Ex-Chelsea player Ike Ugbo has quiet evening in Lens as West Ham could copy their French counterpart
From Alessandro Schiavone at Stade Bollaert
Chelsea’s Iko Ugbo didn’t enjoy his most prolific game since making the loan spell from Genk to Estac de Troyes permanent last month.
His side got beaten by Lens with les Sang et Or climbing to the top of the Ligue 1 standings thanks to a 1-0 win at Stade Bollaert.
Ugbo told Capital Football that he dreams of returning to English football one day. But yesterday he endured a complex evening against Danso, Medina, Gradit and company in Northern France before being hooked at the break.
The Canadian, who plays as a winger these days, told Capital Football: “I’ve settled in well at Troyes. I am still getting back to match fitness.
“I’ve been off this summer but it’s easier coming back to a team that you know, after playing with them last season.
“We are going to do better things. This league is very physical and there’s a lot of good quality, especially in Paris and Lens.”
West Ham, a team still search of an identity after a busy summer transfer window, which has seen the injection of SEVEN first teamers, could look up to high-flying Lens, the last club they faced in during a busy transfer window.
Nothing could separate the two heralded clubs when they met in a friendly game at Stade Bollaert-Delelis. Jarrod Bowen came close to sealing a win but for his effort to strike the woodwork at the death on July 30.
Yet ever since David Moyes and Haize have endured contrasting fortunes.
While Lens went on to win five of their seven Ligue 1 games, including a 4-1 trashing of Monaco, drawing the other two the Hammers have been on the receiving end of FOUR reversals and one stalemate in six.
And that despite the massive gulf in quality. Lens do not have game-changers like Bowen, Declan Rice or Michail Antonio. But they are well drilled and harder to break down.
Against Troyes, Les Sang et Or rampaged upfield in numbers and created a host of chances.
Belgian hotshot Lois Openda, hit the post as the game was only a few minutes old.3e
Other chances went begging before Kevin Danso headed Frankowski’s inviting cross home in the 39th minute.
Austrian Danso, who had a nightmare spell at Southampton in the Premier League a few seasons ago, did what Craig Dawson, West Ham’s dead ball specialist does best when he plays.
And it’s the former Watford player’s absence, through injury, that the Hammers are feeling the most.
The Englishman, who scored four goals in 44 appearances last year, is one of the best headers of the balls in the Premier League among defenders.
Italian stalwart Angelo Ogbonna has a knack for popping up at the other end and scoring goals with his head. But the juggernaut’s last strike came against Everton in November last year before being ruled out with a season-ending injury.
Kurt Zouma is more renowned for his defensive skills than goalscoring instinct, having so far grabbed a single goal in 39 outings for West Ham.
But for West Ham to get back to the levels of last season, something has to change, such as the defenders having to rediscover their killer instinct in the box to guarantee vital points.
If anyone can do what Danso did last night, then who better than Ogbonna and Dawson?
Incidentally, either side of Danso’s winner, Lens’ lack of clinical edge was the only stick to beat them with. But having found the back of the net only three times in 540 minutes, West Ham are hardly in a position to offer any advice.
Ex-Chelsea academy ace Ugbo had an evening to forget as he lost all of the five duels which he was involved in. But that was particularly down to the opposition’s resolute defending and Troyes’ overall problems to threaten the hosts.
Florian Sotoca, who has netted five Ligue 1 this season and teeing up another three is on his way to matching his best-ever top-flight return, standing at eight.
Michail Antonio and Gianluca Scamacca, floored by a virus, have one league goal between them. Too little.
Be it individually or as a unit, West Ham and Lens are worlds apart these days.
Lens had more chances to double Troyes’ troubles and kill off the game. But Sotoca’s header from range was tipped onto the crossbar by Gallon.
Openda then was equally thwarted by an excellent fingertip save from Gallon after fending off the challenge of Porozo minutes later.
Troyes barely threatened. Be it for the absence of quality in their ranks, a lack conviction and Lens’ brilliance at keeping the ball.
No one knows how West Ham would fare with this on-paper strong team in Ligue 1 while it’s highly unlikely Lens would occupy Arsenal's position in the English top tier or contest the crown with Man City.
But as things stand, and with either side finishing seventh in their respective campaigns last year, Lens are more than a match for the Hammers.
While Haize gets the best out of practically everybody, Moyes has yet to prove he can follow suit with more talented players to pick from this term after performing heroics in the last two-and-a-half campaigns.
The Hammers are currently third-from-bottom and need an upturn of performance as quickly as possible.
And after their game against Newcastle was called off due to the Queen’s passing, Moyes could use that time to study Lens’ cohesion, and inject some of their unit and spirit into his own disjointed side.
Who have never looked the same since being eliminated from the Europa League in Frankfurt last spring.
Football games are won with ideas, courage and a game plan. And while Lens have plenty, West Ham need some in large supply.