West Ham’s search for a central midfielder has already gone far and wide in the ongoing January transfer window. It has seen them draw links with would-be Tottenham signing Gedson Fernandes and former Man Utd star Marouane Fellaini. It is no surprise that their chase led them to Inter midfielder Roberto Gagliardini.
The Italian hasn’t exactly ever been a star at the nerazzurri. He has been that useful player who can do a sound job for any manager he plays under. Indeed so, that has been the case for him this season too. But that isn’t the only reason why the Hammers should see him as a very effective signing.
There was a time not long ago when Gagliardini was seen as one of the brightest midfield talents in Italian football. But because of the emergence of many other midfielders, his name has sadly been fading out.
This season, the former Atalanta man has made 15 appearances in all competitions for the club. He does have a tally of two goals and as many assists. But the 25-year-old has played only 784 minutes of football in Serie A. 11 out of the 15 have been starts and a majority of them came because of Stefano Sensi’s injury in Inter’s 2-1 loss to Juventus.
Not just Sensi, the knee injury to Nicolo Barella left the club thin in the heart of the park. This didn’t just allow Gagliardini more game time, as Matias Vecino also got some minutes under his belt.
Under former manager Luciano Spalletti, Gagliardini became known for his workhorse-like spirit. He made 21 appearances in all competitions last season, chipping in with five goals. He was a regular in the 2017-18 season, playing 32 times in all competitions.
The Italian international is a versatile customer in midfield. But being a box-to-box midfielder is his strength. It makes perfect use of his work rate, technical ability and tendency to get odd goals.
This season, Gagliardini has won 1.1 tackles per game and has picked up 1.2 interceptions per game too. When he was a regular in midfield in the 2017-18 and the 2016-17 seasons, he won 2.1 and 2.4 tackles per game too.
He isn’t the best dribbler or the most creative player. But he is someone who likes to keep playing ticking. His passing percentage at Inter has never dipped below 82 percent of this season. That too will rise as the season goes on. He guarantees around 50 passes per game, when used regularly. In the 2017-18 and the 2016-17 seasons, they stood at 48.2 and 52.3 respectively.
He isn’t a midfielder who wins too many tackles or is very creative. He just does a bit of both in a tidy fashion. That makes for an interesting read for Hammers fans.
As things stand, David Moyes has only two reliable central midfield options in Declan Rice and Mark Noble. The duo has been a regular in the heart of the park, with Carlos Sanchez only a bit-part player with one start to his name only.
Gagliardini adds technical to that midfield and like Noble, adds some work rate in there too. Having him will take the burden off Rice and Noble and having played at a much bigger club, he can take the side to another level. He adds some goals from midfield and his ability on the ball will allow the likes of Felipe Anderson, Pablo Fornals and Andriy Yarmolenko more freedom to attack.
Inter are currently in the chase for Arturo Vidal and adding another midfielder could extinguish Gagliardini’s chances further. This can lead him to consider a possible West Ham move.