Tour de France

  • by Misko
  • Filed: Tuesday, 26th March 2024

The transfer window may have only recently closed, but it opens for business once more just three months from now.

For West Ham and David Moyes, the summer of 2024 promises to be a busy time for the club with a number of areas requiring strenthening and/or upgrading.

So with one eye on 1 June we asked Misko, one of KUMB's French-based members, to compile a list of those players currently featuring in Ligue 1 he feels would be a good fit for a Hammers side preparing for a fourth consecutive season in European competition (well, we can all dream)...


According to a very reliable source that I can't disclose, for obvious reasons, here is the list of players I'm informed West Ham United need for the next window: GK, LB, CB(x2), RB, CM, AM, LW and CF.

So what do we have, here?


Goalkeeper

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We start with a tough one. French football has been lacking of real quality 'keepers for quite a long time now. The standout player at this position would certainly be Brice Samba. The ex-Forest keeper established himself as a natural leader in Lens, he was named the best goalie of last Ligue 1 season and he is now #2 in the French national team, ahead of Alphonse Areola.

The other two players worth mentioning would be Marco Bizot, who is having a dream season with Brest, a small club pushing for Champions League qualification this year. But he's older than Lucas Digne.

And then there is Marcin Bułka. The Pole is (if I'm not mistaken) considered as home grown thanks to three years in Chelsea's academy. He's very tall at 6'6 and it's very hard to score against him, his wingspan and his positioning force the opponents to take more difficult shots. He is the epitome of the no-nonsense 'keeper who would fail to be called 'modern' due to a very limited ability with the ball at his feet.


Left Back

The usual suspects here: Adrien Truffert (of Rennes) and Melvin Bard (Nice). My pick would be the second, as he is a full-back who actually knows to defend. Trufffert is more skilled with the ball at his feet, but Bard is more reliable and consistent and I love his grit.

Bradley Locko is a raw physical player, pacey, strong, and aggressive. He is perfect in a counter-attacking side but he is still young and naive at times, he needs to be given time and the right to occasional mistakes.

Christopher Opéri played in Ligue 1 for the first time in his career at 26 years old with promoted side Le Havre. But he is one of the best at the left back position in the league so far: he has pace, strength, and stamina and he is a no-nonsense defender with a nice left foot (two goals and four assists). The question is whether he is a late bloomer or just overperforming this very season.

The one to watch for the future could be the 22-year-old Tunisian Amine Cherni who plays for Laval, a small Ligue 2 club that is currently standing fourth in the table whereas they were seen as relegation fodder. Cherni reminds me of Emerson somehow. He is a smart defender, who dives for a tackle only when necessary but he is good going forward even if he isn't really fast. He is very composed with the ball, he is a good passer and a set piece taker, he does the overlapping runs to break the opposition pressing. And he has both feet, which for a natural left-footed player is very rare.


Central Defence

Frankly speaking, the best players in this position are either way too old or too short for the Premier League. Jean-Clair Todibo has probably the highest potential among the young players. He has almost everything, but my concern for English football would be his aerial abilities are quite disappointing according to his height and the rest of his skillset.

Kenyan Joseph Okumu, who played for Gent before has a physical presence and a knack for defensive duels that could make a club outside the Sky six happy. Kevin Danso, from Lens, is also a dynamic defender with incredible physicality, but he has been blowing hot and cold this season whereas he was exceptional last season.

Some very promising players would need time to develop before being Premier League-ready. Leny Yoro from Lille is probably the best young centre back here, in a Varane-like style, but he's so soft at times that I don't see him flourishing in the Prem yet. Toulouse's Logan Costa is an underrated player, he has all the tools in his locker to make a good sturdy player for an English club.

And there's Jake O'Brien. He is not home grown despite being ex-Crystal Palace, which is why he may stay with Lyon one more season. He is the underdog that nobody expected. He is probably one of the fastest players in the league, we are talking Mbappé level of pace here, and he is 6'5. He can ping lovely long balls with his right foot. He scored four goals, all from corners (and OL were notoriously crap at corners before, conceding more than scoring from offensive corners).

