When football clubs are battling for their lives and doing everything they possibly can to stave off relegation or even just get out of a tricky situation, it is often remarked that they need a player capable of the extraordinary. Someone who can inspire his team-mates and lead from the front.
West Ham found themselves in such a situation earlier this season, when two wins from their first 12 Premier League games left fans alarmed and Slaven Bilic clinging on to his job. The Croatian looked to be toast, with even some of the supporters calling for his head.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez is the man West Ham want, if they decide to sack Slaven Bilic. [via @MirrorFootball] pic.twitter.com/qEsdSSXcYy
— West Ham News (@WHUFC_News) December 11, 2016
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Although the 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester United on Monday was their second loss in a row, the worst seems to be behind them. Bilic’s job isn’t on the line – at the moment – and three wins and a draw in four matches before the two recent losses has helped them up the table.
And they deserve praise for that, because their improvement has had little to do with their best player – the man who can do no wrong even while flirting with other clubs.
Dimitri Payet has been poor. His six assists from 18 games is not an awful tally by any stretch, but his sum of two goals should be higher and he has simply gone missing when West Ham have really needed him.
Does anyone else wonder how much Paul Merson actually follows football when he’s not sat on Soccer Saturday? pic.twitter.com/3jjRvenx8U
— Ball Street (@BallStreet) January 3, 2017
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Paul Merson amused the world of Twitter recently when suggesting West Ham should sell him for £30m and buy Anthony Martial for £20m. The Sky Sports court jester has no idea what he is on about with regards to the latter, but in essence he does have a point.
At 29, Payet won’t hold his value for much longer and probably could still command a fee of about £30m. He is, technically, a very good player, few will deny this, but this season he has regularly lacked presence in attack and often looked completely disinterested.
Take the defeat to United for example. Although the early sending off of Sofiane Feghouli was harsh, if anything it actually helped West Ham initially – they were the better side until half-time.
Mark Halsey on TalkSport: “When Mike pulled out a red card, I thought it was going to be for Phil Jones!” pic.twitter.com/QhldibVyre
— West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central) January 2, 2017
But Payet went missing and offered nothing.
While everyone else in the West Ham team seemed to find an extra gear, Payet lost interest. He shied out of challenges and 50/50s, while Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini were far more effective in attack.
Don’t agree? Then why was it Payet who was sacrificed for the painfully one-dimensional Andy Carroll with West Ham just 1-0 down and still chasing a result?
For once, perhaps Paul Merson actually made a good point. Well, half a good point.
Dimitri Payet ‘staying’ at ⚒West Ham amid talk of imminent £30m bid from Marseille?? https://t.co/MDWCCA85AT
— Standard Sport (@standardsport) January 3, 2017
West Ham, in dire need of reinforcements in several positions, could do a lot worse than to get as much money for Payet while they still can.
And with Marseille – fresh from a major injection of cash – reportedly sniffing around and readying a £30m bid, perhaps that opportunity is just around the corner.
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