West Ham United‘s search for a striker last summer was a source of frustration for Hammers supporters who saw big names linked with a move to the London Stadium only for Swansea City‘s André Ayew to pitch up in a £20million move.
The Ghanaian had hardly set the world alight at the Liberty Stadium the previous season, notching 12 Premier League goals. His arrival represented the Hammers’ biggest summer outlay and something of a damp squib at that.
Ironically, the Marseille frontman has been replaced in South Wales by his younger brother Jordan, who joined from Championship side Aston Villa in a swap deal with Neil Taylor which could rise to £5million.
On Saturday the two Ayews will go head-to-head once more as West Ham host the Swans in a crucial clash in the battle against relegation from the Premier League. We take a look at the duo’s importance to their respective clubs.
Hammers’ striking woes
One of Slaven Bilić’s biggest headaches this season – and he has had plenty – has come from his strikers. Andy Carroll’s seven goals make him the top-scoring forward at the London Stadium. The former Liverpool hitman has already made more Premier League starts in 2016-17 (14) than in the last three seasons. With seven goals he is on course to beat his best tally for the Hammers (9) too.
But that is where the good news ends for Bilić. The next highest-scoring forward for West Ham this season is Ayew with four goals. But the Ghanaian has played behind the main striker in one of the three attacking midfield slots for much of the campaign, only playing as a number nine once this term.
Other options include Jonathan Calleri (1), Diafra Sakho (1) and Ashley Fletcher (0).
Given Ayew’s goals return from just nine Premier League starts and Carroll’s injury record, it might be time for Bilić to move the explosive Ghanaian attacker into a more advanced role – particularly if Carroll misses Saturday’s game following a groin complaint picked up in Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.
At just shy of 5ft 8ins, Ayew is not the most physically imposing player and it is easy to see why Bilić prefers the power and strength of Carroll to lead the line. But Ayew has done the job for Swansea before. He averaged two shots per game, won 1.3 aerial duels and attempted 0.8 dribbles in South Wales last season.
However, West Ham are used to serving Carroll with crosses into the box or long passes for the former Liverpool man to hold up. Moving Ayew up front would mean a change in style and clearly Bilić does not see him as the solution given he has used Fletcher up front on his own this term despite a lack of experience.
The alternatives are uninspiring at best: youngster Calleri has yet to make a league start; Fletcher, who was playing in League One for Barnsley last season, and Sakho, who is out of favour, have two apiece. Bilić will be doing everything in his power to ensure at least one of his forwards that left the pitch mid-week are fit to face the Swans.
How Swansea can add to the Hammers’ misery
A run of three games without victory looked set to end of Wednesday as the Swans took a 1-0 lead into the 88th minute at home to Tottenham Hotspur. But Dele Alli levelled before stoppage-time strikes from Heung-min Son and Christian Eriksen broke the hosts’ resistance and left Paul Clement’s side in the bottom three.
Scoring goals has not been a problem per se for Swansea this season with Fernando Llorente (11) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (8) top scoring. However, the over-reliance on those two is clear when you take into account the next-highest scorer is centre-back Alfie Mawson who has netted all four of his goals since the turn of the year.
That is why Clement dipped into the Championship to snap up Jordan Ayew in January. Like his older brother, the pacy forward offers an element of unpredictability and showed glimpses of his talent in a dismal Aston Villa side last season.
Clement set the Swans up in a 4-3-3 system against Spurs with Sigurdsson and goal-scorer Wayne Routledge flanking Ayew in an exciting and mobile front three.
With 57 goals goals conceded, West Ham have shipped the third-most in the Premier League. And that is where Swansea could have some joy.
Bilić moved to address his leaky defence in January by signing Southampton skipper José Fonte in January. But in the nine games the Portuguese centre-back has played, the Hammers have conceded 21 goals at an average of 2.3 per game. In the 22 matches prior to his arrival they let in 36 at 1.6 per game. It’s too simplistic to suggest he has worsened West Ham’s backline but he has not stiffened them up either.
The Portuguese is not the most mobile and with James Collins likely to start, owing to injuries to Winston Reid (groin) and Angelo Ogbonna (knee), the Hammers have two central defenders who will not be comfortable being run at. Both are physically imposing and would have relished the duel 6ft 4ins Llorente would offer. But they will be taken out of their comfort zone on Saturday and it could be Ayew Jnr. in celebratory mood.