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Player Analysis: Why Armando Broja is the ideal striker for West Ham

One of West Ham’s priorities in the transfer window will be to add another striker to their squad. David Moyes has been extremely reliant on Michail Antonio to lead the line, and at 32 years of age, he will no doubt want a viable alternative to the Jamaican international as he leads the Hammers through another season of balancing domestic and continental football.

The challenge for West Ham is finding another centre-forward who can replicate Antonio’s capabilities. Having played multiple positions during his career, he has developed into a unicorn of a centre-forward, possessing an unsual yet devestatingly effective combination of traits.

Antonio is formidable and aggressive in aerial duels, excels at playing with his back to goal to hold up the ball, possesses tremendous pace on the break, carries the ball well with a combination of strength and skill, and can affect the play across the width and length of the pitch. He is far from the most clinical finisher, but his athleticism, work-rate, and dribbling ability makes him a unique forward who suits Moyes’ needs superbly.

His aerial ability gives West Ham a reliable out-ball to avoid deep build-up, his dribbling can disrupt deeper sitting defenses without intricate passing moves, and he is a major threat in transition and from set-pieces — both of which have been vital to the Hammer’s attacking output.

Few forwards fit this specific criteria set by Moyes and fufilled by Antonio. As such, the club have reasonably been reticisent to move for a center-forward. However, they have recently been strongly linked to 20-year-old Chelsea striker Armando Broja, who had an impressive campaign on loan for Southampton and could be the solution to West Ham’s striker concerns.

Broja is an incredibly athletic forward. His 6’3” frame and intelligence with which he uses his body enables him to win an impressive 4.68 aerial duels per 90. He is built strong through his upper body, a useful asset in holding off defenders when receiving the ball with his back to goal or when carrying the ball. His strength and size doesn’t sacrifice his speed, though, and in transition especially Broja is a mobile presence.

Despite scoring just six goals and 0.27 non-penalty goals per 90 for Southampton this past season, the Albanian has shown that he possesses a wide repetoire of finishes. He can be crafty and inventive in the box, shooting with the outside of his foot or striking unexpectedly quickly when defenders assume he’ll take a touch. Broja has a low backlift when shooting, allowing him to finish effectively in tight areas or when being closed down by opposition players.

Perhaps most pertinently for West Ham, he takes most of his shots in transition. He excels on the counter, making intelligent runs to arrive in optimal postions to score. What sets him apart from other strikers in transition is his composure. Many strikers can panic when they’re one-on-one with a defender or goalkeeper on the break, as the extra time given to them can cause them to overthink their shooting and waste valuable chances. Broja does not suffer from this issue, and is extremely cool in front of goal. It’s why he thrived for a Southampton team which mainly creates scoring chances from counter-pressing and transitions, and it’s why he should be a smart fit at the London Stadium.

Lastly, Broja is an extremely hard-working player. He was an intelligent and willing leader of Southampton’s press under the incredibly demanding Ralph Hassenhuttel. Moyes will require a different type of work rate from Broja. He’ll be tasked with closing players down in more isolated scenarios, but his attacking work-rate will be more vital. Broja will have to pose as the primary outball for West Ham.

The Hammers do not excel in retaining the ball deep whilst under pressure, and will instead look to boot the ball up to the Albanian and trust he can either hold the ball up to bring others into the play or turn and carry the ball himself. This is what Antonio has done so superbly for West Ham in recent years, and Broja should be able to replicate that function quite effectively as well. He possesses the necessary physical and technical traits to perform the role.

As a goal-scorer, Broja is a more natural finisher than Antonio and may be more prolific for Moyes than Antonio. His dribbling is proficient, although not as potent as Antonio’s, and he is less adept at dropping deep to be a creative player. He is only 20, though, and has plenty of time to improve. He would be a sensible buy for West Ham to intially rotate with and eventually replace Antonio. Broja possesses the necessary work-rate, physicality, and dynamism to thrive as a center-forward for West Ham.

Whether on a permanent deal or loan from Chelsea, it should be a realistic deal for the Hammers to pull off, and it could help them sustain and build-upon their impressive recent seasons under David Moyes.

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