West Ham United are chasing a forward. But who can they bring in?
The Hammer started the season with Michail Antonio as their striker. But when the Jamaica international suffered a knee injury in November, Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus stepped in. Both have fared very well in replacing Antonio, but it seems David Moyes would rather have an actual striker leading the line — especially with West Ham suffering from injuries.
And even when Antonio does return from injury, he will be 34 soon, and West Ham will want to plan for the future, and they are in the market. The Hammers have been linked to a handful of strikers in this winter transfer window, the latest being Aston Villa’s Jhon Duran.
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According to the latest reports, Villa has rejected an offer from West Ham to loan Duran until the end of the season with an option to buy. Duran has struggled for game time this season, playing second fiddle at Villa Park to Ollie Watkins. However, Villa would want a replacement before sanctioning any move for the Colombian, as they are still in the Europa Conference League.
So, who will West Ham turn to if Duran is off the cards?
Dream: Santiago Gimenez
This is quite a dream. West Ham reportedly have constraints due to Financial Fair Play (the ongoing investigations at Everton and Nottingham Forest seem to have unnerved all Premier League clubs this month).
But Santiago Gimenez is a name linked with West Ham recently. According to reports earlier this month, West Ham are among the clubs interested in signing the Mexican, whom Feyenoord boss Arne Slot has admitted could be sold if the right offer comes in.
Gimenez, only 22, joined from Mexican side Cruz Azul in the summer of 2022 and scored 15 goals in 32 Eredivisie matches to help Feyenoord win the title. Thirteen of those goals came from January onwards, including a run of eight consecutive matches he scored.
This season, Gimenez is proving that was no fluke.
After 18 games during the 2023/24 Eredivisie season, Gimenez scored 19 goals to lead the top scorer’s race alongside Vangelis Pavlidis, though the Mexican has played fewer minutes. Across Europe’s top seven leagues, only Harry Kane (22) has scored more goals than Gimenez this season. When you add in Gimenez’s four assists, only Kane (27) has been directly involved in more goals than the Mexican (23) in one of Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Only Kylian Mbappe (88) and Lois Openda (76) have made more shots in Europe’s top seven leagues than Gimenez’s 77, with 35 of those hitting the target. He has a 30.65% conversion rate.
Gimenez has also won possession in the attacking third 17 times so far in the Eredivisie this season. It puts him in the top 10 across the division, with 19 recoveries, an average of 1.9 fouls won per 90 minutes, and 47.27% of his aerial duals won.
Realistic: Armando Broja
Another name to have surfaced recently for West Ham — and a more viable option — is Armando Broja. According to reports, Chelsea are open to offers for the Albanian international whose valuation has dropped from an initial £50m. A loan with an option to buy has been touted as a possibility — which would make even more sense as it seems West Ham are close to spending £16million on Danish Superliga winger Ibrahim Osman.
⚒️🇬🇭 West Ham and Nordsjælland are now close to reaching an agreement for 2004 born winger Ibrahim Osman. Negotiations are advancing fast around €18m.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 24, 2024
Like Ghanaian compatriot Mohammed Kudus, Osman came through the Accra-based Right to Dream academy before arriving at Nordsjælland.
The 19-year-old plays all across the front line but primarily on the left wing. He has the profile of a creative, adventurous ball carrier and high-pressing goal threat — based on underlying metrics, at least. He has attempted the most take-ons in his league along with the most shots, but this converts into just one goal.
That said, he does have four assists — only three Danish Superliga players can beat that this season so far.
But let’s get back to Broja. Chelsea don’t seem in immediate trouble from FFP (though you never know). But they are supposedly open to selling some of their academy graduates as they count as pure profit. Broja hasn’t impacted Chelsea’s first team under Mauricio Pochettino, though it may be argued that he hasn’t been given enough opportunities.
The 22-year-old has played just 453 minutes, an average of 34.8 per appearance. He has started Chelsea’s last two league matches; Nicolas Jackson was pushed out on the wing for the first instance and then away on international duty for the second. All told, Broja scored just one league goal this season in his first start against Fulham in October.
There was also a goal recently in the FA Cup third round against Preston, but Broja could do with prolonged game time, which he would get at West Ham. The good thing about Broja is that he works well with teammates, averaging 2.8 successful lay-offs per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season, which would bring good synergy alongside Bowen and Kudus.
Pochettino didn’t explicitly rule out the possibility of Broja leaving this window ahead of Chelsea’s game against Middlesbrough.
“At the moment, no news,” Pochettino told reporters.
“We cannot update in any way. It’s all so quiet and I think that’s a good thing because we are working well.”
With Ghana’s Afcon elimination, Kudus will be back at West Ham earlier than expected. But time will tell if that influences the Irons’ decision to recruit a striker now.
Wildcard: Chuba Akpom
Several strikers are catching eyes outside the big names this winter, but there are some barriers.
Deniz Undav is going under the radar at Stuttgart, overshadowed by Serhou Guirassy, but he is on loan from Brighton. It’s the same case for Troy Parrott, impressing at Excelsior in the Eredivisie, but on loan from Tottenham. Chuba Akpom, however, is an interesting case.
After their disastrous start, Ajax have climbed up the Eredivisie table to fifth, very much in the European football chase. At the start of their upturn in form, Akpom enjoyed a good run, with five goals in four games in November despite starting just one of those matches.
The Nigerian only joined Ajax in the summer. But he has already been linked with a move away, amassing just 398 minutes in the Eredivisie this season with three starts and 10 substitute appearances. Three of Akpom’s goals have been scored with his head, and his aerial prowess would work well in a West Ham team with James Ward-Prowse delivering set pieces and crosses.
Across all strikers from Europe’s top seven leagues, Akpom ranks favourably for goals per 90 minutes (1.13), non-penalty xG per 90 (1.15), touches in the opposition box (8.32 per 90) and shots on target (2.7 per 90). He also has English football experience, having come through Arsenal’s academy and played for Middlesbrough, with his spell at the latter earning him the move to Ajax.