West Ham: Bilic happy to keep star man; four players qualify for AFCON
The Evening Standard carry quotes from Slaven Bilic who is delighted that the club managed to keep hold of Dimitri Payet. There were fears that elite clubs would be interested in the midfielder due to his performances for France at the Euros. Although France failed to win the tournament, Payet was one of the stars, contributing three goals and two assists across the seven matches. This is what Bilic said to the official site regarding Payet:
“It is key for us if he can produce his best form again. He has the qualities that the best players have and can help change a game. They are influencing their team-mates and opponents.
“He makes the team play better and everyone around him is benefitting. The team recognised that last season.
“It is crucial that he stayed. It’s crucial that he comes back fit and that he tries to produce what he was doing last year.”
There is no doubt that Payet is the key man for West Ham, which has become more evident during the first three matches of the season. He has played just 23 minutes in the Premier League and West Ham have struggled to create clear cut chances without him. It was a coup for West Ham to keep him at the club and they now need him to get back to his best on the pitch. If he can do that, there is no reason why West Ham can’t challenge for a top six finish.
An interesting story that has surfaced over the international break is that Jamie Vardy came close to joining West Ham a few years ago. It was during Sam Allardyce’s tenure, and the Express report these quotes from Vardy:
“When I first arrived for the squad, the manager told me a little story of when I was at Fleetwood and their manager was trying to get him to sign me at West Ham,”
“The good thing is the new manager wants to make it as much as if we were just at normal clubs,”
“One of the main things is making it enjoyable.”
This highlights how highly regarded Vardy was even when he was at Fleetwood. His rise to become a Premier League winner was a surprise to many, but those in the game knew of his potential. Vardy’s story has been perfect and he will have no regrets about not joining West Ham, but the East London club will wish that they had pushed harder for the striker. They have had striking issues since returning to the Premier League and Vardy could have been the perfect solution.
Senegal, Ghana and Algeria all confirmed their place at the African Cup of Nations during the international break. This will mean that Cheikhou Kouyate, Diafra Sakho, Andre Ayew and Sofiane Feghouli are all set to miss the start of 2017 domestically. Although West Ham knew the possibility of this happening, it will be a blow and they might struggle during that period. They are well stocked in the attacking areas, but losing Kouyate will be damaging as he is excellent in the transition phase and West Ham don’t have an obvious replacement in their squad.
This has always been the problem with buying African players and not many sides in the Premier League will have more than West Ham’s four. At the moment, only one of the four is playing regularly for West Ham, but Feghouli and Ayew are both expected to feature prominently for the first team when they return from injury.
If all four do get picked for their respective nations, West Ham may be forced into the transfer market to add cover to their squad.
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