David Moyes delivered a masterclass at West Ham United with the capture of Vladimir Coufal in October.
The former SK Slavia Prague right-back moved to the London Stadium for £5.5m just three days before the transfer market slammed shut for Premier League sides.
Moyes was on the hunt for a new option in the position after losing Ryan Fredericks due to a hamstring injury against Wolverhampton Wanderers and he targeted Coufal after tracking the Czech Republic international, and ex-club mate of Tomas Soucek, for a while.
The Irons boss described Coufal as “the type of player we want” as the 28-year-old is “hungry, ambitious and determined,” but accepted that he would need time to settle before proving what he could offer in claret and blue.
But it did not take too long for the 12-cap full-back to demonstrate his worth to the Hammers, with Moyes naming Coufal as his Man of the Match for restricting Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha during December’s draw with the Selhurst Park natives.
He again produced a superb performance as West Ham beat Aston Villa 3-1 on their travels in February, helping to keep a lid on Jack Grealish beside Fredericks. After that game, football.london claimed it would cost four times as much as the Irons paid if any side wished to take Coufal away from the London Stadium now.
Dean Smith even had to move Grealish to the opposing flank and later through the centre of the field to try and get his captain into the game. And it was a similar story on Saturday, as Coufal kept Manchester City’s €23m (£21m) summer signing Ferran Torres quiet.
The ex-Valencia winger earned the joint-lowest SofaScore match rating by a Sky Blues player with a 6.5 out of 10, and he was taken off by Pep Guardiola just after the hour mark having made little impact.
Torres took two shots but only directed one on target, while he was unable to deliver a single cross and he lost five of his eight ground duels. Riyad Mahrez attempted four crosses, two shots and won four of his five ground duels on the opposing flank up against Ben Johnson.
Coufal played a key role in Torres’ troubles, with the defender – who Moyes has described as “unbelievable” – covering every blade of grass on the right-hand side of the Irons’ territory, but with the confidence to push forward.
It was from the right-back’s cross that Michail Antonio scored the Hammers’ initial equaliser, too, with Jesse Lingard only able to divert the Czech sensation’s delivery toward the back post for a tap in.
Coufal also won seven of his 12 ground duels and registered a match-high three key passes, far eclipsing his average 1.3 goalscoring chances created and four ground duels won per game in the Premier League this season.
Grealish offers the most key passes per game in the top-flight with 3.45 along with the most ground duels won (8.5), a category in which Coufal ranks second only to Arthur Masuaku at the London Stadium among players who have featured on five or more occasions.
West Ham could have been far weaker at right-back this season if Moyes had not pursued a deal for Coufal in the summer, with his decision consistently proving to have been a masterclass in the transfer market.