With the season now entering its ‘climax’, it’s a pretty good time to reflect on what’s happened so far. We’ll steer clear of the now over-talked-about topsy-turvy nature of everything and instead focus on the signings that have made a difference, and one, for us in FFC Towers, has stood out above all others: Dimitri Payet.
The 28-year-old arrived at West Ham with a reputation as somewhat of a Ligue 1 journeyman following spells with Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lille and Marseille, and even though he was the top creator in French football last term, there were serious doubts surrounding his potential in the hustle and bustle of English football.
However, the doubters have been proved wrong, and then some, with Payet having been simply breath-taking in the claret and blue, with his eye for the killer pass and deadly streak in front of goal having helped the Irons to put themselves in the mix for European football in 2016/17.
So, are there any more gems waiting on the other side of the Channel for West Ham? There may be, and here are FIVE the Londoners might want to consider ahead of the looming off-season…
Following Payet’s move away from Marseille, Batshuayi has stepped into the void to become the Mediterranean outfit’s key man. The exit of fellow striker Andre-Pierre Gignac has certainly helped as its afforded the young Belgian a regular role as the focal point of the attack, but that should take nothing away from the 22-year-old, who has stepped up with aplomb.
12 Ligue 1 goals leaves Batshuayi in joint second place in the division’s scoring charts – only the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG has netted more – and reports are already claiming that West Ham are interested. The Hammers are hopeful that Payet’s success and relationship with his ex-team-mate may help them overthrow interest from Spurs, who could well be able to offer the player Champions League football in 2016/17.
Aurier’s recent social media outburst towards his PSG manager Laurent Blanc and team-mates Angel di Maria and Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have been a little unsavoury, but if West Ham are willing to overlook the misdemeanour and take a risk, the Ivorian could solve some right-back issues. The Parisians have elected to fine their man £140,000 in wages for his insulting words, but have stopped short of terminating his contract due to the 23-year-old’s value in the transfer market, which really does illustrate his quality.
The African full-back has plenty of pace, can whip in a decent cross and is certainly athletic enough for the Premier League. The Hammers may have just signed Sam Byram from Leeds, but Aurier appears to be a cut above the young Englishman.
Already being lauded as the ‘new Eden Hazard’, Boufal looks to be a player destined for the top. Like the now Chelsea man, the 22-year-old, operates on the flanks and has broken through at Lille, but unlike him he has a spiky attitude on the pitch. With seven yellow cards and two reds to his name already in league action this term, Boufal is certainly a player who won’t be intimidated physically, which bodes well for Premier League football.
With his abilities more akin to those of Payet than Michail Antonio, the Moroccan could be a good back-up option for the Frenchman, or perhaps a replacement for Manuel Lanzini should the club be unable to keep him permanently.
Montpellier’s fall from grace since that title win in 2011/12 has been worrying, but they still have a few good players floating around, even if their relegation-battlers status this term suggests otherwise. 25-year-old Algeria international Boudebouz is one, and even though he only moved to the club from Bastia last year, he could surely be tempted away from the lower echelons of the French top tier by West Ham should they display an interest.
The former Sochaux playmaker is known for his ability in the ‘No.10’ role, and his creativity could compliment the Hammers’ ranks, with the absences of Payet and Lanzini over the winter period having exposed some of the Irons’ shortcomings.
Seemingly the player everyone wanted last year, Lacazette’s stock has not since plummeted, but it’s got to the point where Newcastle are seen as genuine competitors for his signature. In truth, the Lyon man’s form has dipped a little this term, but he’s still managed 10 league goals (26% of his side’s return) and has been showing flashes of the pace and ruthless finishing that almost took the Ligue 1 trophy to Stade Gerland.
Lacazette offers a different threat to Andy Carroll, could allow Enner Valencia to drop a little deeper and would provide a partner/competition for Diafra Sakho – not a bad signing, it would seem.