West Ham follow trend but Gianluca Scamacca brings more than just stature to Premier League
ynamic, fluid forward lines have conquered the Premier League in each of the past three seasons, and perhaps not since Chelsea’s last title win in 2016/17, when a rabid Diego Costa led the charge, have the champions relied on the spearhead of a bustling, bullying striker.
The return of their kind has been a theme of the summer window so far, however, and while West Ham can hardly claim to have matched Liverpool and Manchester City’s moves for Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland in pedigree terms, nor have similar aspirations as to where their striking upgrade might take them, the arrival of Gianluca Scamacca has at least seen the Hammers follow the trend.
At six-foot-five, the view in Italy is that Scamacca is unusually well-equipped to take what is still not an especially well-trodden path from Serie A to the Premier League (for all the one headed in the opposite direction is becoming increasingly so).
Physicality and power alone are clearly not enough to guarantee the former Sassuolo forward success in leading the line for a club hoping to disrupt the ‘Big Six’, particularly as, in Michail Antonio, West Ham already have a striker who prides himself on those exact traits and yet has glaring flaws.
But, as with Nunez and Haaland, Scamacca’s obvious possession of both attributes helps quiet the stereotypical doubt over almost any player arriving on these shores for the first time: namely that whatever other qualities they have displayed overseas – sharp finishing and intelligent link play, in Scamacca’s case – might quickly be proved worthless here should they not especially like it up ‘em.
Stature aside, it is not difficult to see why Scamacca has stood out as a touch exceptional throughout his young career.
As a schoolboy, he made the eye-catching decision to cross the divide in swapping Lazio’s academy for AS Roma’s and then ditched his homeland altogether when joining PSV Eindhoven as a 16-year-old, where he worked under the tutelage of a coach who knows a thing or two about Premier League goalscoring in Ruud van Nistelrooy.
He returned to Italy with Sassuolo in January 2017, though he did not score his first goal for the club until well over four years later, having spent almost the entirety of the interim period out on a series of loans.
The last of them, in Serie A with Genoa in 2020/21, peaked the interest of some of the country’s top clubs, while Arsenal later scouted the 23-year-old and Paris Saint-Germain were reportedly close to a deal this summer before West Ham eventually emerged as front-runners.
Scamacca’s breakthrough proper came back at Sassuolo last term, as the frontman for a side with a reputation as Italian football’s great entertainers, a team boasting the attacking talents of the likes of Domenico Berardi and Giacomo Raspadori, that scored more goals than fourth-placed Juventus but conceded more than relegated Genoa.
There was genuine variety within Scamacca’s 16 League efforts during the campaign, long-range corkers including a stunner against champions AC Milan, acrobatic volleys, commanding headers, first-time finishes and right-place tap-ins.
If there was to be a criticism of the haul, it would be a lack of consistency: he started the season with just two goals in his first 12 appearances and then finished it with three in his last eight, enjoying a prolific spell in the middle.
Antonio has been similarly streaky and the hope for David Moyes will be that the pair can share the domestic and European workload and dovetail nicely, avoiding the fatigue that saw the Jamaican’s form tail off so badly last term. The concern will come should they both hit the skids at the same time.
Scamacca’s form has catapulted him into the Italy squad and seemingly onto a fast-track towards a prominent role in it, too, as part of Roberto Mancini’s overhaul in the wake of the disastrous failure to qualify for this winter’s World Cup (which may also be to West Ham’s benefit).
He started what was a rancid, goalless Nations League game against England at Molineux last month and made little impression, but by then had already spurred the Italian press into calling for his long-term retention after an encouraging display in the 1-1 draw against Germany.
“He has everything it take to become a complete centre-forward,” Mancini said, and the hope in Italy is that they might finally unearth a striker capable of taking club form onto the international stage, after the likes of Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti never quite managed it.
Before that, he must now bring it to England.