To say Malian international Modibo Maiga had a difficult time at Upton Park would certainly be something of an understatement.
Despite arriving off the back of a fairly decent reputation in French football when he first signed back in 2012, the now 27-year-old striker simply never found his feet throughout his time in the east end – only scoring a disappointing six goals in a season and a half with the club.
In successfully finishing off no less than nine goals on loan with FC Metz this campaign however – just three less than Diafra Sakho has recorded as West Ham’s leading goal-scorer in 2014/15 – the seemingly ill-fated front-man has recently managed to impressive several in the French league, and has even begun to repair his somewhat damaged reputation with a small section of the Upton Park faithful.
As the Malian’s contract with the Hammers doesn’t run out until 2016, is it fair to suggest that Modibo Maiga deserves another chance in the east end, and could he in-fact begin to offer West Ham something valuable going into the new season?
Well first and foremost, it simply can’t be forgotten how poor the striker’s output was whilst the former Sochaux man was playing up top for large parts of last year’s campaign.
It wasn’t just the fact that Maiga was failing to score goals – it was his lack of manoeuvrability among the opposition, sheer lack of threat in the final third, and complete lack of confidence across the whole pitch.
Having said that though, there is simply more to this somewhat out-casted Hammers man than initially meets the eye…
During his first year with the club throughout the 2012/13 season, Modibo Maiga may not have set the Premier League alight by any means, but he equally didn’t falter outright either.
With his neat finish in a 4-1 win at home to Southampton perhaps going down as his finest moment that campaign, the current Metz forward displayed a seemingly sharp eye for goal, quick feet in and around the box, and some promising quality on the odd occasion, during the start of his West Ham career.
Yes, the good moments were certainly fleeting for Maiga that year. He obviously didn’t quite turn out to be the instant hit many of the Upton Park faithful rather wishfully thought he’d prove, but he nevertheless showed promise – and if he was played in the right way – he looked likely to show more of that in the not too distant future.
Even though he was given his chance in the first team thanks to another injury to Andy Carroll the following season however, 2013/14 was a complete right off for the struggling front-man.
Many Hammers fans quickly turned on his back – some even going as far as booing his name as it was read out of the start of each match – for the disappointing level of performance he’d turn out on a week-to week basis. Things just went from bad to worse for this once promising asset as he made his way out on loan to QPR in the Championship that January.
But once again, Sam Allardyce’s tactics throughout this whole affair really didn’t help matters a great deal. Big Sam has seemingly escaped the spot-light so far throughout this discussion – but because his almost obsessive preference to start Kevin Nolan ahead of anyone else inevitably led to the team playing with only one recognised striker – Modibo Maiga was forced to operate as a solitary target-man whose primary objective was to hold up the ball up effectively instead of looking to score.
Such is the nature of Allardyce’s traditional formation, and whilst it seems futile to repeat the same old problems surrounding his approach over and over again, his role in the demise of the now somewhat forgotten Maiga deserves some evaluation at least. It was as if Big Sam thought he still had Andy Carroll in the side with the way he utilised the Malian striker.
In the club’s current situation though – where the need to play two up top has finally prevailed to a certain degree when both Sakho and Valencia have been fit – the former no. 11 could in-fact begin to thrive at Upton Park with a recognised partner in the striking department. Maiga is no hefty centre-forward after all – he is an attacker who runs the channels and tries to operate on instinct more than anything else.
He may therefore be worthy of another opportunity next season, but as more striking talent could well be on the way this summer, his chances of reappearing in a West Ham shirt ultimately look slim at best.
A surprise return from Modibo Maiga would nevertheless be an interesting one to say the least…