When West Ham brought Tomas Soucek to East London last January, it’s safe to say that not many eyebrows were raised.
The Irons were creeping into a relegation dog fight so on paper, signing an unknown quantity probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
However, the Czech Republic international has turned into a star and has cemented himself as one of the first names on the team sheet.
Indeed, it’s a testament to his play that he’s managed to secure that tag, especially when the Hammers have Declan Rice at their disposal too.
Soucek was signed on an initial loan deal but after scoring three goals in the second half of last season, David Moyes made the move permanent.
The fee West Ham paid was a mere snip, as they splashed out £15m on a midfielder who has become one of the most dominant in the Premier League. After bringing him back to the London Stadium, Soucek has racked up five goals in 19 top-flight outings this term.
It’s a brilliant record for a player in his position but it’s not just his goals that have made this a dream deal.
The 25-year-old has nearly doubled his value in the space of six months and is now rated at £27m via Transfermarkt, putting in combative performances from West Ham’s central areas.
He is a rampaging force, using his wiry frame to hurdle towards the penalty area for a late arrival, or just race back and recover possession for his team.
In 2020/21, Soucek has won a colossal 6.1 aerial duels per game. That’s a tally that usurps every single player at West Ham. Furthermore, he’s strong in the challenge and has won 1.7 tackles a match. For context, only Rice, Vladimir Coufal and Fabian Balbuena have won more.
For a modern midfield player, he is perfect. The Czech born star finds himself all over the pitch, sweeping up loose balls before setting up an attack.
Based on his performances, it’s hardly a surprise to see he’s earned some rave reviews. Danny Mills typified his qualities earlier this term, saying: “I think we’re starting to see a real top-quality midfield player who gets into the box.”
Alex McLeish issued similar sentiments, claiming: “There has been some fantastic recruitment, Soucek has been an absolute steal.
“Soucek is playing out of his skin, he came from Czech Republic, Coufal too – two great acquisitions and with the other players West Ham have got, Moyes has done a great job there.”
The midfielder was nowhere close to being a marquee addition but he has turned out to be one of their most important acquisitions in years.
He is imperative to their play and has been vitally important to their turnaround this season.