For West Ham, there was one thing missing against Leicester City on Sunday.
The character was there, so was the resilience and so was the side’s physicality, even Andy Carroll was fit, but the one thing, the one player not there, was Diafra Sakho.
Much had been made about circumstances surrounding the fact that he was not included in the home game against Arsenal a week ago.
Rumours circulated suggesting that it was a bust-up because the striker wasn’t playing. Some indicated that he had an injury, but that didn’t appear to be the case the night before. The club were quick to play down any potential problems, but there was a story now buzzing around Upton Park and the media were interested.
At the beginning of the season, the striker seemed to be an integral part of Bilic’s new revolution at West Ham, but then he went down injured in November last year and has struggled to regain his fitness.
In all likelihood, Sakho will play against Watford this week, but aside from this particular episode, the West Ham striker’s time in the UK has been the subject of news headlines before.
He was arrested last August on suspicion of common assault, criminal damage and malicious communication towards his girlfriend, and then in January, Sakho collided with an oncoming car and span off-road not far from his luxury mansion in Hornchurch, Essex. The £200,000 supercar was a write-off, and now there is this.
Sakho posted online: “When I am hated I do not give a f***, I do everything to be more hated” complete with fist-bump emoji and two-fingered peace sign. Sources close to Sakho claimed the message was a ‘private matter’, relating to personal problems rather than his omission from the team.
However, despite the petulant display, it seems that Sakho fits very nicely into Bilic’s formations and ultimately, when he is fit, Sakho is the number one choice. Sadly for the striker, his Croatian manager decided to employ different tactics, correctly as it turned out, against Arsenal and to rub further salt into the wound, Carroll bagged a hat-trick.
It appears that Hammers fans are still behind the player and want him to return and show everyone what he can do. His play can be exceptional, as can his scoring ability. He holds up the play and allows Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet to come into the game, whereas Carroll is a conventional centre-forward from the old school in terms of approach.
Sam Allardyce certainly unearthed a gem when he brought him to east London two years ago, but this season has not been covered in glory and possibly frustrations have now surfaced.
Sakho has scored four goals and created 10 chances in 16 Premier League appearances for West Ham so far this season. The former Metz striker has a pass accuracy of 61% and a shot accuracy of 45%, and has won 45 headers, 14 dribbles and eight tackles. Due to this, he is a very valuable claret and blue asset and West Ham will need his abilities until the end of the season. A champions League spot is extremely unlikely in all honesty, but they could cement a Europa League slot and keep the likes of Southampton at bay.
He is a fans’ favourite and the team play a different game when he’s on song. West Ham will do well to keep him sweet… for now at least.