Kurt Zouma‘s (£5.4m) move to West Ham United could prove fruitful for both attacking and defensive returns in Fantasy Premier League (FPL).
The France international has swapped west London for east in a transfer thought to be worth not far off £30m and may be in line for his debut against Southampton in Gameweek 4.
ZOUMA’S POSSIBLE IMPACT ON WEST HAM’S DEFENCE
Despite their qualification for European competition at the back-end of 2020/21 and a very positive start to the current campaign, West Ham have struggled defensively for a while.
From Gameweek 28 of last season onwards, they have kept just one clean sheet:
The loss of Declan Rice (£5.0m) to injury, and the lack of a like-for-like back-up, was certainly one mitigating factor in the 2020/21 run-in. The Hammers have sought to address that with the capture of Czech defensive midfielder Alex Kral (£4.5m) on deadline day.
But West Ham’s defensive struggles both preceded and succeeded Rice’s absence.
Zouma is expected to take the place of Craig Dawson (£5.0m) in the West Ham starting XI.
The former West Bromwich Albion stopper has very much exceeded expectations in his time in east London, having originally arrived at the club as fourth-choice centre-half.
But after an initial bright start to life under David Moyes, Dawson – fairly or not – has come under fire of late. A piece of slack marking in the Gameweek 1 win over Newcastle allowed Callum Wilson (£7.5m) to score, while the West Ham centre-half was leaden-footed for Conor Gallagher’s (£5.5m) leveler last weekend.
There were two own-goals and a red card towards the back-end of 2020/21, too.
While it’s grossly unjust to pin West Ham’s defensive woes solely on Dawson’s shoulders, Zouma does represent an upgrade. The former predictably registered more clearances, blocks and interceptions last season, playing for a side that saw less possession and had more to do defensively, but some key percentages tell a different tale:
|Tackle success rate||80%||61.1%|
|Aerial duels won||68.9%||69.1%|
|Pass completion rate||91%||80%|
|Errors that led to chances||0||2|
The table above neatly sums up the pair: both good in the air (their aerial duel success rates were near-identical) but Zouma the better on the deck, both with and without the ball.
While we can’t expect the second coming of Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, Zouma’s arrival raises the hopes for more clean sheets for Aaron Cresswell (£5.5m) and Vladimir Coufal (£5.0m), who have recently had to rely on their attacking exploits to compensate for the loss of shut-outs.
CRESSWELL/ZOUMA: SET-PIECE THREATS
Two of Cresswell’s 11 assists last season were converted by Dawson and the latter’s possible demotion to the bench would seemingly represent a small blow to the left-back’s FPL appeal, such was his presence at corners and free-kicks.
Luckily, Zouma carries his own significant attacking aerial threat.
No centre-half bettered the French stopper for Premier League goals (five) in 2020/21 and he trumped Dawson for some key underlying attacking numbers:
In a very similar amount of game-time (Dawson 1,926 minutes, Zouma 2,024 minutes), the France international registered 22 set-piece attempts to Dawson’s 16 – although West Ham did only take around 74% of the corners that Chelsea did, so their relative involvement at dead-ball situations was somewhere near equal.
So, then, the hope is that Zouma can replicate Dawson’s attacking threat and act as a magnet for Cresswell’s set-piece deliveries while boosting the rest of the West Ham defence’s clean sheet count.
The schedule up until the end of October isn’t too bad for existing owners but it’s fair to say a Hammers defender isn’t a priority right now for those without Cresswell or Coufal (or Zouma), especially as the impact of involvement in the UEFA Europa League – which starts after Gameweek 4 – is yet to be felt.
The next big fixture swing in the Irons’ favour isn’t until Gameweeks 16-27, so that gives the rest of us ample time to assess Zouma’s influence on those around him, good or bad.