Window Shopping: Trying to find a new striker for West Ham

Since the summer window of 2013/14, if you include loan signings and free agents, West Ham have signed 11 strikers. However, despite averaging just under two new strikers a season, West Ham still seem to be having problems with who leads the line.

Andy Carroll has frequent injury problems, missing 32 games since the start of 2016/17 according to TransferMarkt, while the club are allegedly willing to accept offers for summer signing Javier Hernandez, while also agreeing a fee with Crystal Palace for Diafra Sakho.

It’s worth pointing out Marko Arnautovic has had some great form leading the line, as well as some impressive xG numbers, so there’s a chance a new striker isn’t needed.

With that being said, I thought it’d still be fun to see what strikers are out there who could potentially be a good signing for West Ham.

A big question when looking at this is, how do West Ham create?

Looking at the more common creation types (passes, crosses and set pieces) 19% of West Ham’s chances created comes from high crosses, behind only West Brom in the Premier League, and somewhat significantly above the league average of 13.2%.

West Ham even have the 5th highest proportion of chances from low crosses, as 7.26% of their chances originate this way, slightly more than the 6.15% league average.

Finally, to reinforce West Ham’s emphasis on crossing, they have the second lowest proportion of chances originating from open play passes with 43.02% – while the league average is 52.6%.

This shouldn’t be too surprising given David Moyes’ history with crossing, but it means aerial ability and being effective from crosses should be an important factor in what striker to sign.

As a quick guide of directness and activity off the ball, I used the below graph. It’s not perfect, but it’s just a quick way to compare teams.

Another quick point before starting, when I say creating xG it’s usually included times where they’ve had the primary or secondary assist, if I’m referring to just primary chances created I’ll use xA.

Now, onto some candidates.

Kevin Lasagna – 25 – Udinese

Kevin Lasagna has been in great form recently, scoring in his last five games of 2017.

Encouragingly though, he’s operating at the same level as his xG with his goal scoring – 7 goals compared to 6.86 xG. This suggests he’s getting himself into good scoring positions and his performance is sustainable, as opposed to a hot streak that’s ready to come to an end.

His xG of 0.489 p90 is impressive, but his xG per 100 Key Entries (see ‘Window Shopping: Per Possession and Two Bundesliga Left-Backs’ for more) is 4th for Serie A players with more than 900 minutes this season.

Not limited to goals, however, Lasagna has contributed to another 0.427 goals p90 with chances created as either the primary or secondary assist. However, it’s worth pointing out he is out performing his expected numbers here, with his xG created numbers being 0.246 p90.

All this culminates in his expected goal contribution (xG value of chances, chances created and chances created as the secondary assist) being 0.735 p90, while his actual goal contribution is 0.926 p90.

What about his suitability to West Ham though?

Well, Lasagna does have a good portion of chances via crosses with 37.5% (average across the top five leagues is 22.4%), but they are from mostly low crosses as opposed to high crosses (21.9% low vs 15.6% high).

His aerial duel success rate is 37.5%, which despite being more than Chicharito’s (31%) is, as expected, quite a bit below Andy Carroll’s (59.3%).

Using the above graph, Udinese are more direct in the final third than West Ham, but have a similar activity off the ball. Lasagna feels as though he could be a good striker for West Ham, but if Moyes is after a target-man he’s unlikely to be the right fit – particularly given his xG numbers are fairly similar to that of Hernandez, who they’re looking to move on.

See Lasagna’s goals this season below:

 

Michael Gregoritsch – 23 – Augsburg

TransferMarkt lists Gregoritsch’s position as a second striker, playing just behind Alfred Finnbogason (who may also be worth looking into), but his numbers could make him a good fit for West Ham.

Gregoritsch is over performing his xG this season, having an xG of 5.15 and scoring 7, but an xG of 0.394 p90 is still impressive.

Moving on to creativity, Gregoritsch is slightly under performing his expected numbers, creating 0.367 xG p90 has resulted in 0.306 actual goals p90.

