Poetic Payet can propel West Ham United to glory
Robbie Purves | February 22, 2016
Payet inspires Bilic to pick up his feather quill
Following the 5-1 FA Cup win at Blackburn, West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic heaped praise on Dimitri Payet as he put in a two-goal, man-of-the-match display.
“I have to get poetry lessons to describe his importance to us,” said the Croatian Bilic.
Payet joined from French side Marseille in the summer for the meagre fee of £10m, and has gone onto register eight goals and nine assists so far in his 25-game West Ham career.
The Frenchman’s importance to the team is clear to see. But just how far can the skilful midfielder take the bubble-blowing east Londoners?
It’s Hammers time
Payet has excelled since coming to these shores and has given West Ham fans the excitement and entertainment they have craved.
The Hammers’ last appeared in the FA Cup final in 2006, losing to Liverpool on penalties after Steven Gerard levelled the game with a thunderous strike. However, the club has a history with the competition, winning it three times – in 1964, 1975 and 1980.
West Ham and their faithful fans are due a Wembley appearance and something to celebrate before the Irons depart Upton Park – their home since 1904.
The club was drawn against either Shrewsbury Town or Manchester United away for the quarter-finals and it presents a real chance to continue their progression.
Coral have West Ham a superb 12/1 to win the competition and if Payet can keep producing, they will stand a very good chance of lifting the trophy come May.
The Hammers’ opponents in the next round, Man Utd, are inconsistent and look beaten before they’ve even laced up their boots. In the FA Cup, West Ham have a very good record against the Red Devils. Of the 10 times they have met, both teams have four wins and two draws.
Maestro as good as Madridista Modric
Payet’s superb performance at the weekend was rewarded with gushing praise from pundits and his manager.
“I haven’t seen better players than that. He is also doing the dirty work and on the ball he is up there with Luka Modric from the players I have trained so far,” said Bilic, who coached Modric at international level for Croatia.
The statistics back this up. The Frenchman has been involved in 17 goals in all competitions (nine assists, eight strikes), more than twice as many as any other West Ham player. He also has created 69 chances in the Premier League this season – only Mesut Ozil and Christian Eriksen have more.
Payet is a creative force and without him the Hammers would be far weaker. The playmaker recently signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal earlier this month but may struggle to keep him this summer.
During his time in France he attracted the attention of the big European clubs but none decided to move for him. This was thought to be down to questions over his attitude, professionalism and consistency. This season at least, he seems to be answering them.
Bilic’s boys heading for Europe
The Croatian’s men sit seventh, one point behind Man Utd and could quite easily finish above the stuttering Reds.
West Ham are 5/1 to finish in the top six and, with Payet playing like he is, they look set to do it.
The Hammers are unbeaten in 10 at home, but to challenge for the higher European places, they need to improve on the road. They have the 12th worst away record in the last six games and have struggled to develop any sort of momentum.
Bilic’s side face three of the current top four in the remaining fixtures, with only their match against Leicester being away from home.
The Payet-led team started the season with an impressive record. Beating Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City away, but would be let down by failing to win against the likes of Sunderland and Aston Villa.
Upton Park’s faithful will hope their recent cup success can propel them up the table and into European place contention.
West Ham board members highlighted European competition as a crucial part of the side’s long term strategy. The club sees this as a way to pack the Olympic Stadium to the rafters and attract some of Europe’s finest talent.
They have all the tools to become a real force in the league. Players are attracted to London and will want to play for a club on the up. The new stadium could also be a huge draw.
The Irons have already benefited from the Premier League’s impending record breaking TV deal. It gave clubs like West Ham the finances to go out and acquire talent that normally would have been exclusively for the league’s elite. Payet is a player that could slot in at most top clubs and is his side are part of the new ‘middle class’ in terms of Premier League sides.
This can also be seen at Stoke. The transfers of Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Afellay, who have all played for huge clubs, to Stoke City, is an example of what we will see in the coming years.