Too good to be true? This comes with diabolical positioning at times, especially in a back four. But, and that's what impresses me the most, he is getting better at a supersonic pace. He is undoubtedly a hard-working and smart lad. Everyone loves him. He should land in the Premier League this summer, or the next one.


Right Back

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This season's wonder is Wilfried Singo. He is tall, he is fast, he is strong, he is skilled, and he is unstoppable on his right flank. He can also play as a centre half if needed. He pushed the Brazilian Vanderson to the bench. This one is still a good player though, with a very good right foot, but he sometimes lacks concentration and discipline. I reckon there might be a bargain to be had as he will probably move next summer.

The young Portuguese Tiago Santos has also established himself as one of the best right backs here in France. He is quick and smart, very good on the counter attack and he is well suited for Paulo Fonseca's system. I don't think he is fully ready yet but in a couple of years, I wouldn't be surprised to see an English club go for him.


Central Midfield

This is probably the most competitive position in Ligue 1. It's very hard to make a selection, so I will split them into (questionable) categories...

Defensive screening midfielder

The big and tough players whose job is mostly to stop the danger and win the ball back. Denis Zakaria was heavily linked with West Ham last year and I can see why. He is an efficient defensive midfielder, with an impressive physical impact and yet he is a very sound passer of the ball. But he has the occasional brain fart that makes him a £30million player, rather than a £60milion one.

Similarly, the Dutch player Pablo Rosario is a sturdy and aggressive ball-winner and decent enough with the ball at his feet. Like Zakaria, he also knows how to occasionally cut into the box to bring danger. And, even though he is a tad bit shorter than Zakaria (6'2 vs 6'3), he poses a much greater aerial threat.

Ball-carrying midfielder

Well, both Zakaria and Rosario know to do that at times, but I will list here the players who excel in that respect. Monaco's Youssouf Fofana would still be my first pick for West Ham if possible. He is very well-rounded, he can do almost everything on the pitch (even if he could be a better finisher), but what strikes the eye when he plays is his ability to perforate a defence with the ball at his feet.

He looks unstoppable at times. This comes with a very high work rate and a very selfless attitude. Off the pitch, he does look like a genuinely humble and down-to-earth bloke. Well, you undoubtedly got it, I would love to see him in claret and blue.

As for the previous category, the second pick after the Monaco player would be a fellow Riviera man, Khéphren Thuram. He is slightly more offensive than Fofana, more spectacular, but less defensively involved. When Fofana shines by his consistency, Thuram has ups and downs, but when he is at it, he is world-class.

And it's early days yet, but the young Andy Diouf, who had a remarkable 2022/23 ECL campaign with Basel has shown glimpses of great potential in Lens. Statistically, he is ranking among the very best for progressive carries and successful take-ons per 90 minutes. He needs time (he's only 20), but I think he can develop into a very special player.


Deep-lying playmaker

I'm treading on thin ice here. I won't mention trequartistas. I will just drop a few names of players who can create from central midfield, mostly through passing and vision.

Angel Gomes is blossoming in Fonseca's Lille. He is paired in the midfield with an experienced DCM, Benjamin André, and even if his defensive statistics might look underwhelming, he actually is a very clever player, with very good positional awareness. But it's with the ball that he is remarkable.

He has superior passing skills, he very seldom loses possession, and he is crucial in the build-up for his team. And of course, he is a London lad and home-grown. I reckon many Premier League clubs would be interested this summer.

Also in the lightweight category, Maxence Caqueret is again having a very contrasted season. He was woeful until January, and since February, he is probably one of the best players in the league. The fact that he is finally paired with a seasoned anchor like Matić is definitely one of the main reasons for that transformation, but Caqueret is used to having these two-faced seasons.

He is some kind of hyperactive player, always pressing, always running. He is probably one of the players covering the most ground, but with high-intensity sprints as well. He can carry the ball, play the intricate tiki-taka stuff as well as perfectly dosed through-balls. But this comes with an occasional sloppiness and, way too often, he would lose the ball in dangerous areas. Hence the need for a Matić-like player next to him.

