West Ham United Recruitment Plan, Summer 2022: Part 1 - The Defence

West Ham currently have the second oldest squad in the English Premier League (EPL) and at the current rate, likely the highest average age next season with Burnley having been relegated to the EFL Championship.

With a number of players entering the latter stages of their careers and few viable Under 23 utilised via the youth system, it’s imperative for West Ham to find long term options. With a second successive season of European football and a small squad there is a requirement to add depth with sufficient quality plus competition.

The additional competition for places will add to the competitive nature of the squad and provide David Moyes with greater flexibility to rotate across four competitions, as well as in-game changes (the upcoming season will see a rule change of five in-game substitutions available in the EPL, which will make the squad depth of greater importance than in previous seasons).

West Ham are at a pivotal point with a strong foundation in which to push on and develop into a consistent challenger for European competition. The added importance in adding depth is due to those clubs around West Ham also improving their squad depth, as well as their starting XIs.

Transfer Brief

The recruitment plan for West Ham is first and foremost to add depth plus quality to the squad. As part of this drive to add numbers it’s important to bring the average age down, building for long term success and sustainability.

Therefore, this recruitment plan will look at players up to and including 26 year-olds to tackle the aging squad issue. Additionally, it will look to address areas within the squad lacking depth and examine possible solutions to improve competition for places.

Areas of particular concern are centre back and left back, with rumoured departures. Centre midfield has seen two depart this summer (Mark Noble and Alex Kral) and requiring immediate resolution. Both left and right wing only has a single option at present. Meanwhile the centre forward position has been severely lacking options, with only Michail Antonio available.

Potential Summer Transfer Targets: Left Back

West Ham are in the process of reviewing Arthur Masuaku’s long term future with the likely decision to move him on this summer. In addition, Aaron Cresswell is entering the final year of his existing deal and at 32 there is a requirement to find a long term successor.

The left back must be comfortable in possession as this is a quality of Aaron Cresswell who is a key component in West Ham’s possession play. There is a need for a more adventurous plsyer going forward to provide greater support to the attack as per Vladimir Coufal on the opposite flank, to enable more expansive attacking options. Lastly, any prospective left back would need to be a competent defender and comfortable defending in one-on-one situations.

Adrien Truffert
Age: 20 (20.11.2001)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2025
Estimated Value: €20m - €30m


» Good defensive positioning and awareness
» Positioning/awareness provides opportunities to intercept possession and block attempts at goal.
» Improved aerially this season and competitive in duels.
» Ability to find space in the attacking third
» Consistent deliveries and accuracy providing significant key passes.
» Comfortable in possession playing in a possession orientated team.
» Provides consistent support to the attack, looking to drive into the area on or off the ball


» Progressive ball carries, but dribbling proficiency requires improvement and decision making.
» Decision making in the final third can impact proficiency of passing accuracy.
» Commits a number of fouls above the average
» No other significant weaknesses.

Truffert burst into Rennes' first team last season and developed a strong understanding with Aguerd and Terrier in the left hand channel. He has already amassed 14 continental appearances for Rennes and been a key figure in this season’s success, despite his relatively young age.

Defensively, he has good concentration, position and awareness of the situation taking advantageous positions to maximise his chances of positively disrupting the opposition. His desire to defend each situation can result in a higher likelihood of committing a foul but is largely productive. His ability to defend is matched by his technique in possession where he is highly proficient in retaining possession and providing progression through supporting attacking phases of play.

Aaron Hickey
Age: 19 (10.06.2002)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2024
Estimated Value: €25m - €35m


» Tactically versatile and can operate on either flank utilising either foot
» Good positioning in and around the defensive box zone to block attempts on goal
» Proficient shooting ability and technique
» Good acceleration and pace
» Assured first touch
» Positive ball carrying ability and consistent progressive carries towards the opposition area


» Aerially can be exposed and lacks strength to remain competitive in duels
» Crossing requires improvement with inconsistent delivery hindering threat
» Passing requires improvement within a possession based style

Hickey, since moving from Hearts has been a mainstay in the Bologna first XI operating in both the right and left wing back positions. Due to the ambidextrous feet of Hickey he has been able to provide cover on both flanks when required.

