Why Ajax’s Joel Veltman would be a brilliant fit at West Ham
Last season’s first signing on a free transfer for West Ham, Ryan Fredericks has started the new Premier League campaign as the club’s undisputed first-choice right-back. He started the third game in succession in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Watford.
To make things clear, the 26-year-old failed to impress and put in a questionable performance for the Hammers once again.
Fredericks’ deputy, Pablo Zabaleta, 34, signed a new contract at the London Stadium at the end of last season, as Manuel Pellegrini wanted to keep him at the club. But the Argentinean is past his prime and is no longer the force he once was in his prime.
In fact, he isn’t apparently competing with Fredericks for the right-back spot, giving the former Fulham man a free run in Pellegrini’s starting XI.
In July, the Daily Mail had claimed that West Ham were interested in signing Ajax defender Joel Veltman during the summer transfer window.
The Ajax star was open to leaving Amsterdam this summer, but a move didn’t materialise. However, Pellegrini should reignite his interest in Joel Veltman and try signing in January.
Veltman, 27, was on the treatment table for large quarters of this last season to nurse an ACL injury that he had suffered towards the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
However, he returned to action for Ajax in February and made 14 appearances in all competitions, as Erik ten Hag’s side clinched the Eredivisie title and made it all the way through to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The 27-year-old is a product of the famed Ajax academy, noted for his versatility to play in multiple positions across the backline. Essentially a right-back by trade, he is equally adept at playing as a centre-back and he has played both roles to excellence for Ajax for the years.
Veltman’s major strengths are his energy, positional awareness and understanding of the game. He can whip in some delightful crosses from the right flank and is a proper modern-day right-back, comfortable with the ball at his feet and more than capable of carrying it out from the back.
The Dutchman can hold his own at the back, possessing the defensive abilities to nullify the danger before it becomes grave.
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However, the physicality of the Premier League might trouble the 27-year-old a bit. But, he has the experience of playing at the big stages before so that should also be a big plus for West Ham.
With Zabaleta coming to the end of his career, the Hammers should be wise to invest in a new right-back in January to compete with Fredericks.
And Veltman would be the right fit, as the Dutchman’s defensive prowess, experience, versatility and leadership qualities could make a lot of difference for the east London outfit.