After one of the most memorable deadline day sagas in recent memory, West Ham finally wrapped up the signing of Saïd Benrahma from Brentford.
The mercurial winger’s signing had been all but wrapped up on Thursday night, only for last-minute irregularities in his medical to throw a spanner in the works. Frantic negotiations ensued between the Hammers and the selling club, with the player’s strong desire for the move reportedly key in salvaging a last-minute deal.
Benrahma joins on an initial season-long loan (for a fee of £4 million), with the rest of the original £25 million price tag due at season’s end to make the move permanent – provided Benrahma’s medical issue doesn’t flair up again.
Now that the move has been confirmed, however, football fans’ thoughts move to how the “Algerian Messi” will fit in at the London Stadium. Having beaten the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and more to Benrahma’s signature, West Ham must ensure to play a tactical model to suit the mesmeric dribbler’s strengths.
David Moyes has a dilemma on his hands – chief among them who Benrahma kicks out of a starting eleven which put 7 past Leicester and Wolves, and came back with three in dramatic fashion against Tottenham in a London derby.
— West Ham United (@WestHam) October 16, 2020
5-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 – Which system suits Benrahma best?
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The last two weeks have seen West Ham’s early-season fortunes change dramatically, with reversion to a back 5 key in the Hammers’ resounding wins over their top eight opposition.
However, playing this system leaves only three attacking positions open which Benrahma could possibly take, and David Moyes would be hard-pressed to demote either Pablo Fornals or Jarrod Bowen to the bench following their excellent recent displays.
Therefore, returning to a 4-2-3-1 with the Algerian on the left and Fornals played centrally will appeal to Moyes, allowing the Irons to field a fearsome and dynamic front four. Defensively, however, Moyes will be back at square one – with the side’s lacklustre defending the primary reason the Scot changed to a back 5 in the first place.
Removing a defender to accommodate another attacker will hardly appeal to a manager whose previous sides were renowned for their defensive solidity.
At Brentford, Benrahma was a part of a well-coached and cohesive unit, one which was set up specifically to cater to the natural attacking flair of the Algerian and his attacking partners Ollie Watkins and Bryan Mbuemo.
Despite manager Thomas Frank lauding his defensive contribution and pressing this week, the Algerian was given free rein to roam when and where he saw fit, covered out of possession by the excellent Rico Henry.
David Moyes should keep this in mind when incorporating him into the starting XI, as putting too much defensive responsibility might hinder Benrahma’s natural flair in the same way it did Felipe Anderson.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) October 16, 2020
Therefore, keeping the Hammers’ current 5-4-1/3-4-3 model may well appeal to Moyes most, allowing the winger to roam freely, unburdened by defensive duties. However, this leaves no room in the side for Pablo Fornals, who has been the creative fulcrum of the Hammers thus far.
Dropping the Spaniard whilst he is approaching his career-best form hardly seems fair – and is unlikely to happen one would think. Considering all of the above, Moyes now has a number of selection headaches going forward – but welcomed ones no doubt, as healthy squad competition is always a positive.
Whichever tactical system Moyes adopts, he knows he’s got a fabulous player in Said Benrahma, whose talent elevates an already dangerous side to higher levels of attacking potency.