Just two seasons ago Samuel Umtiti appeared to be almost untrappable alongside Gerard Pique in the Barcelona defence, making 48 La Liga starts across the 2016/17 and 2017/18 campaigns. Sadly, for the World Cup-winning Frenchman that has changed and due to persistent knee problems, the Catalan giants reportedly have doubts as to whether he can fill the role again.
Over the summer it has been suggested, Olympique Lyon, Marseille, Arsenal, Everton and West Ham may all be competing for the central defender’s signature. Should he become available, the Hammers must ensure they beat off their rivals to secure the 26-year-old, as he may be the resolution to the defensive frailties at the London Stadium.
One of the Hammers’ main flaws this term was their leaky back line which conceded 62 goals, the fifth most of any Premier League side. Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop have been the first-choice central defenders for the Irons, and both made 31 starts in the top-flight. However, behind the duo Fabian Balbuena did not provide much competition and often sabotaged the defence, committing two errors leading to goals.
Umtiti made 0.8 tackles per match this season in the league for Barcelona, the same as Diop, but considering the Spanish giants averaged 63.2 per cent possession and West Ham recorded 45.4 per cent, the former had considerably fewer opportunities to overturn the ball. Furthermore, the Barca defender averaged 1.7 interceptions per match, which was only bettered by Declan Rice, two, out of the entire Hammers squad.
One primary concern will likely be the Frenchman’s recent injury record, as he has missed 15 matches this season with knee and foot problems. Umtiti’s knee has been a reoccurring issue that has made him unavailable for 30 games over the last three seasons, and he is currently side-lined, with no return date set.
Providing Umtiti, valued at £28.8m (Transfermarkt), can pass a medical, West Ham should not hesitate to pursue his signature. The French defender has a wealth of World Cup and La Liga-winning experience, while other sides may not be willing to gamble on him due to his recent injury record. If the Hammers can keep the central defender fit, he could be the solution to David Moyes’ side’s defensive frailties.