Last season was a learning curve for Hickey where he demonstrated an ability to find himself in advantageous positions in the final third and composure to shooting with accuracy, resulting in five league goals. In possession, he is a progressive ball carrier with his carrying skills and pace proving useful in transition/counter attacking opportunities.

However, his overall quality of passing requires improvement as he fails to create opportunities in attack. A particular weakness is his consistency when delivering into the area. Defensively, he has good tenacity in duels although can lack physicality at this early point in his physical development.

Mervin Bard
Age: 21 (06.11.2000)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2025
Estimated Value: €15m - €20m


» Defensively robust and aggressive
» Ability to operate in a high press
» Excellent reading of play with the ability to disrupt the opposition with interceptions
» Good defensive positioning
» Despite height strong aerially with a good leap
» Assured in possession with accurate passing
» Confident and progressive ball carrier
» Expansive passing with ability to create shooting opportunities in open play
» Progressive and penetrative passing


» Accuracy of crosses are below average metric
» No other significant weaknesses

Bard’s development and progression this season has been rapid. Defensively he is resolute, aggressive in defensive phases and highly productive reducing the effectiveness of the opposition down his flank. Despite his height, he has a fantastic leap resulting in a high success rate in aerial duels.

In possession Bard’s vision ensures that he can play penetrative passes into the feet of his teammates occupying space between the lines and retain possession consistently. The high level of ability in possession provides the foundation to be highly productive in the attacking third, producing an above average yield of key and progressive passes.

Bard’s ability is well suited to the EPL and he would likely settle quickly to the league.

Owen Wijndal
Age: 20 (20.11.2001)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2024
Estimated Value: €10m


» Consistent attacking outlet
» Comfortable in possession and resilient against the opposition press.
» Creative in the final third with above average key passes.
» Accurate deliveries out wide or from driving into the opposition area.
» Leadership qualities demonstrated as AZ captain
» Good acceleration to create over/underlap opportunities
» Utilises pace to minimise disparity in strength against opposition attackers


» Eredivisie is less physically demanding and would require a period of adjustment.
» Aerial weakness which could be exploited which could be exploited in a more physical league.
» Low defensive output in transition although, can be explained due to high tactical placement at LB.
» Security of possession whilst dribbling requires improvement.

Owen Wijndal fits a similar profile to Aaron Cresswell with him very comfortable in possession and utilising his passing ability over ball carries to develop possession. He is a front foot left back that will endeavour to support the attack actively looking to exploit the opposition particularly in transition with over/underlapping runs.

Defensively, rather than engage into duels he looks to utilise his pace to pressure and by closing space in an attempt to force the opposition into turning backwards or passing laterally. His concentration level and leadership are assets West Ham could well utilise and provide a composed figure to the backline.

A period of adjustment in particular managing the physicality of the EPL compared to the Eredivisie would almost certainly be required.

Tyrell Malacia
Age: 22 (17.08.1999)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2024
Estimated Value: €10m - €15m


» Good acceleration and pace
» Progressive ball carries and passing
» Expansive passes with good accuracy
» Tenacious defender, measured aggression
» Strong in the tackle and highly competitive when engaging in defensive duels
» Strength despite diminutive size
» Press resistant
» Creative outlet in the attacking third with a high number of key passes and deep completions
» Consistent support to the attack, providing over/underlapping runs


» Eredivisie is less physically demanding and would require a period of adjustment.
» Aerial weakness which could be exploited which could be exploited due to his height

Malacia is a modern left back with a well rounded skillset and despite his diminutive height (same as Cresswell) he has good strength to manage the physical demands of the EPL. He is highly mobile as well as aggressive in both attacking and defensive phases of play. The ability to retain possession under pressure elevates the control of the ball leading to potential opportunities to draw the opposition out of position and exploit the spaces.

