West Ham hopeful Kurt Zouma-Nayef Aguerd partnership can provide platform for resurgence


Nayef Aguerd announced himself to the world almost before he had done so to east London.

Signed by West Ham from Rennes in June, by Christmas, Aguerd had played more matches for Morocco at the World Cup in Qatar than in claret and blue.

Outstanding during the Atlas Lions’ historic run at the World Cup, the centre-back offered a glimpse of why David Moyes had held him as a long-term target and eventually laid out £28million on his services last summer, only to see the first half of the 26-year-old’s debut campaign wiped out by an ankle injury suffered in pre-season.

Morocco boss Walid Regragui would have felt the same frustration as Moyes, as Aguerd missed both the quarter-final and semi-final through injury and then illness. In the four matches he started, Morocco conceded just one goal.

Quick, a fine reader of the game and stronger than his, for a centre-back, relatively gangly frame would suggest, the casual observer could have been forgiven for marking Aguerd out as primed for a Premier League move, his debut in the competition for the Hammers as a substitute against Leicester in the final game before the break being easy enough to miss.

David Moyes will hope Nayef Aguerd can form a solid West Ham partnership with Kurt Zouma (AP)
David Moyes will hope Nayef Aguerd can form a solid West Ham partnership with Kurt Zouma (AP)

A belated first League start came against Leeds at Elland Road last week, and after another successful 90 minutes in the FA Cup third-round victory over Brentford last weekend, Aguerd finally looks ready to launch his West Ham career proper.

Aguerd’s signing was due to be the next step in manager Moyes’s effort to evolve and upgrade upon an ageing backline, following on from the addition of Kurt Zouma from Chelsea 12 months earlier, but only now is the Hammers boss closing on the prospect of pairing what he has had in mind for some time as his first-choice centre-backs.

Zouma, who has been out since the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery, is closing on a return and could be in contention to face fellow strugglers Wolves on Saturday.

Short-term, that would save Moyes the headache of having to start Craig Dawson against the relegation rival he hopes to join this month, having entered the final six months of his Hammers deal.

In the long run, whether they are joined at Molineux or not until Everton visit next week, Moyes will hope a Zouma-Aguerd, right-foot, left-foot combination finally, after months of chopping and changing, brings the balance and security on which an upturn in Hammers fortunes can be built.