West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce has backed comparisons of summer singing Cheikhou Kouyate to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, following the 24-year-old’s impressive Premier League debut against Tottenham Hotspur.
Signed from Anderlecht in June for a fee believed to be around £7 million, the imposing Senegal international spent much of the 2013-14 campaign at centre-back but was moved back into his more natural holding midfield role upon arriving at Upton Park.
Boasting Champions League pedigree, as well as a record of four titles won in six seasons while in Belgium, the 6 ft 4in powerhouse was one of the club’s standout performers in the 1-0 defeat to their London rivals and the Hammers boss believes there’s much more to come from him.
‘I can see why Cheikhou Kouyate has already been likened to Patrick Vieira —just look at his size and the way he moves,’ he wrote in the London Evening Standard.
‘I thought he was our man-of-the-match against Tottenham last week and I, for one, would be delighted if he came close to emulating Patrick’s consistent level of performance.
‘It was a brilliant debut and one which you don’t see too often in the Premier League. Normally, when players first come here from abroad, they’re shouting for pure oxygen because they struggle to cope with the sheer intensity of our game.
‘Apart from right at the end against Spurs, when he did go down for a rest after yet another run, his fitness was superb — and infectious because the rest of the players will be saying to themselves: “Come on, I’ve got to get up there with him.”
‘They’re not going to want to be shown up by the new kid on the block and that’s very encouraging for me, not only from his point of view but because of what he will drag out of the rest of the players.’
The comparisons to Vieira are obviously somewhat overblown at this point, but another solid outing away at Crystal Palace on Saturday is only going to further fuel such associations.