Sunday’s draw against Sheffield United in the Premier League was characterised by a dearth of control, but the crux of West Ham United’s season remains the need for a gleaming new centre-forward.
Danny Ings started at Bramall Lane and was lively in a deeper-lying role, making four key passes and providing a consistent outlet, but the 31-year-old is yet to score this term and has just three goals from 42 appearances for the Irons.
The other established frontman, Michail Antonio, 34 in three months, has been sidelined for over two months and is ostensibly declining. Edson Alvarez’s absence in Sheffield proved decisive in the failure to win, but for the long-term fluency of a remarkable side, signing a striker must be David Moyes’ priority.
West Ham’s striker search
According to the Sun, West Ham are ready to smash their transfer record to sign Bayer Leverkusen talisman Victor Boniface, who has been in fine fettle for Xabi Alonso’s Bundesliga-topping team this season.
Chelsea and Newcastle United are both interested but Moyes will hope that the promise of a leading role could tempt the Nigerian to move to east London this summer, with a winter transfer unlikely but being pushed by Hammers’ technical director Tim Steidten.
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How Victor Boniface compares to Darwin Nunez
Valued at £52m by CIES Football Observatory and contracted to the BayArena until 2028, it’s safe to say that Leverkusen are in no haste to cash in.
The 23-year-old has scored 16 goals and supplied eight assists across 23 matches in all competitions this season, earning praise for his “monster” presence in the frontline by Molde assistant coach Trond Strande, signing him from Union Saint-Gilloise for €20m (£17m) plus add ons last summer.
Invariably menacing in the final third, the four-cap Nigeria international ranks among the top 7% of forwards across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals, the top 1% for assists, the top 12% for shot-creating actions, the top 5% for progressive carries and the top 3% for successful take-ons per 90, as per FBref.
With a hunger for goals and assists in their hordes, a fleet-footed gait and a tendency to drift in from the left, West Ham could finally land a striker of Darwin Nunez’s mould, with the Liverpool star considered the 6 foot 2 Boniface’s most comparable player of FBref.
In January 2022, six months before the Uruguayan signed for Liverpool in a club-record £85m deal, Moyes fought to land Nunez before the transfer deadline, sadly coming up fruitless after seeing a €45m (£37m) bid rejected.
Nunez has been a polarising figure in the Premier League, and while detractors cherish the wayward finishes and scorn the lapses of focus, the 24-year-old is one of the most dynamic and devastating players around.
Scoring twice against Bournemouth just hours after West Ham’s contest against Sheffield United finished 2-2, Nunez has now taken his seasonal tally up to ten goals and ten assists apiece across the board, despite starting just 18 times.
The £140k-per-week phenom also ranks among the top 18% of forwards for goals, the top 5% for assists, the top 14% for shot-creating actions and the top 12% for progressive carries per 90.
Boniface, similarly, might cause frustration among Irons ranks at times, ranking among the top 1% of positional peers for shots taken per 90, but he offers something brilliant, intangible, in the attacking surges.
Goals, assists, disruption, despondency. Boniface unleashes mayhem as Nunez does and pocks the opposition goal with craters after barrage upon barrage of fire, also intelligent and selfless enough to know when to place a pass and provide for his teammates.
Nunez, too, boasts such qualities, more composed and economical in his overall play this season. West Ham might have failed to bring the Anfield talisman to the London Stadium but they could now find the missing piece to complete Moyes’ team, with Boniface tailor-made to cause a stir in the Premier League.