
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas