Who is Mikel Oyarzabal? Spain’s view of the West Ham linked winger
Mikel Oyazarbal and a transfer to West Ham.
It’s not really a rumor that jumps and screams ‘I will definitely arrive’, although life under David Moyes at West Ham appears to be rosy after the club’s best start to the Premier League season.
And it’s rosy, with performances on the pitch that have increased tenfold after a change in form and style, real solidarity and a clear spirit within the team and a series of savvy transfer transactions over the course of of the last year.
What makes West Ham’s remarkable improvement under the Scotsman all the more impressive is that their resurgence has taken place against a backdrop of continued disagreement among fans and disenchantment with a perceived lack of investment. from the club owners.
The #GSBOUT movement has been in vogue on Twitter for longer than Moyes was used – a reference to many supporters’ desire to see David Sullivan, David Gold and Baroness Karren Brady leave the club – amid accusations of broken promises, club identity theft, inability to invest properly and many other things.
Recently, West Ham opted to move on to signing the record-breaking £ 45million club Sebastien Haller for less than half of what they paid 18 months previously, and at the start of the season Felipe Anderson – which at £ 35million was the club’s most expensive purchase before. The arrival of Haller – was sent on loan to FC Porto.
Now, not for the first time, the pressure is on for West Ham to put behind their truly appalling record in the last decade of signing forwards and wingers on the flop. Moyes’ desire to identify and bring in someone who fits his philosophy should help root out another major mistake, but there is understandable pessimism among supporters as players with no Premier League experience continue to be linked.
One of those linked players, who doesn’t quite fit the mold of forwards like Boulaye Dia and Patson Daka, is Real Sociedad frontman Mikel Oyarzabal, who has previously been on Pep Guardiola’s radar at Manchester City.
But in reality, very little is known about him in England, which begs the question of why West Ham might be interested in making a deal. To answer this, we contacted our man in Spain, Andrew Headspeath, to discover one of the best talents in La Liga.
On paper, Oyarazabal is a left winger, but he’s not really.
He plays from the left for Real Sociedad, but his role is much freer than your traditional winger and he uses his wide stance to drift and affect play, while also going down deep and playing occasionally as a center forward.
Essentially, he’s at the heart of all that’s good for La Real. With double digits in each of his last three seasons, he currently has seven goals and four assists in 14 La Liga appearances in 2020/21. Although still young, he truly is the creative leader of the team.
In terms of characteristics typical of wide players, he is not lightning fast, but he is a good passer, a very hard worker and most importantly can play anywhere during the attack. These hard-working traits are something West Ham fans will experience in Pablo Fornals, but Oyarzabal’s ceiling and potential is higher.
It has been suggested that Spain manager Luis Enrique might even use it as a false nine in the future, and he’s a lot more of a Jack Grealish and David Silva than to say Raheem Sterling or Sadio Mane.
Oyarzabal has a contract that runs until 2024 and absolutely won’t be cheap.
His contract is said to have a € 75million release clause, but it is debatable whether that would be enough to tempt him.
Back in June, amid links to Man City who 90 mins First reported in November 2019, he said: “I am happy where I am, I feel loved. People talk too much, I want to focus on trying to do my best, like I have done so far, and continue playing here at Real. I am where I want to be.
Real Sociedad also have a good chance of playing Champions League football this season, while West Ham – as good as so far – don’t.
In short, probably.
It’s always difficult to predict exactly how human beings, with all their unique idiosyncrasies, would adapt to different circumstances, but Oyarzabal certainly has the raw ingredients to be successful anywhere.
Smart, technically gifted and goal-oriented strikers will always be welcome in England – especially hard-working ones. Adapting to culture and physicality would be the only potential stumbling block – even if the Basque Country isn’t exactly known to be sunny and mild.
Like Grealish, Oyarzabal would benefit from being the team’s creative center rather than just another attacking option.
Moyes actually gave Oyarzabal his first-team debut in October 2015 when he was manager of Real Sociedad, although he left when the youngster scored his first goals in early 2016.
We know that West Ham’s success this season has been built on working hard for another, managing the chains and relying on Tomas Soucek for success in the air. Oyarzabal play for a team that tends to have more ball – Real Sociedad averaging 54.7% possession in 2020/21 – and La Real don’t tend to play too many slick passes or long balls.
West Ham averaged just 41.4% possession and before Haller’s departure the proportion of balls slicked forward was significant – not only for the Ivorian but also for Jarrod Bowen to run in the canals. It’s not really a suitable style for Oyarzabal, no matter how hard he can work out of possession.
Oyarzabal is doing well in La Liga, has no real or immediate desire to leave Real Sociedad and has the opportunity to return the club to the Champions League. It would take something extraordinary for West Ham to gain the upper hand over other potential suitors, of whom he will have a lot because of his quality.
Signing him would be smart from an ambition standpoint, but West Ham, sadly, is not the team to help him realize his potential. Oyarzabal is good enough to play for a tough side for the titles, moving to Manchester City – for example – much more likely later.