NMA – EPL Transfer Spotlight: West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd
West Ham embarks on a summer of big spending ahead of a second consecutive season in Europe, and David Moyes makes a few high-profile signings to build on his momentum, this time signing Rennes defender Nayef Aguerd.
The Morocco international has signed a five-year deal with the east Londoners in a deal worth around £30million which includes additions.
Aguerd is Moyes’ first foray into the summer window, and he plans to continue improving the squad ahead of a season aiming to combine Premier League improvement with a debut campaign in the Europa Conference League.
Aguerd was born into a family of footballers in Kenitra, located in northern Morocco. His father played in Morocco’s top flight and his uncle Abdelmajid Bouyboud was capped 34 times, including in the 1994 FIFA World Cup final – a milestone his nephew could emulate in Qatar later this year.
Aguerd represented local club KAC Kenitra before being recruited to the Mohammed VI National Football Academy where he spent four years understanding the structure of football. There he played with players like Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri.
Interestingly, Nayef was a No.10 but realized they had so many attacking midfielders and few defenders that the youngster decided to switch roles. He took a risk, and it was the best decision he made.
The centre-back played for the Academy until the age of 18. In 2014, he joined leading club Rabat FUS, making 12 appearances in his debut season and catching the eye of many top Spanish clubs.
Aguerd then helped his team Fath Union Sports (FUS) win their first ever Moroccan championship in May 2016, scoring an important goal against Ittihad Tanger who all but clinched the title. Later, a consistent impressive performance for FUS over the next two seasons saw him move to French Ligue 1 club Dijon in 2018.
Two encouraging seasons for Les Rouges led to a move to Rennes, where he started the club’s first ever UEFA Champions League match and featured in four of the six group stage matches of the 2020 campaign.
Aguerd has performed very well at Roazhon Park, making 66 Ligue 1 appearances to help Rennes qualify for Europe in each of the past two seasons. He even scored twice in seven UEFA Europa Conference League appearances and started 31 Ligue 1 appearances as Rennes finished fourth last season.
At international level, the defender was capped by Morocco’s U20 and U23 sides before making his senior debut against Albania in August 2016. The 26-year-old went on to help Morocco win the African Nations Championship in home two years later.
He is now a regular in the Atlas Lions starting XI with 25 senior caps to his name.
Aguerd played a major role in Morocco’s run to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations by reaching the quarter-finals. He has also become one of the main influencers for the success of the 2022 World Cup qualifying phase in Morocco.
How will his style of play adapt to West Ham?
Aguerd’s arrival at West Ham will create competition for centre-halves Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma.
Aguerd has developed his game, especially his main defensive functions. He is a dominant aerial presence, can read the game well for positioning, and also performs fast and fast recovery runs.
In Ligue 1, no defender last season won more aerial duels throughout the season – Aguerd won an average of 3.1 headers won per game – while relying mainly on his qualities of anticipation and of sublime timing rather than pure pitch. During his spell at Rennes, he was in the top 10 for header clearances in Ligue 1.
It’s an added advantage for the defender’s game and a sign that he can serve them well in the Premier League that he has plenty of chances from set pieces.
Since 2020, only Paris Saint-Germain Brazilian defender Marquinhos has scored more headed goals (six) than Aguerd (four) in Ligue 1. On the other side, the Hammers have scored 20 goals from kicks stopped in all competitions last season.
This is an area that Moyes takes seriously. Although Dawson, Diop, Zouma and Ogbonna have all shown they can score, the addition of a left-footed centre-back like Aguerd brings in someone who excels at both boxes.
On the ball, the 26-year-old has been comfortable building from behind a Rennes side who have played some of the most attractive football in Ligue 1, with only PSG scoring more than their 82 goals this season.
According to Opta, Aguerd ranked first among Rennes players for successful passes (1,954), forward passes (822), successful long passes (173) and aerial duels won (95) during the campaign. 2021-22. Two players in Europe’s top five leagues to have won more successful passes and aerial jumps have been liverpool duo Virgil van Dijk (2369, 117) and Joel Matip (2053, 109).
Even if David Moyes plays a 4-2-3-1 or 5-4-1 system, he wants his defenders to play from the back, so Aguerd meets the criteria. Moreover, £30m for a player like Ageurd, who can gel well in the Premier League, isn’t a bad deal at all in today’s transfer market.
For fantasy managers, Aguerd’s ability to capitalize on set pieces can prove useful. He’s a threat in the air, scoring goals this season, and we know how good West Ham are at set pieces, so he’ll be adding another target on top of all the others the Hammers already have. Aguerd averaged one goal attempt every 109 minutes last season, almost exactly the same as what flying high Craig Dawson (111) managed.
In defense in Ligue 1, Aguerd concedes an average of 0.85 goals every 90 minutes. The club’s clean sheet ratio is currently at 39%, with Aguerd keeping clean sheets in 12 of his 31 matches.
West Ham are an ambitious club led by David Moyes, playing a decent style of football and finishing in the top half of the England table to earn back-to-back Europa League places.
However, as a fantastic prospect, a centre-back is only attractive with the following unique selling points: if affordable, a regular starter, provides decent or balanced returns from forward and back , that’s only when you can consider having one on a mid-table side. Mid-table centre-backs like Ageurd are unlikely to become stallions in a fantasy format. However, a modern centre-back who improves his back line can end up producing decent fantasy points, so let’s at least keep an eye on this one.
What do you think of West Ham’s new boy at the back? Will he be successful in the Premier League? Would you consider it for your fantasy teams? Please let us know in the comments below!