Let’s face it – after hearing the news surrounding Dimitri Payet’s potential three month injury lay-off this week – West Ham fans arguably had their worst fears realised almost as soon as the good times had seemingly just begun.
The 28-year-old French international suffered an affliction to his ankle last time out against Everton, a game in which Roberto Martinez’ men categorically set out to leave as much as they possibly could on their opposition at any given occasion.
The perpetrator of the midfielder’s recent injury set-back – the now largely condemned figure of James McCarthy – has pretty much always gone down as messy tackler, and should potentially face retrospective action in light of his rash decision to scissor-kick Payet unnecessarily in the middle of the park.
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The Premier League doesn’t need reckless players going about their business and robbing the rest of the English top-flight of some of its best performers.
However, even though the loss of someone as talented as Dimitri Payet will certainly affect Slaven Bilic’s Hammers going in to the rest of the season, West Ham can still definitely impress this term without their star-man.
One of the main reasons supporting the notion of sustained confidence in and around the Boleyn Ground this season simply arrives in the form of yet another newly acquired creative midfielder at Upton Park – 22-year-old Argentinean play-maker, Manuel Lanzini.
The former River Plate man has been an absolute revelation for West Ham this term after arriving in the Premier League on a season-long loan. West Ham are reportedly keen on tying down the midfielder on a permanent contract sooner rather than later, and it’s really not been difficult to figure out why.
Via his impressive ability to stay composed whenever the situation requires, sharp prowess just outside the penalty box and willingness to display his sheer technical ability on a regular basis – Slaven Bilic has certainly found himself yet another promising acquisition in the up and coming South American. Had Dimitri Payet not begun the 2015/16 campaign in such dazzling form for the Hammers, Manuel Lanzini could have easily gone down as the stand out player for West Ham so far this term.
Yes, it’ll obviously prove a lot tougher for the Argentinean without Payet alongside him in the attacking areas of the pitch, but as Bilic has shown himself to be a strong man-manager so far this season, perhaps this is only just the beginning for Lanzini among the English top-flight.
Another player with the chance to impress in Dimitri Payet’s potential long-term absence, would be a further new signing at Upton Park this season – former Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forrest man – Michail Antonio. The attacking wide-man, who arrived for a reported £7million fee on deadline day, has barely had an opportunity to show what he’s all about in the claret & blue thus far.
Although Antonio first arrived with a promising reputation from the Championship, Slaven Bilic is yet to utilize the 25-year-old a great deal for the Hammers. Now that both Payet and Enner Valencia remain side-lined for the foreseeable future however, the emerging Englishman may well make the most of his situation and go on to impress the Upton Park faithful greatly.
Due to the vast improvement in squad depth at West Ham over the summer, the east-enders seemingly find themselves in a much improved position than ever before. In seasons past, had the club’s marquee signing been hit with a string of injuries throughout a large portion of the respective campaign, the Hammers would have likely crumbled and faded off without much second thought. Just ask what it was like hoping to see Andy Carroll fit at the Boleyn Ground time and time again…
But with the likes of Alex Song, Mauro Zarate, Victor Moses and of course the aforementioned Carroll looking to tie down more first team opportunities with West Ham this term, Bilic certainly still has some impressive options left at his disposal, especially as Diafra Sakho will also likely be fit once again after the international break.
If the club can somehow pull together and all give that little bit extra in light of Dimitri Payet’s upcoming absence, then you never know, West Ham could become a more well-rounded unit without their star man on board, and potentially find themselves in even better shape once the mercurial Frenchman returns to the first team fold next year.
It’s now time for Slaven Bilic to turn this undoubted injury crisis, into a subtle opportunity for the Hammers to improve even further.