Welcome to West Ham, Nayef Aguerd
Before we contemplate today’s topic, a brief disclaimer:
I wrote this piece yesterday and scheduled its release for shortly before I’m due to land in Turkey. In other words, I’m hoping that West Ham announce the transfer at or before midday and that my flight isn’t delayed. Fingers crossed.
It’s official: West Ham have signed Nayef Aguerd in a transfer worth £30 million from Stade Rennes.
The 26-year-old’s arrival is a statement of intent from the Hammers, who approach next season aiming to build on their seventh-place finish in the Premier League last time out.
Aguerd, a left-footed centre-back, arrives in East London following five successful seasons in Ligue 1 with Dijon and Rennes. He’s also a mainstay in the Moroccan national team and played a key role in their qualification for the Qatar World Cup.
He’s an instant and marked improvement on West Ham’s other options at left centre-back and will partner Kurt Zouma in defence next season.
Besides his lack of Premier League experience, Aguerd bests Craig Dawson in just about every department. He’s quick, strong, and intelligent – paving the way for a smooth transition to life in England’s top-flight.
Nayef Aguerd’s Defensive Skillset:
There’s a lot to like about Aguerd’s defensive qualities, starting with his aerial presence. According to fbref.com, the 6’2” defender won 3.55 aerial duels per 90 last season – which places him alongside the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Gerard Pique.
** all the usual caveats about cross-league statistical comparisons apply **
He’s also a strong tackler and difficult to overcome in one-v-one situations, especially in the left half-space.
However, it’s Aguerd’s footspeed that will have the biggest impact on how David Moyes approaches next season.
The 26-year-old’s ability to cover space in behind will allow West Ham to press more aggressively without the constant fear of being caught short in defence – which culminated in both of Aaron Cresswell’s Europa League dismissals last term.
Nayef Aguerd’s Ball-Playing Ability:
Aside from his defensive aptitude, Aguerd’s arrival will help usher in a new era of progressive passing in East London.
He attempted 71.54 passes per 90 last season and completed 90 percent of them. His technique is near faultless, especially when spraying passes towards the right flank, and will help West Ham cultivate dangerous attacks from deeper areas of the pitch.
(Sidebar: I love everything about this goal!)
When in possession, Aguerd’s first instinct is to pass rather than launch a progressive carry. However, his reluctance to bring the ball into midfield shouldn’t be a problem for the Hammers as he’ll be sharing the left side of the pitch with Declan Rice.
Also of note: the 26-year-old carried the ball twice as many times as Dawson last season. In other words, he’s more than qualified to slot into the line-up alongside Zouma.
Final Verdict: Nayef Aguerd
It’s difficult to criticise this signing: Aguerd is in his prime, a clear upgrade on Dawson, and well-suited to the physical demands of the Premier League. If he adapts to playing in England (which certainly isn’t an insurmountable task), he’ll be a major success story with West Ham.