West Ham United were strongly linked with signing Danish international right back Jens Stryger Larsen in the summer. The 30-year-old enjoyed a sparkling EURO 2020 tournament, playing a key role in Denmark’s run to the semi-finals. Larsen and Denmark were eventually dumped out by England on penalties, but he and the rest of the Danish squad left a lasting legacy on the competition. Larsen was an ever present for the Danes and subsequently attracted considerable interest from many top-flight clubs across Europe.
It was a hugely impressive run for Denmark made all the more remarkable after the squad had to endure the shocking scenes involving Christian Eriksen’s heart attack in their opening group game. Fortunately for Denmark and European football as a whole, Eriksen recovered and Larsen and his teammates did everything in their power to make Eriksen proud in his absence.
Both the Hammers and Watford were said to be interested in snapping up Larsen from Italian outfit Udinese. Watford were undoubtedly linked due to the fact their owners, the Pozzo family, also have Udinese in their portfolio of clubs, making it easier to move top talent from club to club. However, for one reason or another, a deal never materialised. Larsen remains a Udinese player for the start of the 2021/22 campaign – until January 2022 at the earliest.
Here are four reasons why David Moyes should keep Jens Stryger Larsen firmly on his recruitment radar in the upcoming January transfer window or indeed next summer.
Larsen is reaching the prime of his career
At 30 years of age and with well over 300 top-flight appearances in European football, Jens Stryger Larsen would be a proven addition to the West Ham squad. He has been with Udinese since 2017, where he has made 139 appearances and even got on the scoresheet five times. He’s had a largely injury-free spell with Udinese too, which would give the Hammers a dependable option to call upon at right full back if Vladimir Coufal was to succumb to injury or suspension.
Larsen may indeed be a more defensively minded option than Coufal, but this might be what the Hammers need in certain games. Although United have been a joy to watch on many occasions already in the 2021/22 campaign, their propensity to let in goals may cost them dear later in the season when the margin between success and failure becomes so fine. Tom Love, who is one of the best in the business in the football tipster scene, recently noted that in five of West Ham’s six home games this term they have conceded. More clean sheets can only be a good thing – and they don’t have to be at the expense of free-flowing attacking football either.
He’ll be available for a cut-price fee in January – or free next summer
One of the main reasons why clubs may have baulked at Udinese’s valuation of Jens Stryger Larsen this summer is down to his contract situation. Larsen confirmed that his contract “will expire next summer” and intimated that he was prepared to “see what happens from there”. These comments suggest that Larsen may already have an idea of where he wants to play next. If he doesn’t – and United are keen to avoid being gazumped next summer – they could always look to snap him up in the next January transfer window. Udinese’s £3.5m asking price of the summer will be slashed significantly and another right-sided defender could be a useful body to have in the second half of the season, particularly with European football congesting West Ham’s campaign.
Ryan Fredericks’ future at the London Stadium remains uncertain
Coufal’s current competition for his right back berth is 28-year-old Ryan Fredericks. The former Spurs, Millwall and Fulham defender has amassed 57 appearances as an Iron since signing in 2018. However, he’s only featured in three competitive games so far in 2021/22, with some suggesting that his days are numbered. Fredericks is another player entering the prime of his career. He agreed a four-year contract to join from Fulham in July 2018, which means – like Stryger Larsen – he too is out of contract next summer. It could be a straight swap of Fredericks for Stryger Larsen in the close season. Like Stryger Larsen, Fredericks also has the option to sit down at the negotiating table and secure a pre-contract agreement with any club in Europe from 1st January 2022.
Fredericks also sustained a nasty looking injury in his solitary Carabao Cup appearance in the Hammers’ narrow win over Manchester United. It was Fredericks who put the ball on a plate for Manuel Lanzini to poke home the winning goal at Old Trafford. However, the Hammersmith-born full back pulled up unchallenged with what appeared to be another frustrating hamstring or muscle blow. Injuries have certainly prevented Fredericks from becoming a household name in the West Ham back line. David Moyes needs players he can rely on to play when called upon and Stryger Larsen’s flawless injury record would appear to tick a lot of boxes.
Competition for Vladimir Coufal is healthy for a successful team
There is no doubt that Vladimir Coufal has already become something of a cult hero in the eyes of the Irons faithful. Since signing from Slavia Prague, Coufal has been a virtual ever present, with 40 appearances to his name already. However, at the intensity Moyes wants to play at down the flanks, Coufal – like Aaron Cresswell on the left – will need support. Coufal is only a year younger than Stryger Larsen and the pair could provide dependable service on that right-hand side for the next three years.
Coufal’s contract runs until the end of the 2022/23 campaign and it’s almost certain the club will be looking to extend that by a further year. Such has been the way he’s taken to Premier League football alongside compatriot and former Slavia Prague teammate Tomáš Souček. Coufal’s transfer fee was also relatively small-fry at £5.4m. If Moyes can land Stryger Larsen on a free transfer or a cut-price £1m in January, that’s two solid international right backs secured for less than the cost of an average EFL Championship centre forward.