There are some names in football that are natural magnets to a transfer rumour. Whether it be Wesley Sneijder linked with a move to Manchester, Hulk associated with Chelsea or Kylian Mbappé put on a plane to Madrid, their names won’t disappear off of the back pages.
One of these names is Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho. The Football Manager wonder-kid turned 25-year old senior midfielder is one of the highest rated players outside of the top five leagues in Europe, yet has never quite managed to seal a big move away from Portugal. However, if reports are to be believed, his time has finally come and the holding midfielder is on his way to the Premier League with… West Ham.
Punching above their weight
Now in the last few years, under David Gold and David Sullivan, West Ham have been staunchly ambitious. Whether it be glorifying their stadium move or making bids for Alexandre Lacazette, the Hammers have been fearless – if not successful – with their vision for the club. They have fought off mockery from other Premier League fans, and have had a strong summer window, signing Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez.
In regards to Hernandez, especially, West Ham are widely regarded to have pulled off quite the coup, and signing Carvalho would represent an even more impressive piece of business. The Portuguese international has been constantly linked with the league’s top six clubs over the last five years and would be considered by many to be a potential top Premier League player. For West Ham to seal his signature would certainly be a strong signal of intent.
The midfield metronome
More importantly than the name – which is something that isn’t always assured with West Ham – is Carvalho’s potential value to Slaven Bilic’s squad. Sunday’s 4-0 drubbing to Manchester United was a nasty slap in the face for Hammers’ fans that were going into the season in good spirits. Yes, United were on good form but the manner in which West Ham were overrun – especially in midfield – was worrying, to say the least.
With all of their attacking weapons up-front, Bilic started with a midfield of Pedro Obiang, Mark Noble and Edimilson Fernandes. Fernandes made just 19 passes in his 65-minute spell, which was surpassed by 18-year old Declan Rice (23 passes) – who came on in the 60th minute. A further damning statistic is that the trio didn’t make a single interception between them in the whole game.
In the Liga NOS last season, Carvalho made the second highest number of passes per game, with 71.8, and had the seventh highest pass accuracy with 88%. Whilst many would consider Carvalho to be a primarily defensive player, his prevalent skillset is that of a deep-lying playmaker. He keeps the game ticking over from the base of the midfield; in the Champions League he made an average of 73 passes per game, the second highest of any player in a group that included Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
The perfect combination
Pedro Obiang is considered one of the most underrated members of West Ham’s squad, and the Spaniard would link up well with Carvalho in the base of Bilic’s 4-2-3-1. As Carvalho is less of a tackler – only 1.9 per game last season – Obiang’s combative nature would compliment the ball-usage priorities of the Portuguese man. Obiang made the joint-sixth highest number of tackles per game in the league last season with 2.9; Bilic has that element of his midfield covered.
With club legend Mark Noble beginning to slightly decline, he is not the ideal person for Bilic to deploy in a two-man midfield pivot. We saw at the weekend how a non-defensive midfielder can struggle in that system – with Cesc Fabregas’ failings against Burnley – and Noble suffers from similar exploitation. He still holds value to West Ham, however, and if he was given freer licence to roam in front of Obiang and Carvalho, then he may return to the form that called for an England call-up.
With talks ongoing, West Ham shouldn’t try to grab a bargain with Carvalho. His release clause is set at around £40m and, whilst they could get that price down slightly, the signing of the Euro 2016 winner would be the perfect storm for West Ham’s recruitment project. A big name that will sell shirts, and a player that could take their squad to the next level.
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