David Moyes has left West Ham United in a position where he must unleash academy striker Mipo Odubeko after Oladapo Afolayan joined Bolton Wanderers on loan.
Afolayan sealed a Deadline Day switch to Ian Evatt’s League Two strugglers and will see out the rest of the 2020/21 season at the University of Bolton Stadium.
It will be Afolayan’s third spell away from east London following previous moves to Oldham Athletic and Mansfield Town, and it comes after he scored on his senior West Ham debut during the Irons’ 4-0 FA Cup fourth-round win over Doncaster Rovers in January.
Bolton boss Evatt has lauded the arrival of Afolayan in a last-ditch move, noting: “He’s quick, strong and technical, and a very exciting talent that can play all along the front three.”
Afolayan’s exit further deprives Moyes of attacking options at the London Stadium following Sebastien Haller’s £20m move to AFC Ajax last month, with West Ham failing to secure the services of a replacement for the Ivory Coast international.
Alleged winter targets Joshua King – seen as Moyes’ top target – and Josh Maja both sealed Premier League transfers on Deadline Day, with the AFC Bournemouth ace joining Everton and the FC Girondins de Bordeaux forward moving to Fulham.
West Ham’s lack of activity means Michail Antonio remains the Hammers’ only recognised senior centre-forward, and Moyes in a position where he is now considering utilising winger Andriy Yarmolenko and Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard as false nines.
Yet the Irons boss does not have to consider turning to alternative solutions, as Odubeko is ready and waiting for his chance to impress in the senior fold following his first-team debut.
Odubeko’s progress was stinted following a serious hamstring injury last term and the national lockdown, meaning the striker was forced to sit out for much of the previous six months. However, Moyes awarded the 18-year-old his senior debut in the FA Cup at Stockport County and must now trust in his potential.
It was alleged during the winter transfer window that Moyes could opt to take a closer look at Odubeko after his outing in the cup, as the Hammers chief wanted to see whether or not the prolific youth forward was ready to make the step up.
Odubeko boasts an impressive record in the junior tiers, having scored 35 times for Manchester United’s academy before sealing a move to the London Stadium in October 2019. He has since fired home nine in seven U18 games in claret and blue, plus five in three with the U23s.
Moyes has kept the forward in and around the senior squad, and claimed he has “big hopes” for him, but – after losing Haller and Afolayan – it is time for the West Ham boss to put his money where his mouth is and unleash Odubeko.
The east London side certainly looked desperate for a different sort of threat from their attack against Liverpool last time out, when Antonio cut a frustrated figure and sent his only telling chance of the game wide of the post.
Obviously, Antonio is going to be Moyes’ number one striker going forwards but in terms of his Plan B options, Odubeko should be at the top of the manager’s list.