His ability to progress play ensures pressure can be exerted on the opposition in the left channel consistent. As a willing runner there are opportunities for the left midfielder to drift inside with Malacia retaining width and attacking the flank. His experience in UEFA Europa Conference League would also add greater continental experience to the squad.

Luca Pellegrini
Age: 22 (07.03.1999)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2025
Estimated Value: €7m - €10m


» Active out of possession looking to engage the opposition physically
» Comfortable in a high intensity press
» Good ball control and carrying ability
» Confident and progressive passer
» Attempts to cross consistently with good accuracy
» Wide variety of deliveries
» Creates shooting opportunities regularly for teammates through key passing


» Discipline in defensive situations can be an issue resulting in a number of fouls p/90
» Rash tackling causing him to get caught positionally
» Concentration can lead to poor positioning and missed opportunities to disrupt the opposition attack
» Aerially struggles within duels

Pellegrini is a peripheral figure of the Juventus first team operating predominately as a rotational option. In possession he looks to develop play through ball carries bringing the ball out of defence. Where possible he likes to play long passes to switch play or exploit space in behind the defensive line to stretch the opposition.

When in the final third he crosses frequently creating shooting opportunities with regularity due to his high level of accuracy. Whilst Pellegrini’s desire to engage the opposition quickly to close passing lanes and engage them in duels suits his physical style it can provide negative results.

The main issue with his physical style is that it results in an above average rate in committing fouls which points to a lack of discipline and ability to temper the aggression meaningfully.

Matias Vina
Age: 24 (09.11.1997)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2026
Estimated Value: €20m - €30m


» Robust defender with measured aggression
» Presses opposition with good intensity to close passing lanes and space
» Strong and committed tackler
» Very good work rate and energy
» Progressive ball carries and ability to retain possession whilst dribbling
» Defensive awareness and decision making
» Commits few fouls when tackling or pressing
» Good leap enabling competitive aerial duels
» Looks to progress play vertically over lateral or backwards passing


» Crossing requires improvement although this is impacted Viña liking to deliver crosses early into the area

Matias Vina joined Roma establishing himself as the first choice left back for the start of the season where Jose Mourinho deployed a back four. In the second half of the season, with Roma moving to a wing back system Vina’s minutes became more limited to sub appearances.

With the emergence of Nicola Zalewski and the returning Leonardo Spinazzola next season Vina could see his minutes limited further. Defensively strong and committed he would suit the physicality of the EPL, as well as having the work rate to meet the wider physical demands of the league.

In possession there are areas to be worked on such as his deliveries into the area which decrease his effectiveness to provide consistent opportunities to the attack. However, his progressive style in possession would provide an additional outlet to the attack and provide options to the left winger.

Player Comparison Charts

Click on either image to view in full size.

Potential Summer Transfer Targets: Centre Back

West Ham look certain to bring in a new starting left centre back with the highly rated Nayef Aguerd of Rennes rumoured to be close to joining. There are however circulating concerns with regards to Craig Dawson’s future with alleged interest in returning north and Angelo Ogbonna recovery from an ACL.

With this in mind it’s important for West Ham to look towards options at both right and left side of central defence in the event one or both are moved on this summer. Whilst there is an option at left centre back to promote Aji Alese, the likely course for him will be a loan this summer.

The defence is another area where West Ham have players in their late peak to experience years, so a more youthful approach to recruitment would be advantageous to provide long term options and development.

Anel Ahmedhodzic
Age: 23 (26.03.1999)
Contract Expiries: 31.12.2023
Estimated Value: €7m - €10m


» Home grown status
» Aerially dominant and in-direct set piece threat
» Strong and committed when tackling
» Composed defending under pressure
» Quick to close space on the opposition
» Comfortable playing out of defence
» Confident and progressive ball carrier driving into space
» Variety in passing with good range
» Vision when passing with the ability to make line breaking passes
» Fair acceleration, but good pace once he starts to open his stride


» Consistently commits fouls
» Can be drawn out of defensive line in attempt to regain possession exposing the defence to diagonal or inside channel runs

Admedhodzic is a former Nottingham Forest youth prospect and qualifies as a home-grown player under the EPL registration rules. This season he played in Malmo’s UEFA Champions League group stage matches prior to his move to the now relegated Bordeaux. With this relegation there is an opportunity for a loan or inexpensive permanent deal.

