When Jamie Carragher included West Ham’s Vladimir Coufal in his Premier League ‘Team of the Season so far’, and named Tomas Soucek as his ‘Signing of the Season’ on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, West Ham fans around the country will have let out a wry smile.
The pundit’s recognition of the Czechmates’ unbelievable campaign reiterated what Hammers fans have been saying all season long. Soucek’s loan deal was made permanent at the end of last season (£19m), while Coufal arrived in October (£5.5m), a combined fee of just under £25m paid to Slavia Prague for the two Czech Republic internationals.
When you consider some of the amounts paid for players in the modern transfer market, David Moyes’ transfer business to bring the duo to East London represents an absolute bargain. Speak to any of the club’s supporters and they will list the pair among their leading candidates for ‘Hammer of The Year’, and for good reason.
The statistics show the impact Soucek and Coufal have had on West Ham since their arrival, helping to transform the club from relegation battlers to European hopefuls:
When David Moyes took over in December 2019, one of his first tasks was to sort the leaky defence that had cost Manuel Pellegrini his job. The signing of Soucek in January was an immediate help, forming a midfield partnership with the outstanding Declan Rice to provide solid protection in front of the backline.
The ‘Czech Viera’ has carried his form from last campaign into this season, and according to WhoScored.com, he has been West Ham’s best player with an average rating of 7.30. At 6”4, the midfield powerhouse is dominant in the middle of the park, winning an average of 6 aerial duels a game.
Soucek’s ability in the air means he serves an effective shield, breaking up opposition attacks by winning long balls and clearing set pieces. The 17 aerial duels he won in a 2-1 victory away at Burnley recently was the most by a Premier League player this season.
The towering figure also contributes with his work on the ground, averaging 2 tackles a game, which is 2nd among the West Ham squad. He ranks only behind the individual he played a big part in recruiting, Vladimir Coufal.
Former teammates at Czech champions Slavia Prague, Soucek recommended the right-back to the club, and his good friend was signed after four games of the Premier League season. As aforementioned, Coufal averages more tackles than any other West Ham player this season with a total of 2.30.
The Hammers have alternated between a back-four and a back-five, however the 28-year-old has been an ever-present on the right-hand side, starting every game Premier League this season following his arrival. Despite missing the start of the campaign, Coufal ranks 4th in the squad for time played, accumulating a total of 2785 minutes.
His first season in English football has been outstanding, making a seamless transition to life in East London, and quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite among the Claret and Blue faithful. His average rating of 6.96 ranks him as 5th in the squad, the best-performing of any of the team’s defenders.
While West Ham must address the long-term future of the centre-back position, Coufal’s consistency against the league’s top attackers has shown the right-back spot is sorted for the coming years. The performance against Jack Grealish in a 3-1 win at Villa Park symbolised his determined defending.Embed from Getty Images
While the Czechmates have helped transform West Ham into a much more solid and disciplined unit, they have also brought an attacking threat that was previously lacking.
Under David Moyes’ instruction, the full-backs must follow the ethos of defend-first, however they also have a license to get forward and support attacks. With Aaron Cresswell on the left and Vladimir Coufal on the right, the Hammers have two of the best performing defenders in the league this season.
After the ball is recovered by the central midfielders, their first thought is often to distribute to the flanks, in the direction of the attacking full-backs. It is no coincidence that Coufal has racked up 6 assists this campaign, and he is also averaging 1.3 key passes per match. Those numbers rank him second within the West Ham squad, behind Cresswell for each respective category.
Outside of the Hammers team, only Everton’s Lucas Digne has a higher number of assists than Coufal, an outstanding achievement considering the right-back does not take set-pieces. He is still in search of his first goal, but continues to threaten when going forwards, as shown by him hitting the post against the Toffees last week.
A man who has not struggled finding the back of the net is his international and club teammate. Soucek has scored 9 Premier League goals this season, the same number as Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard. Jarrod Bowen has also notched 8, meaning the Hammers have four players with a chance of hitting double-figures this season.
Declan Rice’s presence in the middle of the park allows Soucek to impose himself in the opposition penalty area, and his previously mentioned aerial threat has helped him score three headers this campaign. His other six goals have all been scored with his right foot.
The combination of defenders with the ability to produced quality deliveries, and a 6”4 powerhouse who will throw himself at crosses in the box, has been very effective for West Ham.
Despite being an all-action, box-to-box midfielder, Soucek is the only member of the team to have played in all 3150 minutes of the Premier League campaign, meaning his attacking threat troubles opposition defences week-in, week-out. The 5 Man of the Match awards he’s picked up is further evidence of his quality season, and he is one of the main reasons West Ham have a great chance of playing European football in 2021/22.Embed from Getty Images
Overall, Coufal and Soucek’s impact on West Ham this season is supported by the numbers. They lead many of the statistic tables within the Hammers squad, and are also among the best-performing players in the entire Premier League.
However, the pair have also had an impact on their team that cannot be calculated. As David Moyes and their teammates have said to the media, Soucek and Coufal spend a lot of time at Rush Green, working hard at the training ground even on their days off. They have helped to change the mentality of the squad, two players that represent the hard-working, committed attitudes their manager demands.
By the time Soucek and Coufal line up for the Czech Republic against England at Wembley on 22 June, every member of the Three Lions side will be aware of the quality that they possess.