The young Metz midfielder, Lamine Camara, is incredibly versatile. He can do everything, and he can play everywhere but he plays for one of the worst teams in the league, so it is a bit hard to predict how he would do in better sides. But he is definitely one to keep an eye on.

I also really like Nice's Boudaoui, but he is just a rotation option there, probably because of the quality of the competition (Thuram and Rosario, for instance). But he is a very clever player, very skilled, who reminds me of Bruno Guimaraes. In Ligue 2, the Algerian midfielder of Angers, Abdelli, is probably the best player in the league. It is hard to know whether he would be Premier League-ready or not, but I reckon he would have some big clubs (at least in Ligue 1) after him this summer.


Attacking midfielder

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We all knew Aleksandar Golovin was talented but this year, he will probably be one of the nominees for the PotY award. He finally found consistency under Hütter, in a high-intensity high-risk Monaco team. His mobility and versatility work like a charm and his skills make him unstoppable; six goals and five assists so far.

He tends to drift on the left of the pitch, and he can also play on the left wing, a bit like Lucas Paqueta this season. There will probably be tough competition to sign him when the summer comes.

Amine Harit is also finally fulfilling his potential this season. He became a major player for Marseille, a great passer, a good dribbler, and not afraid to do the dirty work. He is now a well-rounded player who would make many coaches happy.

Among the rising players, I would mention Clermont's Muhammed Cham-Saračević. As his name obviously(!) tells, he is Austrian. He plays for the worst team in the league, but he showed signs of real quality with the ball. He has a good end product considering how Clermont plays and that he is only 20. He has scored four goals, provided four assists, has good vision and is a very efficient passer. Give him a couple of years, and he can develop in a very good playmaker.


Left winger

I know that many of my fellow KUMB members like Martin Terrier. It took time, but it seems that he has finally fully recovered from his ACL injury. He is back to his best form playing on the left, happily drifting to the centre to score goals with his clinical right foot. I am still not fully convinced he could make it in the Premier League however as he needs a friendly arm around his shoulders to perform, but he is undeniably one of the best players in the league when at his best.

There are more conventional wingers, fast and direct, who could be of interest. Moses Simon will be out of contract in the summer. He is quite unidimensional in his game, but he is very fast and he is a constant threat on counter attacks.

Mohamed Daramy looks like a baby Michail Antonio, with the same strengths and the same weaknesses. But with four goals and five assists, he has a very decent output for a young player discovering the league. Well-coached, he could develop into a very interesting player. I can see him crossing the Channel within two to three years.


Centre Forward

Jonathan David still plays for Lille. He scores a lot of goals, puts a very consistent effort defensively, and he is a clever team player. However, it seems that he will not reach the elite level many people thought he would. Nothing to be ashamed of, he is a very good player just not an exceptional one. I'm rather curious to see what will be the next step for him.

Terem Moffi is having a relatively disappointing season, but his physicality and good finishing skills make him a viable option for an English side. On the contrary, the purple patch of Akor Adams seems over and I don't think he'll attract interest from Premier League teams other than the bottom-tier ones.

The Dutch forward Thijs Dallinga has made obvious improvements in his game, he is no longer a goal poacher only. He has developed a very nice capacity to keep the ball upfront, resisting defensive pressure with his back to the goal. Well, these kind of strikers, who lack speed, normally struggle at West Ham but Dallinga is a good player nevertheless.

As expected by many, Folarin Balogun is struggling big time at Monaco. However, in his defence, I have to say that he managed to adapt his game to offer significantly different options to his team. He runs non-stop, and he creates a lot of space for his partners. For the price Monaco paid, it isn't enough, but I really think he is a smart lad who accepts to do the dirty work for the others.

He may not have a superstar career ahead of him, but I reckon these attributes will always make him useful to his coaches somehow. With the fuss around his name gone, he could be an interesting option for an English club due to his home grown status.

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