Since first arriving at the Boleyn Ground in the summer of 2014, Senegal’s Cheikhou Kouyate has certainly gone down as a strong standout favourite among the Upton Park faithful.
Via his forceful performances in the middle of the park, keen prowess when running at defenders with tenacious style, as well as his impressive ability to crop up with the odd important goal here and there, the 25-year-old midfielder has most definitely achieved a promising start to his career among the English top-flight.
However, with the vast competition for places currently circulating among Salven Bilic’s squad at West Ham, players like Kouyate seemingly aren’t guaranteed a solid role in their manager’s starting XI with every passing week. The Hammers are doing their best to move on from the days of Sam Allardyce by crafting a well-balanced squad that could potentially take on many different forms and approaches as the 2015/16 campaign plays out.
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So then, with Alex Song likely returning to the first team fold at Upton Park sooner rather than later, should Bilic consider dropping Cheikhou Kouyate in the not too distant future?
Although selection head-aches can often prove a positive thing for any top-flight manager looking to do the business with his side domestically, the one currently served on Slaven Bilic’s plate remains rather tricky to say the very least.
The Croatian tactician usually opts to play two holding players with three attacking outlets placed directly ahead of them within his traditional five man midfield. With the likes of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang and Alex Song all seemingly vying for the same spot two spots at Upton Park, some members of the current Hammers squad will admittedly have to be let down when push comes to shove.
As the newly installed captain of West Ham in the club’s last ever season at the Boleyn Ground, Mark Noble simply can’t be dropped from the first team fold under Bilic any time soon. The long-term favourite among the Upton Park faithful clearly represents the most ardent leader within the Hammers set-up. Although he admittedly has his own respective shortcomings, Noble ultimately represents a player very few West Ham fans would want to see missing from the starting XI.
Yet now former Arsenal star and current Barcelona loanee – Alex Song – is fast approaching his much anticipated return to first team action for the Hammers, Bilic seemingly finds himself with another central-midfield option who can’t be dropped to the subs bench either. Song is undoubtedly one of the most technically gifted players of his kind operating at the Boleyn Ground this term, so he also can’t miss out if West Ham want to continue their fine start to the 2015/16 campaign.
Cheikhou Kouyate therefore seems the most likely name to make way for the former Cameroonian international upon returning to the starting XI. Although Kouyate remains a Hammers favourite for all his exploits in claret & blue, the former Anderlecht man has in-fact drifted out of several key matches this season – especially against the lower ranked Premier League sides. The 25-year-old giant midfield enforcer hasn’t yet managed to establish the perfect working relationship with Mark Noble in the middle, as both players seemingly overlap one-another.
However, whilst such an evaluation would have certainly made sense just a few short days ago, news of Dimitri Payet’s potential three month lay-off could well scrap all of Slaven Bilic’s previous plans. The Hammers boss may now look to playing three central midfielders in light of Payet’s upcoming absence, with just two attacking options ahead of his enforcers in the middle of the park.
The likes of Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses could well keep their places within the starting XI behind Diafra Sakho up-top, leaving each of Mark Noble, Alex Song and Cheikhou Kouyate in place to keep things solid for the time being. Although the loss of Dimitri Payet will certainly prove a big one for the Hammers, Bilic at least has a vast degree of options available to him that many other Premier League managers would love to call their own.
Therefore, whilst Cheikhou Kouyate perhaps deserved a little time off in light of his fluctuating performances this season, the Senegalese battler could well maintain his spot in Slaven Bilic’s first team plans now that the Hammers must push on without their star man on board.