West Ham’s powerful midfield recruit Cheikhou Kouyate has taken the Premier League by storm in his opening two matches, drawing comparisons with Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce stated how he felt he was his side’s man of the match in their opening day defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, and he was again mightily impressive in their 3-1 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Kouyate is strong in the tackle and a superb interceptor of the ball, as well as an excellent reader of the game. But crucially, he is very confident in possession and his sheer athleticism allows him to be regularly involved in play further up the field.
He stated upon his move to the Hammers that he wanted to be known as a box-to-box midfielder and he has demonstrated his ability and desire to do so in their opening two matches.
He can either play as a centre-half or a deep-lying central midfielder and is usually unbeatable in aerial duels, which will undoubtedly suit West Ham's style of play.
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The Senegalese international was magnificent against Palace, picking up exactly where he left off against Spurs. He won possession 21 times, completed 6/6 tackles and claimed one assist.
The debutant was exceptional in possession against Tottenham and of all the Premier League players to make over 30 passes that weekend, Kouyate had the highest pass accuracy of all of them at 97%.
His powerful presence in midfield is invaluable and he ensures that he bosses and patrols the field with great authority.
The 24-year-old moved to Europe from his native Senegal at the age of 15, signing with Belgian side FC Brussels, and after making a handful of appearances he was signed by Anderlecht in 2008.
He became a first-team regular there, making 145 appearances in the Juplier Pro League and adding four league winners' medals to his name as well as gaining a wealth of experience in the Champions League.
He has been previously linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton but West Ham fought off "several other clubs" for his signature.
For a £7 million fee, this could well be a shrewd piece of business from Allardyce and perhaps their best signing of the window.
Kouyate is a player of many talents. Clearly a great passer and exceptional tackler, but he also possesses a speed that would not be expected given his vast 6’4’’ height.
These elements combined create a player who is strong yet pacey and skilful yet resilient, all while maintaining a never say die mentality that ensures 100% effort is given in every game – something sure to win the hearts of Hammers fans.
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