It is not often West Ham sign a player that leave fans scratching their heads thinking ‘who?’ or ‘never eard of him’…my mistake, it is pretty common practice at Upton Park (Marco Boogers anyone?). The arrival of Sam Allardyce will do little to help this, there are generally only three types of players that ‘Big Sam’ signs: Veteran’s, former players or complete unknowns and for many Hammers fans the clubs new gun, Modibo Maiga, fits in to the latter category. But the big man from Bamako may have more in common with West Ham than you would think.
Modibo Maiga arrives at Upton Park to become the second Mali international to grace the hallowed turf, that’s if you count Freddie Kanoute as he hadn’t defected from France whilst he was still at West Ham. It is no surprise that the Hammers new boy is being compared to his Malian predecessor for obvious reasons, but these two have more than their nationality in common. Maiga is a forward that has some similar characteristics to Kanoute; they are both skillful and strong with the ball at their feet, they hold the ball up well, win headers and are both composed in front of goal, but the majority of Maiga’s attributes are more reminiscent of another former West Ham striker…
Demba Ba was supposed to be joined at Newcastle by Modibo Maiga during last summer’s transfer window and Maiga even went on strike to force a move. The striker was then supposed to be joining Newcastle again last January before Papiss Cisse arrived. The reason Maiga didn’t sign wasn’t down to his bad attitude, no no no, it was down to the fact his knee failed a medical in a very Demba Ba/Stoke-esq kind of way. The other theory I have is that they made up an excuse because Maiga was too similar to Ba.
Both Ba and Maiga often find themselves in wide area’s which would leave no one through the middle, so technically it would have been difficult for them to play them together. It is not just positionally where they are similar, they score the same kind of goals; powerful headers, good finishes, whilst neither one particularly likes defending. So far we have established that Modibo Maiga is a cross between Freddie Kanoute and Demba Ba – doesn’t sound too bad? Well not all stories have a happy ending because there is another current West Ham player that Maiga has something in common with…
The bad news is it is Carlton Cole. Firstly the good news, they are different types of player and the bottom line is that Maiga doesn’t look too bad and is a far cry from Carlton Cole in terms of style and talent. But if we compare the two’s headline career stats, things are a little too similar:
Carlton Cole – total games: 298 – total goals 73 – goal to game ratio: 0.24
Modibo Maiga – total games: 149 – total goals 39 – goal to game ratio: 0.26
We also need to bare in mind that Maiga was playing in a league which is of a lower standard, but over his career he has only produced a record similar to that of Carlton Cole when it comes to goal return. His best season was in 2010/11 with Sochaux where he managed 15 goals in a very creative side where he was supported by some classy midfielders and a good partner in attack, if he is to get a similar return he will need similar service at West Ham.
It is not just all about goals, it is about what he contributes to the team, so lets look at assists and we will use Carlton Cole again as the benchmark. Carlton Cole has played 298 games and has 28 career assists – that a ratio of 0.09 or one assist every 10 games. Maiga has played 149 games and has 14 assists, which also gives him an assist ratio 0f 0.09. The good news is Maiga does have other actual playing stats that do go in his favour such as his shooting accuracy which was the second best in France’s Ligue 1 last season and he was the third best striker in Ligue 1 at converting his chances.
Like any foreign import that comes in to the Premier League, you don’t know what you are going to get. Maiga is only 24 and there is no doubt the man has potential and his pace and power should suit the Premier League. If West Ham surround him with the right type of creative players, and if he fits in to a system that allows him the freedom to roam across the front line, he should do well at Upton Park – besides he is hardly a gamble in today’s market considering he reportedly cost under £5m. The jury is out on Maiga, but a couple of pre-season goals and a few will be putting him in their Dream Team…he has everything going for him and the potential, it is up to him if he realises it.
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