Position: Left Back
Previous Club: Shakhtar Donetsk
Previous Division: Ukrainian Premier League
Transfer Date: 01/07/2013 (announced 21/05/2013)
Reported Fee: Free Transfer
What's that? West Ham United have signed a thirtysomething fullback?! Again?!
Although we have become all too familiar with ageing left backs over the years, it seems fair to suggest that Rǎzvan Raţ is a bit different. Rather than joining the likes of Stuart Pearce, Nigel Winterburn & Rufus Brevett as an elder statesman of the defence, Raţ comes with a high pedigree. What's more, he comes with a recent pedigree.
The Romanian skipper joins West Ham after a fantastic decade with Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk. During his tenure in Donetsk, Raţ has racked up an impressive 301 appearances (90 of which came in European competitions), and has amassed 83 caps for his country, bringing his total up to 88.
He also brings with him a winning mentality. Throughout his career with Shakhtar, and previously with Rapid Bucuresti, Raţ has collected 9 league titles, 6 national cups, 4 super cups, and a UEFA Cup.
Unfortunately, performance data from the Ukrainian Premier League is hard to come by, so data on Raţ is somewhat limited. However, we are able to analyse his 8 Champions League performances from 2012/13, so we can get a bit of a feel for what he's all about.
In his 8 appearances on the highest club stage, Raţ completed an impressive 81% of his 353 passes (44.1 per game), delivered 6 successful crosses (out of 33, 14%) and created 9 goalscoring opportunities (1.1 per game). However, what stands out is his defensive work. Raţ averaged almost three clearances, two interceptions, and 1.4 tackles per game.
The chart below shows Raţ's defensive actions per game in comparison to two of the men he will be competing with for a place in the West Ham United starting eleven. As you can see, Raţ made fewer defensive actions per game than the current incumbent, Joey O'Brien, but more than our #3, George McCartney.
However, Raţ excels in other areas of his game. His total of 44.13 passes per game (81% of which were accurate) dwarfs the figures posted by the two Irishmen. O'Brien attempted 28.36 passes per game (79% accuracy) and McCartney attempted just 24.75 (80% accurate).
The final area that I'm going to cover, is another in which Raţ stands out. Since the 2004/05 season, Raţ has averaged over 29 appearances per season for Shakhtar. Over the same period, Joey O'Brien has managed just 17.2 appearances per season, and McCartney 28.
Although O'Brien has been able to rack up over 30 appearances for the past two seasons, his injury record over the course of his career has severely impacted his ability to consistently appear for his sides on a regular basis. Whilst we remain hopeful that the worst of his injuries are behind him, there is always an element of risk when dealing with a player with such a fragile injury past.
By the same token, McCartney has also suffered a couple of injury hit seasons (2012/13 being of particular note). Combining this with a loss of form for Sunderland and a couple of seasons in the Championship, and you have a rather fragile fullback who hasn't played consistently at the top level for a few years now.
Raţ, on the other hand, has been far more consistent. He has only had one bad season for injuries (2011/12) and seemed to put that behind him in the past year, racking up 26 appearances for the Ukrainian side.
The chart below shows the appearances of the three men over the course of the past nine years. As you can see, the line representing Raţ (orange) sits at a far more consistent level, whilst the lines depicting O'Brien and McCartney tend to jump up and down on a regular basis.
On the whole, I believe this to be a great bit of business for West Ham. It seems to be assumed that Raţ will take McCartney's place in the squad, allowing for O'Brien to move back over the right back, and for young Dan Potts to step in as the second choice left fullback. If that is the case, then I, for one, will be very happy with this deal.
So, all that remains to say is: Welcome to West Ham, Rǎzvan Raţ, and let's hope the next three years are as successful for you as the last 15 have been!