After losing 5-1 to Arsenal in early December, you could say that West Ham had reached their lowest point of the season. A result like that undoubtedly brings pressure for a manager and for Hammers boss Slaven Bilic, it was no different. With the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ that followed from the club’s owners David Gold and David Sullivan, many were asking just how long the former Croatia defender had left in charge at the East London club.
But since that defeat, it seems as if the faith shown in Bilic by the owners has been repaid as West Ham have pulled themselves clear of the relegation zone thanks in no small part to a trio of successive wins over Christmas. After a shaky start to the season, which failed to live up to the expectations of the previous campaign, the run of victories would have been incredibly welcome.
With a sequence of victories under their belt, it was as if a feel-good factor had finally arrived at the London Stadium, but if it had, it didn’t stay for long after Manchester City dealt them a severe thrashing last week. Pep Guardiola’s men ran out 5-0 winners in the Third Round Round of the FA Cup, and once again West Ham were shown up at their new home. But, at this point of the season, the fact that they have moved cannot be used as a reason for bad results.
Quite simply they were once again under par last week and the goodwill that Bilic had built up will have quickly evaporated after that embarrassment. The only thing that the 48-year-old can do is make sure his club bounce back from that and return to winning ways in the Premier League, but if that is to happen then it seems as if it’s going to take place without Dimitri Payet.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) January 12, 2017
The West Ham manager has told reporters (above) that the French international no longer wants to feature for the club, but at the same time, he is not prepared to move Payet on.
It seems as if there is now a stand-off between club and player. Payet was heavily linked with a move away in the summer coming off the back of so many impressive performances for West Ham during his debut Premier League season. Had the Irons been prepared to sell they could have easily tripled their £11m outlay, but, given this news and the player’s own dip in form, that price-tag has surely taken a hit.
Perhaps people were expecting too much from the mercurial midfielder, though, as a second season can be sometimes harder than the first. Although he has scored five times, his overall level of performance has been way short of that he previously showed and used to get a big contract out of the London club in early 2016.
With that five-year deal signed only last February the West Ham hierarchy would have hoped that such a commitment would indicate Payet’s long-term future was at the club, but with the player wanting to be elsewhere, it seems those hopes could not be further from the truth. The question now, though, is: how long can they keep hold of a player who ultimately wants to be elsewhere?
Hang onto a star asset for too long and you run the risk of their value depreciating, but at the same time keeping a player of this kind in an environment he does not want to be in can only create more headaches. The Hammers aren’t really in a position to be selling their star players, especially with Premier League safety not a given, yet they can’t afford a squad already low on confidence to be rattled by ongoing off-pitch matters.
Can West Ham do without Payet? Well, they are certainly going to try in the short-term as at present he is not welcome to train with the first-team. If results without him are positive, then it will be a gamble worth taking, but should they go against them then there were will be an obvious clamour to not only bring him back into the fold, but to hand him a place in the starting XI.
In this battle between manager and player, we have just witnessed the opening skirmish, but who will end up winning the war?
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