West Ham has enjoyed an exciting start to life under former centre-back Slaven Bilic. The Hammers are currently sixth in the Premier League table, just five points behind league leaders Manchester City.
At times this season the Hammers have been scintillating to watch and their football has attracted praise from many a pundit.
However, the Hammers may have just hit a bump in the road this season, as star French playmaker Dimitri Payet has sustained an ankle injury which is expected to keep him out of action until February.
The injury was sustained in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Everton at the Boleyn Ground, as James McCarthy’s poor tackle from behind took out the former-Marseille star.
The Republic of Ireland international probably should have seen red for the challenge, but the implications of the tackle are far worse than the Hammers just playing against ten men and could curtail West Ham’s bright start to the campaign.
A key loss
Slaven Bilic’s style of play is based on possession based counter-attacking football and Payet is the hub of all of the Hammers attacking play. The French international has produced five goals and four assists so far, but more importantly is that vital link between the Hammers midfield and attack.
Payet was fast becoming one of the most impressive signings of the summer transfer window, but much to the frustration of everybody at West Ham he will now have to sit out the next couple of months on the sidelines.
Not only will his goal threat be missing, but I get the sense that Bilic’s whole success this season with the Hammers has been based on Payet being the key to their winning formula. Without Payet the Hammers are not going to be as effective going forward it’s as simple as that.
Can others step-up?
In the summer in an attempt to perfect his playing style and tactics, Bilic bought in a host of attacking midfielders, Payet included. The Croatian knew that what he needed to make his time in the East End successful.
He needed creative and quick players. In Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses he got exactly that. The pair will now have to step-up to fill the almost unfillable gap left behind by Payet’s absence.
Lanzini is one of the strangest stories I have ever heard. The 22-year-old arrived as an unknown from UAE Arabian Gulf League club Al Jazira. I must not have been the only person to think he cannot be that such a talent if he was plying his trade in such a low standard league.
However, Lanzini has impressed in his short Hammers career. The former-River Plate star has scored three times, including the opener against Everton on Saturday and produced two assists.
He looks like a very skilful player with a real chance to make it big in European football, but I am left wondering how such a promising young South American talent ended up in the UAE league. Lanzini is only on-loan at the club, so the Hammers will be keen to see off the circling vultures by completing a permanent transfer in January.
Moses is a real enigma. At times the Nigerian international can look like a world beater, at other times he looks like he would struggle to tie his shoe laces, let alone tie a full-back in knots.
The Chelsea loanee will turn 25 next month, but has yet to fulfil his potential in loan spells at Liverpool and Stoke. He it seems he will not get a chance at Chelsea, but has looked lively for the Hammers this season.
There is a feeling that Moses just needs the right club and manager to drag that much needed consistency out of him. He has scored once and produced three assists this season. West Ham fans will be hoping that he can find some consistency for the rest of the campaign.
Struggle for creativity
Dimitri Payet is a cut above any of the other West Ham attacking midfielders and it will be hard for the Hammers to sustain their current run of form without his services. Any team would struggle to produce on a consistent basis without their star player, just ask Manchester City.
Slaven Bilic’s team is not full of creative midfielders, despite Lanzini and Moses’ decent starts to their West Ham careers. Unfortunately for the very affable Hammers, I fear that Payet’s injury may just lead to a lack a creatively in their team and a stop to their high-flying adventures this season.
Will Dimitri Payet’s injury curtail West Ham’s progress under Slaven Bilic?