An xG contribution of 0.761 p90 and actual goal contribution of 0.842 p90 are decent for a 23-year-old, being the 21st highest for those with more than 900 minutes in the Bundesliga this season.

What should also be of interest to West Ham, and no surprise for a team with Philipp Max at left-back, is that 41.7% of Gregoritsch’s chances come via crosses, 25% from high and 16.7% from low. Gregoritsch’s aerial duel numbers also rival Andy Carroll’s with 56.3% won.

Augsburg are pretty far away from West Ham when looking at defensive actions and directness in the final third, being both more direct and more active off the ball. With this in mind, plus whether he’d work as effectively as a lone forward as he does in his current Augsburg role there some doubts over Gregoritsch, but he could still be worth looking into.

It’s also worth pointing out that he only signed for Augsburg in the summer and given the German club are only 4 points off the Champions League places, he may be happy to stay there.

Gregoritsch’s goals and assists can be seen below:

Gerard Moreno – 25 – Espanyol

Having scored 13 non-penalty goals last term, it was surprising not see more interest in Gerard Moreno over the summer. After not moving, though, Gerard Moreno went one step further and decided to extend his contract in November 2017.

With that in mind it may seem strange suggesting him for a January move, but there has been talk of Villarreal bidding 20 million euros for the forward as they look to replace Cedric Bakambu.

While I don’t know how reliable the source is, it suggests Espanyol may sell should an adequate offer come in due to their financial situation. Allegedly having a 40 million euro release clause (~ £35m) he may be worth looking into.

His xG numbers this season are actually lower than the previous two names, with an xG of 0.341 p90 and creating 0.304 p90 giving him an xG contribution of 0.644 p90.

His actual contribution is much lower than this, while he’s performing his expected goals almost exactly the 3.83 xA and 1.63 x2A he’s contributed to have resulted in just 1 secondary assist.

However, as Espanyol have had the 5th least chances and 3rd least key entries in La Liga this season, he’s a player where it’s worth looking at his per possession numbers.

This is where his numbers start to look more impressive, having the 5th most chances per 100 key entries, 8th highest xG per 100 key entries and 8th highest xA per 100 key entries in La Liga this season.

Then looking at whether he’s suitable for West Ham is fairly positive too. 30.6% of the Spaniards chances come via crosses, with 19.4% from high crosses, although his aerial success rate of 42.3% is some way behind Andy Carroll.

His supposed release clause is a steep price, and it would be a huge risk paying it in full, but if West Ham raise £20-25m from the sales of Sakho and Hernandez there might be a chance it’ll be enough to tempt Espanyol into a sale.

There’s still questions over whether the player would want to move club or country, as if Espanyol do decide to sell him a move to Villarrel (who own 50% of his rights) may be preferred to a move overseas.

He over performed his numbers last season, but his xG total of of 9.288 is still respectable for an Espanyol side that had the fewest chances per game.

The fact he’s managed to put up good numbers for the last season and a half for a side that has struggled to create is impressive, while at 25-years-old he can both make an immediate impact and lead the line for a good portion of time – as opposed to a short term fix.

See some clips of him below:

Nicolas Fullkrug – 24 – Hannover 96

Hannover’s German forward doesn’t immediately jump off the page, given he’s only scored 3 non penalty goals in 938 minutes this season, but some of his underlying numbers are impressive.

Jumping straight into his xG contribution, Fullkrug has contributed 0.868 xG p90 this season – 0.445 xG p90, 0.265 xA p90 and 0.167 x2A p90. This total ranks him 10th in the Bundesliga (>= 900 mins) this season.

His actual numbers run slightly lower than this with his 4.64 xG resulting in 3 goals, but a goal contribution of 0.768 p90 for a team who have the 4th least key entries and below average number of chances in the Bundesliga this season (9.94 vs the average 10.29 a game) is encouraging.

Despite an aerial success rate of 52.9% not many of his chances come via high crosses, in fact only 20.7% of his chances come from both high and low crosses – less than the average in the top five leagues. Breaking down the crosses and the majority come from low crosses, with only 6.9% of his total chances originating from high crosses.

