Looking Closer: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

In this weekend’s news, Stoke City have been tipped to complete the capture of powerful forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. He looks to be the one chosen to attempt to fill the void left by Marko Arnautovic, who left for West Ham earlier this Summer. Replacing a £25m player with someone who would arrive on a free transfer seems underwhelming; but I’ve had the pleasure of watching Choupo-Moting play live during his final season at Schalke and I think that there’s potential for Stoke fans to find themselves a new hero. In a world where the most expensive footballer has just been sold for £200m, could Stoke have solved a host of problems within the forward line with a free transfer? It could prove to be a very smart piece of business in a world of footballing madness.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is a 28 year old Cameroonian international who most recently played for Schalke. He’s spent his entire playing career in Germany and has never moved permanently for a transfer fee in his career. His professional career has included graduating from the Hamburger SV youth system, a loan spell at FC Nuremberg, spending three years at Mainz before completing his most recent spell at Schalke. Choupo-Moting has been known to play at striker and, most recently, on the left wing; he has scored 45 goals and notched 22 assists in 204 Bundesliga appearances. He’s also represented Cameroon 43 times, scoring 13 goals in the process and appearing in two World Cups.

Choupo-Moting is an very rounded forward with plenty of positive attributes. He’s 6ft 3in tall, more than willing to get involved physically if required and has been known to produce some tidy headed goals in his career. His physique doesn’t compromise his athleticism, his quick bursts of pace has provided his teams with a powerful outlet when probing opposing defences. He’s able to utilise that blend of pace and power to both break himself away from a back four to collect the ball in-behind the defence and also produce surging runs with the ball at his feet to beat his man. He’s also capable of producing brilliant goals and is able to finish emphatically with either foot, although favouring his right foot. Although not having the highest goals-to-game-ratio; when Eric does score, his goals have an air of composure about them, despite the power he can also put behind a football. He has been trusted to take penalties at his former clubs: an indicator of his level-headedness in front of goal. Off the ball, Choupo-Moting is also recognised for his good workrate, using his physicality when his team aren’t in possession whilst also looking to create an outlet when they do.

Despite the positives, Choupo-Moting comes with his negatives. The most prominent of those being his offside awareness; his eagerness to break the backline is often penalised when defences try to counteract his playstyle and exploit his apparent lack of discipline in his area. He also appears to thrive off confidence: many of his strikes occur during veins of good goalscoring form and has often endured long stints without scoring. Being more of an inside forward, even from the left wing, Eric isn’t known for being a box of tricks and can sometimes be vacant of ideas should his team require something spectacular from out wide. Finally, although having a comparatively clean health-record, Choupo-Moting does have a history of knee injuries. Suffering from damage, lacerations and cruciate ligament problems on three occasions in the past, all of which have resulted in extended spells on the sidelines.

In this perplex moment in time for Stoke City, it appears that the team are gearing up towards a three at the back approach, with three attackers. Marko Arnautovic has vacated a crucial role within that potential system and it has been touted that Ramadan Sobhi would be the man required to step up to the plate. Choupo-Moting is, by capability and mindset, more suited than Ramadan to the inside forward role that the 3-4-3 formation requires. If in form, Eric could become the knife-edge that Stoke have been lacking for so long with his powerful forward charges and his neat goalscoring techniques. However, Choupo-Moting would certainly not eclipse Ramadan’s impact on the team: should Eric’s form dip, Ramadan would be more than capable of filling the boots of the Cameroonian. Even if Choupo-Moting does occupy that left-sided forward, Ramadan could still find a place at left wing back; using his willingness to track back and exploiting his out-and-out winger style of play. Choupo-Moting also offers a striker alternative should Stoke’s main frontman falter; a role vacated by Jon Walters after his departure.

Away from Choupo-Moting’s technical contribution to the team, his signing could ultimately prove to have brought a huge lift to Stoke City and their fans. Those connected to the club were naturally both gutted and concerned when star forward Marko Arnautovic took off for West Ham in a club-record sale this Summer. His quantitative contribution, his undeniable flair and his notorious personality off-the-field gave fans plenty to cheer about. Choupo-Moting has all the raw abilities and traits, on paper, to replicate those qualities that Arnautovic brought to Stoke City. This is also another opportunity to showcase their trend of being able to pick up players who have lost their way at former clubs and grant them a platform to redeem and prove themselves. It’s a story Stoke fans can’t help but fall in love with, and we’ve got a chance for it to happen all over again.

Choupo-Moting’s arrival has so much promise surrounding it. It’s providing quality depth to areas in which Stoke have found themselves threadbare in after a Summer exodus. It’s a signing which offers support to the weight on young Ramadan Sobhi’s shoulders without hindering the Egyptian’s development prospects. He offers multiple genuine deployment options during a period of uncertain transition. He gives plenty of raw attacking talent which, under the right circumstances, could evolve Eric into a new talismanic figure. He brings composure, directness and drive, aerial prowess, relentless workrate, a thirst to prove himself and excitement: examples of just some of the things that Stoke City have been void off over the last 18 months. On the face of it, Choupo-Moting’s arrival may seem underwhelming given the devastation Marko Arnautovic left behind. In the worst case, the signing is generally low-risk; in the best case, Stoke may have just pulled off one of the more valuable pieces of business in the Premier League this transfer window.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Good job the club shop don’t charge shirt printing by the letter, eh?

Written by Ben Rowley

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