Transfer Opinion: West Ham target starlet who could fix the defence for free

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Last term West Ham had no problems finding the back of the net as a collective, scoring 49 goals, the tenth most in the Premier League. However, the issues were at the back, where a leaky defence, nearly cost West Ham their top-flight status, by shipping 62 league goals, the fifth most of any side in the division. Transfer rumours would suggest that this is an issue that David Moyes will attempt to address over the summer, and John Stones has been linked with a £20m move to the London Stadium from Manchester City.

Although what could prove to be a more astute acquisition would be the arrival of Malang Sarr, who is now a free agent after his deal with Patrick Viera’s Nice side expired and has previously been linked with the Hammers. Before the French season was put to a premature end, Nice were in fifth in the table, though there is an eight-point gap to Lille in fourth.

Sarr started 16 of the Eagles’ 28 Ligue 1 matches this term, before departing and he made a telling defensive contribution, providing one tackle per game, 0.2 more than West Ham central defender Issa Diop.

Furthermore, the 21-year-old Frenchman highlighted his ability to read the game by recording 1.9 interceptions per match, the most of any Nice player. Declan Rice is the only member of the Hammers squad who cut the ball out more often without making a tackle, recording two interceptions per 90 minutes.

The fact that Sarr played just 1.4 clearances per match, 3.7 fewer than compatriot Diop, but averaged 60 passes per game is indicative of his ball-playing style, starting the Eagles’ attacks from the centre of Viera’s sides’ defence. Additionally, he completed his passes with a remarkable 90.4 per cent accuracy. Only Manuel Lanzini could come close to matching Sarr’s laser-guided passing, as the Hammers’ most reliable player in possession recorded an 86.9 per cent pass accuracy.

At 21-year-old Sarr is far from the complete package, which is a frightening prospect given how well he reads the game. Additionally, his ball-playing abilities from the centre of defence could be incredibly useful if Moyes wants to play a more progressive style of football. West Ham should move fast for their man with Newcastle United, Lyon and Eintracht Frankfurt also reportedly eying him up.

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