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West Ham Season Preview #14: Cheikhou Kouyate - Anchor in the Midfield

Cheikhou Kouyate is a consistent and reliable defensive midfielder, but do his offensive deficiencies hold the Hammers back?

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Last Season

West Ham United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Quick, without looking it up or using the fact that you clicked on an article about Cheikhou Kouyate, who scored the first ever goal for West Ham at Olympic Stadium? And who scored the 2nd?

If you said Cheikhou Kouyate, then congrats! You guessed right!? Yes, the Senegalese midfielder pumped in the first two West Ham markers at the Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2016 in a Europa League game against the mighty NK Domžale.

Kouyate would go on to score two more goals in all competitions. One in Premier League play and one more in the League Cup.

However, that’s not the thing Kouyate is counted on for. He is primarily a defensive player. Relied upon to be a strong link in the back that holds up attacker, gets the ball, and moves it up field to transition to offense. So when you look at his 83% pass accuracy, it would seem like West Ham fans might be happy with his performance in 31 games last season.

Unfortunately, those passes went for only 10 chances created. While we’re on the guessing game: Guess what West Ham players created more chances than Cheikhou Kouyate? 9 of them. So you’re guess has a good chance of being right. Specifically? Robert Snodgrass in 15 apps and Sofiane Feghouli in 20 matches played. Both are likely to be sold this summer. Hmmmm...

Current Team Placement

West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Kouyate finished the year behind only Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid, and He Who Will Not Be Named in Performance Score. His presence on the pitch was a positive influence on the Hammers. 71.5% of that score came from the defensive aspect of the game, however.

In a year that West Ham finished mid-table and didn’t look great doing it, that performance was a bit tough for Hammers supporters to appreciate.

Teams in the Premier League need a good passer from the back. Kouyate is not that player. However, with the influx of offensive talent this summer, is Cheikhou the steady presence in the midfield that West Ham needs?

Goals for This Season

West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

In all honesty, I want Cheikhou to be who he is. Steady and reliable defensively. The passing needs to improve though. Those attacking options up front are upgraded and Kouyate’s weaknesses could be made glaring and unavoidable if he can’t be an effective link between the defense and offense.

By the end of the year, we should hope to see closer to, at the very minimum, 15 chances created.

He won 61% of his take-ons and 63% of aerial duels, so if those can translate on the offensive side, there might be some goals to be had, as well.

In any case, Kouyate needs to add to the offensive aspect of his game to go along with his steady defense.

Perhaps the new signings bring about a more offensive strategy from Slaven Bilic this season. Perhaps having more weapons in front of him will bring out a the best in Kouyate.

Then again, perhaps we’ve seen his best.