Even in the midst of West Ham’s worst run of form of the season midfielder Chiekhou Kouyate has stood out as one player giving his all for the cause each and every week.
Despite it being just his first Premier League season, the Senegalese international has become an integral part of Sam Allardyce’s plans – starting 26 of their 34 games this season.
He has also made an impact for PlayON managers in recent weeks. In the world of FPL betting, reasonably priced performers like Kouyate – who has scored over 1,000 pts in seven of his last ten fixtures – are vital if you want to consistently place in the money.
The midfielder’s side may be struggling at the moment, but the mountain of defensive work he gets through, coupled with his ability to find the net occasionally (four goals this season), has made him an attractive proposition to fantasy football managers.
Kouyate’s impact on the pitch is even more pronounced. He leads all Premier League midfielder with 46 clearances over the past six games. He also ranks third in interceptions (18) and second in aerial duels won (29).
Encouragingly, he has shown steady improvement in almost all categories over the season, becoming a far more effective player as he has adapted to his new surroundings.
Unfortunately, while Kouyate has grown over the course of the season the form of many of his team-mates has dropped. Alex Song and Enner Valencia, in particular, spring to mind as men who have been a pale imitation of their early season selves in recent weeks. The loss of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho to season ending injuries has also blunted a formerly potent attack.
Kouyate’s ability is not solely limited to putting out fires in defense, however. He has also managed to provide a reasonable threat going forward – notching four goals, two assists and creating fourteen chances for team-mates.
One area of weakness that is immediately apparent when watching Kouyate is his passing. It simply isn’t accurate enough, particularly when one considers that much of it is of the relatively unambitious variety. This is backed up by the stats, which show him to be completing just 79% of his passes this season – despite not attempting a single through ball all year.
However, overall, he poses a greater threat going forward than player like Nemanja Matic or Francis Coquelin, and is gaining fast on both players in terms of defensive output. If he can continue to improve his positioning, Kouyate has a chance to grow into one of the league’s better defensive midfielders.
Kouyate is not yet the finished article, nor is he likely to ever be mistaken for Lionel Messi in terms of goals or creativity, but his combination of power and aggression are an excellent fit for the Premier League and make him a valuable fantasy performer in games that reward defensive points.