Josh Maja delivered David Moyes an instant wakeup call by scoring twice on his first Fulham start, after West Ham United chose against signing the FC Girondins de Bordeaux striker on loan.
The Hammers had approached Maja’s parent club during the January transfer window to discuss a potential deal for the 22-year-old, as efforts were made to find a replacement for Sebastien Haller.
It was thought the Nigerian forward was an alternative to Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri after seeing a £27m bid turned down, but Maja later sealed a half-season move to Craven Cottage that features a £9m option for Scott Parker’s side to turn permanent in the summer.
Moyes revealed after February 1’s Deadline Day that he had ultimately decided not to reinvest the £20m made from Haller’s move to AFC Ajax, as he felt there was not a player on the market who would have represented good value for money.
“It has been well documented that we don’t have a lot of other options, we’re well aware of that and we chose to do it. I didn’t want to waste £15-20m on something I wasn’t sure about, so that was the option I chose to take,” Moyes said, via quotes by Goal.
But Maja did not need long to deliver Moyes an instant wakeup call, as the Fulham loanee struck a game-winning brace away to top-four hopefuls Everton on Sunday to show the threat he could have brought to the London Stadium.
Parker had awarded Maja his Cottagers debut from the bench against West Ham earlier in the month, though was unable to break the deadlock during his 11 minutes on the field as the two sides played out a goalless draw.
Yet he was clearly feeling his way into a new system and that continued during the first half at Goodison Park over the weekend, but the London-born striker came alive in the second period to score twice in 17 minutes and give Fulham reason to believe survival is possible.
Only Aleksandr Mitrovic during a 4-3 defeat to Leeds United in September had scored twice in a single Premier League fixture for Fulham this season, while only three Cottagers players have now scored more than Maja all term.
Maja got his goals at Goodison Park through being in the right place at the right time, with his first coming after peeling off Mason Holgate to drift in unchallenged for an easy tap in at the back post.
He brought more than just a goalscoring touch to a toothless side, as well, as Maja further defended from the front to keep the pressure on the Toffees with two interceptions – only Harrison Reed (3) made more for the Cottagers – as well as one successful tackle from two attempts, per WhoScored.
Michail Antonio rarely defends from the front for West Ham to such a degree with the 30-year-old averaging just 0.3 interceptions and 0.3 successful tackles from 0.4 challenges a game in the Premier League this term.
He also records fewer shots (2.4) and on-target efforts (1.1) than Maja (2/3) struck at Everton so, clearly, the Nigeria international could have offered something to West Ham’s season based on his first telling run in the Fulham side.
Maja’s goals against the Toffees would have handed Moyes a painful reminder of what could have been had he managed to secure a deal for the 5 foot 11 starlet.