FootballPremier League

Ryan Baldi: “Bowen offers a combination of skills unique among Southgate’s options for wide positions”

May 19, 2022

As Manchester City and Liverpool’s tussle for the Premier League title has threatened to go down to the wire in recent weeks, there has dangled the tantalising likelihood that one of the division’s superstars – a Kevin De Bruyne or a Mohamed Salah, a Raheem Sterling or a Sadio Mane – will provide an iconic, defining and ultimately decisive moment as the campaign approaches its crescendo.

But in the season’s penultimate week, it was the long-under-the-radar talent of a player who was 23 years old before he first tasted regular top-flight action who blew open the title race.

West Ham United’s Jarrod Bowen twice burst though Manchester City’s rear guard, racing away from Oleksandr Zinchenko, first rounding Ederson and later firing a low, left-footed finish comprehensively beyond the Brazilian goalkeeper to put his side 2-0 up at half-time at the London Stadium and throw City’s defence of their supremacy into disarray.

City fought back in the second period to salvage a draw and ensure they need just a point at home to Aston Villa on the last day of the 2021-22 season will be enough to see them retain their title. But Bowen’s destructive performance remained the afternoon’s highlight.

The attacking midfielder, who operates predominantly on the right flank but can also be stationed centrally, was signed from Hull City in the Championship in January 2020. The £25m fee raised some eyebrows at the time, but few would dispute West Ham’s bargain now.

The stats
Bowen’s brace against City took his league goals tally for the season to 12 from 35 appearances. Factoring in his returns in the Europa League and domestic cup competitions, the former Hereford player’s total rises to 18 – 10 more than he managed last season and a figure commensurate with those he was producing in the Championship that so attracted West Ham.

His two assists in the previous week’s 4-0 win over relegated Norwich at Carrow Road took his tally in the Premier League this term to 10, making him the first West Ham player to notch double digits for goals and assists in a single season since Paolo Di Canio.

“He has stepped up when we needed him,” West Ham boss David Moyes said of Bowen’s form in February. “His goals and assists have been great.

“So now what we want from Jarrod is consistency, but he has become a little bit more in control of himself and an understanding of the all-round situation. His finishing has become very good recently and he is in good form.”

Development & future
And Bowen has answered questions of his consistency, hitting six goals – including strikes against Lyon, Arsenal and City – and providing two assists in the 11 games since his return from injury in April.

West Ham face an uphill battle to retain the services of England central midfielder Declan Rice this summer. The former Chelsea academy player is reportedly a target for his former club, as well as Manchester United and others. And the Hammers have moved to tie down their captain by making him a blockbuster £200,000-a-week, eight-year contract offer that would make him far and away the highest-paid player in the club’s history.

But Rice is unlikely to be the only London Stadium star Moyes will be wrestling to retain ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, with reports suggesting Bowen’s stellar form will prompt West Ham to offer him a new deal imminently too. The club are said to be willing to more than double his current £60,000-a-week wages. As is the case with Rice, the Hammers are making such a proposal in an effort to ward off unwanted interest in their prized wide player.

“Bowen. What a player he became, unbelievable,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp enthused in a pre-match pre-conference ahead of his side’s eventual 1-0 win over West Ham in March, a game in which Bowen limped off injured and missed a month’s action as a result. Klopp’s evident admiration of the former Hull player sparked rumours that the midfielder could be a summer target for the Treble-chasing Reds.

England calling?
Much aside from the clubs looking to lay long-term claim to Bowen, though, there is one team who could call upon the 25-year-old at will, yet have thus far chosen not to – England.

Despite his stellar form this season, Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate has elected not to call Bowen – who is uncapped at all levels – into the England squad.

Harry Kane (16 goals), the internationally retired Jamie Vardy (14) and Sterling (13) are the only English players to have out-scored Bowen in the Premier League this season, and of those only Sterling plays in a comparable role. Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold (12) is the only Englishman with more assists than the West Ham star.

Thanks to his ability to break in behind defences, his work rate, robustness, creativity and deadly finishing, Bowen offers a combination of skills unique among Southgate’s options for the wide positions. And the fact he is shining outside of the Big Six clubs makes his productivity this season all the more impressive.

With a World Cup fast approaching, Bowen’s belated England call-up can’t come soon enough.