Fullkrug is an interesting case, on the one hand he’s a good age with some good numbers, but on the other it doesn’t feel as though he’s maintained these numbers over a long enough period to warrant going in for him just yet.

He seems worth keeping an eye on, and may possibly make a good signing for the squad, but it feels like a big risk signing him to lead the line based solely on this half season’s numbers.

Some clips can be seen below:

Karl Toko Ekambi – 25 – Angers

Doubling last season’s goal tally in just over half the amount of minutes, Karl Toko Ekambi seems to be enjoying a good season with Angers.

He is out performing his xG numbers, but the underlying numbers are still impressive.

His xG contribution of 0.737 p90 is the 6th highest in Ligue 1 this season, only behind the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Edinson Cavani, ex-Hammer Dmitri Payet and Florian Thauvin. Then his actual goal contribution is also the 6th highest in Ligue 1 this season, contributing almost a goal a game with 0.982 p90.

This is even more impressive when considering he’s doing it with Angers, who are in 19th place and rank average for both chances and key entries in Ligue 1.

Breaking his numbers down sees him out performing his xG, hugely out performing his secondary assists and under performing his xA. He has 0.491 goals p90, 0.184 assists p90 and 0.307 secondary assists p90 compared to expected values of 0.348 p90, 0.289 p90 and 0.101 p90 respectively.

His aerial duel rate is also a lot lower than any of the other names above at 27.2%, while only 10.3% of his chances arrive from crosses, which doesn’t seem too encouraging for Moyes’ West Ham side.

It’s also worth pointing out his time has been split between left-wing and striker this season and via WhoScored.com his record when playing through the middle is 7 goals and 2 assists in 9 games.

Toko Ekambi could offer West Ham something different in attack. At 6’1″ (1.83m) he certainly has the frame to get on the end of crosses, but he also has much more than that.

Attempting 4.3 dribbles per game, he seems more than comfortable running at players and moving into the channels, while in the clips below he also shoots (and scores) with both feet which is always a nice bonus to have.

What else is encouraging is that while he’s heavily improved upon last years numbers, playing for a team who had the 4th fewest chances and only 0.813 xG per game his xG of 0.183 p90 and xA of 0.143 p90 are somewhat respectable.

Brighton are apparently also interested in Toko Ekambi with Angers looking for £12mwhich seems decent value for someone who is still a good age.

See some clips of Ekambi below:

Conclusion

Finding a striker is tough, while I’ve only had a quick look, I don’t feel particularly satisfied with the results. No one seems to jump out as an obvious signing to lead the line for West Ham. Running through the options everyone seems to have a big drawback.

Lasagna seems a good forward, but I’m not sure if stylistically it’d be a good fit.

Gregoritsch looks a talented player, but whether he should lead the line on his own or would leave Augsburg so soon is questionable.

Moreno I like the look of, but I’m not sure if he’d either be open to a move to West Ham or represent good value for money.

Fullkrug looks interesting, but given I don’t have his data in the second Bundesliga, I’d like to see more of him and how he maintains his current numbers.

I really like the look and numbers of Ekambi, and he probably would be my pick, but I still have some doubts about how well suited he’d be to West Ham.

On the flip side, having a striker who can run with the ball and move into the channels could be a good alternative to Carroll, while if they play 3-4-3 he could operate just off of Carroll, along side someone like Lanzini or Arnautovic.

His lack of chances from crosses isn’t surprising given Angers have the lowest percentage of chances via crosses in Ligue 1 this season, so he may be able to do well on service from out wide, though obviously not knowing this beforehand isn’t ideal.

With all this taken into account, my first choice would probably be Ekambi who for around £10-15m seems as though it’d be a decent move. Failing that, Moreno would be a good pick, but I don’t think I’d want to pay the clause in full, taking into account the money raised from Sakho and potentially Hernandez, the most I’d probably go is £20-25m.

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.

Aerial duel and dribble data via WhoScored.com

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