In defence, he is comfortable operating on either side of a three or four man defensive system while regularly engaging the opposition physically. His positioning is largely strong but he can be caught out of possession in his eagerness to press the opposition and close space.

In possession, Admedhodzic likes to bring the ball out of defence carrying into space to create central overloads. His passing is penetrative and progressive and he attempts to break the opposition lines to find teammates in pockets of space.

Jacob Greaves
Age: 21 (12.09.2000)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2023
Estimated Value: £10m - £15m


» Home grown status
» Tenacious in ground duels
» Likes to tackle with measured aggression
» Quality heading ability
» Progressive ball carrier with good close control and dribbling ability
» Progressive passer like to develop play positively in the opposition 3rd
» In-direct set piece threat


» Passing isn’t secure and results in high turnover of possession.

Since making his debut for Cheltenham on loan, Greaves has gone from strength to strength stepping up each season from League 2, League 1 onto the Championship. During that time, he has demonstrated his ability to play in both a three-man and four-man defensive unit comfortably, providing flexibility tactically.

He has demonstrated that he is one of the top progressive defenders in the EFL Championship providing an attacking outlet from deep which helps to create overloads in the inside left channel. He’s assured in possession, especially when carrying the ball out of defence although his passing does require more care to retain possession with more consistency.

Defensively, Greaves has quality heading ability and leap which presents a dual benefit as a useful asset in both the defensive and offensive boxes. He is a composed defender who likes to tackle and often step away from a duel where appropriate to position himself to press the opposition instead as they turn.

Reece Oxford
Age: 23 (16.12.1998)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2025
Estimated Value: €7m - €10m


» Home grown and West Ham youth status
» Composed defending
» Aerially dominant and in-direct set piece threat
» Good positioning and anticipation leading to above average interceptions
» Innate ability to blocked shots
» Strong in ground duels
» Proficient man marking


» Passing style is limited to a simple style
» Looks to clear often over attempting to play out under pressure which can lead to consistent turnover of possession
» Potential unresolved issues from previous time at West Ham United

Reece Oxford would provide West Ham with a player very similar in profile to Craig Dawson who has excelled under David Moyes. Any move would provide the additional benefits of a player familiar with the club whilst adding an additional home-grown and youth player to the first team squad.

During Oxford’s time at West Ham there were issues in his departure with tensions allegedly between club and player, which could present problems should a move be considered.

Since Oxford’s departure he has developed well, cementing his place this season as a mainstay in the starting XI and physically improving his physique. Defensively, Oxford is resolute and composed utilising his ability to read play to disrupt the opposition. His defensive style is very much of a tradition nature, with him looking to remove danger over playing through a counter press.

In possession, he’s a consistent in-direct threat at set pieces with good movement providing opportunities to trouble the opposition goalkeeper. An area of his game which could improve is in his passing as he prefers to operate with a measured and more secure approach or look to expand play.

Christopher Richards
Age: 22 (26.03.1999)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2025
Estimated Value: €15m - €20m


» Great athleticism
» Good acceleration and pace
» Timing in tackles is good, gives away very few fouls
» Ability to read play provides interception opportunities
» Ambidextrous feet providing comfort on either side of the Centre Back pairing
» Press resistant and composed under pressure
» Good leap and strong heading ability
» Looks to retain possession with short sharp passing
» Ability to make line breaking passes out of defence


» Predominately plays within a three-man defensive structure and would require time to adapt to new tactical approach, as well as league.

Richards is a promising young talent who has enjoyed a break-through season whilst on loan at Hoffenheim, operating on the left side of a three-man defensive system. With Bayern well stocked at centre back there is an opportunity to benefit from either his short or long term availability.

