West Ham’s poor form this season could be contributed to conceding too many cheap goals. Allowing gaps to open in the back line is causing the team to break into space, with the Hammers failing to react in time to defend.
Former Netherlands international Mark van Bommel has been in charge of Royal Antwerp since May 2022. He has shown heavy praise for one particular player: Alhassan Yusuf and regularly started Yusuf in the team due to his consistently good performances. Former Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld stated that Yusuf is “doing well with the right coaching.”
Yusuf previously had an opportunity to join a Premier League club in 2020. Wolves and Leicester City were both interested in signing him that year, but a move did not materialise.
Full Name: Alhassan Yusuf Abdullahi
Place of Birth: Kano, Nigeria
Club: Royal Antwerp
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Honours: 1x Allsvenskan Newcomer of the Year
Alhassan Yusuf moved to Sweden when he was 18 years old, signing a contract with IFK Göteborg soon after. He made an immediate impression and became a starter in the first team. His impact on the team earned him the Allsvenskan’s Newcomer of the Year award.
Yusuf joined Royal Antwerp in 2021 on a four-year contract, with both clubs agreeing a compensation package. He was able to experience European football for the first time and impressed the fans. Consequently, Anderlecht started to show an interest in him.
STYLE OF PLAY
Yusuf says that he mainly models his game around Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté, but he also grew up idolising Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso. Despite being a midfielder, he admits that the player who made him fall in love with football was Alan Shearer.
Yusuf’s best trait is his bombardment of players on the wing. The manager asks him to run towards the wings so that long-distance attacks can be nullified and prevent crossing. Once Yusuf gets within range of the ball, he quickly dispossesses the opponent. He has occasionally acted as a holding midfielder, a role he adapted to play in Belgium.
Although he acts as a pressing force in the team, Yusuf does not appear to be completely comfortable on the ball. He rarely keeps the ball at his feet, often choosing to get it out of play. Green Street Hammers writer James feels that Yusuf would be able to play in the Premier League if he switched to a role in a defensive back-four – preferably a centre-back. That way, he can focus solely on tackling and dispossessing without letting the ball go too far up the field.