Thursday, 17 July 2014

New Signing: Enner Valencia

Enner Valencia

DOB: 04/11/1989
Age: 24
Position: Forward

Previous Club: CF Pachuca
Previous Division: Liga MX Clausura

Transfer Date: 17/07/2014
Reported Fee: Anywhere from £7.9m to £15m

Well, there's your big money move.

In the tradition of the past two summer transfer windows, West Ham United have once against strengthened the squad with a big money signing (Matt Jarvis 2012, Andy Carroll 2013). The difference this time, is that most people hadn't heard of Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia before his excellent performance for his country in the World Cup.

The rumour mill has been spinning about Valencia for some time now, with the likes of Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Valencia all linked with him at various point, and by sources of various reliability. Over this time, it has emerged that this isn't a flash in the pan sort of signing based on 3 good performances, but that the Hammers have been tracking their new man over the course of the last six months.

But other than his World Cup cameo, what do West Ham fans know about the newcomer?

So what does Valencia offer us that his new teammates don't?

Well, the obvious difference is that Valencia has been in top goalscoring form in the last year. The forward bagged himself 18 goals in 23 league appearances, and a further 3 in 3 at the World Cup. In comparison, Carlton Cole, Andy Carroll, Ricardo Vâz Te and Modibo Maïga managed 11 league goals between them.

Clearly, there is a difference in standard between the Mexican and English premiere divisions, but signing a striker in form can never be a bad thing.

Aside from scoring significantly more goals than his new colleagues, Valencia also attempted far more shots. Andy Carroll was West Ham's most prolific shooter last season, with an attempted 4.21 attempts on goal per 90 minutes, with a shot accuracy of 33%.

Valencia, on the other hand, attempted a whipping 6.27 shots per 90 minutes, with a shooting accuracy of 52%.

An area in which Valencia is less capable than his new team mates is aerially.

Although he did manage to bag himself four headed goals last season, the Ecuadorian managed an aerial duel success rate of just 33%, less than all but Ricardo Vâz Te's effort of 30%. What this suggests, is that Valencia is not a like-for-like competitor with Andy Carroll.

Last season, when the line was led by Modibo Maïga, West Ham failed to adequately adjust our style to incorporate a different type of forward, and served Maïga with the type of long balls and isolation that Carroll is equipped to deal with.

If Valencia is to be a success at West Ham, it seems clear that there must be a varied approach in utilising the new man.

Valencia's main strength is what we bought him for: he scores goals.

In the Liga Mexican Clausura last season, Valencia bagged an impressive 18 goals for Pachuca, making him the division's top scorer by a country mile, as his nearest challenger netted just 9 (though he did get those in just 11 appearances).

Perhaps most interesting though, is the fact that 17 of Valencia's 18 goals came from within the box. It seems to be accepted that Valencia will play as one of the wide forwards for his new side, replacing either Stewart Downing or Matt Jarvis in the side. What the two English wingers lacked last season with the killer instinct to get into the box and score goals. Based on Valencia's predatory record, it seems safe to assume that this won't be an issue the Ecuadorian suffers from.

As mentioned above, it has been suggested that Valencia will play as one of the wide pair alongside a centre forward. This is a role he has played on numerous occasions throughout his career - a career in which he actually started out as a winger, only to be converted to a striker within the past few seasons.

The heat map below comes from Pachuca's game against Toluca in January.

During this game, Valencia officially lined up as a right winger, but, as you can plainly see, he popped up all over the park to contribute for his team.

But Valencia can also shine as the main main, leading the line for his club and country regularly.

Arguably his best performance in the last season for Pachuca came in the 3-0 win over Monarcas Morelia, in which he bagged himself two goals and an assist (his only assist of the season).

The images below show his take ons, and then his goals from that game.

As you can see, Valencia is keen to take on his man and get into the box, completed 6 of 9 take ons, 4 of which were attempted within the penalty area, and another four coming just outside the box.

The second image also gives you a flavour of the type of goals Valencia scored throughout the campaign. Getting in and around the six yard box to finish off moves became something of a specialty for the Ecuadorian last season, and will hopefully be something he can bring to a West Ham side lacking in that finishing touch.

Probably Valencia's biggest weakness is his discipline.

Last season, he picked up 7 yellow cards in 23 league appearances. This is a pretty poor record, that is only made worse by the fact that three of those were a result of talking himself into trouble.

For the sort of money that is rumoured to be tabled for Valencia, we could really do without the forward picking up too many suspensions.

I suppose the thing that currently counts most against Valencia, is his lack of experience outside of South America. Any big money move is a risk, but for a player who has never played in Europe, let alone the Premier League, there is a bit of a fear that everything could go belly up.

However, here is an undoubtedly talented footballer, who has all the ability and potential to be a fantastic signing for this football club. And if Valencia can produce even half of his goalscoring record from recent seasons for West Ham, he'll settle in very nicely.

Enner Valencia, welcome to (East) London.

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