Defensively, Richards is demonstrating good understanding of developing play positioning himself well to either disrupt the opposition through interceptions or to provide an advantage in ground duels. His passing ability ensures that his retains possession with short, sharp passing but he can also be more expansive too, breaking through opposition defensive lines.

Dan-Axel Zagadou
Age: 22 (03.06.1999)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2022
Estimated Value: €0m


» Available on a Bosman transfer
» Ability to play in multiple positions
» Physically powerful and imposing
» Aerially dominant
» Robust tackler
» Assured ground passing


» History of significant injuries
» Agility to make tight turns

Zagadou is a product of Borussia Dortmund’s youth system and due to be released this summer. To date his career has been disrupted by injuries with the 2020/21 season in particular proving difficult for him to remain fit which resulted in limited appearances. After missing the first 10 games of the season due to injury, he was able to regain fitness to feature 19 times for Dortmund. Zagadou is a strong defender with good ability in possession although his fitness ensures there are risks attached to any move.

At 6”5, he is powerful which is an asset he utilises in both aerial and ground duels when he imposes himself on the opposition. Zagadou likes to play short, ground passes as Dortmund build possession from the back patiently probing the opposition to create spaces to exploit.

His ground passing is sharp and accurate although his longer passing game requires improvement with it being inconsistent resulting in turnovers in possession. Given his ability aerially, Zagadou should be a direct set piece threat consistently but it's an area in which he needs to improve.

Florian Grillitsch
Age: 26 (07.08.1995)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2022
Estimated Value: €0m


» Available on a Bosman transfer
»Tactically flexible and versatile utility player
»Expansive passing
»Ability to produce line breaking and key passes
»Press resistant and composed in possession
»Proactive defender


» Can be outmuscled by physical Centre Forwards in contact
» Comfort in defence is playing through the centre of a three
» Aerially can lack the strength to impose on the duel consistently

Grillitsch started the season as a defensive midfielder at the heart of the Hoffenheim midfield before transitioning to centre back as part of a three-man defence. In this new role Grillitsch's ability on the ball has been well utilised to build out through the defence through both patient and direct passing.

His vision provides opportunities from deep to orchestrate play and to shift the opposition defensive as he looks to probe or switch play with more direct passes. He is a mobile defender who is active in activating a press on the opposition to retrieve/pressure possession quickly.

In duels. he’s resilient and determined in his defensive duties with good timing when attempting to tackle. However physically he’s not dominant relying on his anticipation and reading of the game which can lead him into positions where he is pinned by a centre forward and turned.

Whilst Grillitsch is competent centre back he mainly comfortable within a three-man unit as opposed to a four-man system.

Loic Bade
Age: 22 (11.04.2000)
Contract Expiries: 30.06.2026
Estimated Value: €10m - €15m


» Can operate within a three or four-man defence
» Comfortable on either side of the centre back pairing
» Competitive aerially and strong in duels
» Good anticipation and concentration
» Positional strength increases his effectiveness in cutting out crosses and shots on goal
» Like to play passes on the ground for higher success rate
» Composed in possession
» Exceptionally progressive ball carrier out of defence


» Can lose the opposition on his shoulder as looks to defend the space first.
» Can look to clearing danger first rather than access possible out balls into teammates.

Bade arrived at Rennes from RC Lens at the start of the 21/22 season and continued his form from his debut Ligue 1 season. This season he has demonstrated his versatility playing both sides of the Centre Back pairing comfortably. His season was interrupted by an adductor injury which saw him out for a little over two months this season.

Badé is a composed and dynamic centre back who is an accomplished defender, as well as being progressive in possession. His ability to understand the state of play allows him opportunities to work outside of defensive duels while looking to intercept and disrupt play utilising his great athleticism.

In possession he provides assured passing and the ability to progress play offensively which allows the midfield to sit higher without the need to collect possession.

Player Comparison Charts

Click on either image to view in full size.

* Part 2 of the Summer 2022 Recruitment Plan shall focus on midfielders and strikers. Check back on KUMB later in the week for that.

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