What a delight it is to be writing an article after such a galvanised team performance. The energy, the intent, the unity and desire were there for all to see, and the eye did not go wanting.
From the majestic Lanzini, to the powerful Antonio and acrobatic Carroll, the performance was invigorating, especially in the second half.
I considered not mentioning Payet in my article, but I decided not to shy away from it and more for myself than anything, my thoughts are as follows.
The club let Payet down over the summer and with the concept of the ‘project’ that they sold to him. While this is no excuse for his actions, it has to be mentioned. Although this is not reported as the reason for his actions, it is where the club have been at fault.
I find his actions disgraceful and to see Bilic close to tears in his press conference reflects how most of us feel by his betrayal. For me, betrayal is a suitable word, although I’ve heard it contested in the media. For me, West Ham and Bilic put Payet on the map, they gave him the platform and belief to break into the France national team and not to mention the largest salary in the clubs history.
Yes, he may wish to return home and may not be happy living in a foreign country, but regardless of the excuses he is contracted to the club and had no issue taking a substantial pay increase, as well as bonus incentives, recently.
Millions of people work away from their families and native countries. Most do so for considerably less money, and a lot will do it out of necessity. So, I do not buy into the theory that Payet has a right to do what he has done.
Had he dealt with the club professionally – Chech for example when he wanted to leave Chelsea but stay in London and go to Arsenal – I’m confident that an arrangement could have been reached with Marseille over the summer. Payet could have given his all this season and left with his pride and legend intact.
Sadly, this is not the case and like a petulant child, he has left himself in an untenable position.
I’m not sure that Marseille or his agent are without blame in this. The fact he had apparently agreed terms on a contract is suspicious and I find their conduct poor to say the least.
To conclude, now Marseille need to put up, or shut up. If they are so desperate to get him then they need to show they have substance behind the hot air. I’d be upset if we sold him for under £40 million to be honest, but I accept this may drop to £35 million or even £30 million to get it done.
He is on a massive contract that is heavily performance based, so his wages reduce significantly if he doesn’t pay. He can also be fined a maximum of two weeks wages for every breach of contract (£250,000), so if his asking price isn’t met then keeping him under punishment may not cost as much as £125,000 per week. The cost may also be easier to swallow than the message sent out if we were to allow him to go on the – relative – cheap.
There are, however, risks to be considered in keeping him, with the moral of the team being my key concern.
I’m slightly concerned that we do not appear overly active in our pursuit of a right back. While this was always going to be a difficult position to fill, especially in January, we desperately need cover for Byram.
The optimist in me hopes the club are conducting their business behind closed doors and have learnt from past mistakes. The pessimist in me worries that we’re underestimating the importance of filling this position and are leaving it late to act.
I’m surprised that we didn’t move to bring Jenkinson back to the club on loan. He would provide perfect cover for Byram – who we ideally want to make the position his own – and provide competition at the same time.
This, or a similar move, would also allow us more time to plan the recruitment of a first choice target in the summer. The market will be more pliant, with more options, and we can take time to ensure the best decisions are made.
Sagna, Zabaletta and Glen Johnson all become free agents in the summer, should Man City not renew their contracts. All of these players have another season in them, minimum, and could provide experience and vital cover for Byram.
The first half was nervous from both teams but at no point did we allow Palace to find their rhythm and we looked comfortable and well disciplined. The second half is when we came alive.
A tactical tweak from Bilic – switching to a 4-4-2 – and a wonderful team effort set up a magical second half display. Carroll’s goal of the season contender almost knocked me from my seat and Antonio was at his absolute best working in tandem with Carroll. Between them they terrorised Palace’s defence with their combination of raw power, pace, agility and guile. It was at times mesmerising to watch.
Lanzini was unbelievable. His passing, vision, tackling, tracking and desire was beyond exceptional, and his goal was superb.
Just a few of his stats from the game:
*Three shots – one goal
*87.5% pass completion
*Two chances created
*5/6 take on’s
*10 ball recoveries
At a time when we desperately needed a good performance, our little Argentine stepped up and showed us what this means to him and the other players. The way the team celebrated together and the unshielded joy and unity on their faces was infectious.
For all of the players mentioned above, and for everyone that played that day, one player’s importance must not go unnoticed. Sam Byram.
I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important his return is to the team. We have been playing with a defensive midfielder at right back and having an out-and-out right back playing in their natural position helped us considerably.
Byram had a good game and showed us what we’ve been missing. His intelligence and understanding of his position allowed him to advance and provide an attacking threat when the time was right, while at the same time dealing with his defensive duties flawlessly. His positioning was superb and even though his stats don’t fairly reflect his contribution, he united the defensive line and allowed the team to operate as a fluid, functional unit.
I rate Byram highly and think he has a bright future ahead of him at West Ham. However, it’s important that we get cover for him and the players mentioned earlier would be ideal as they may only be required to cover for one or two seasons, with hope that we can develop players from our academy. Failing that we would be able to go back into the transfer market at our leisure and take the time necessary to source effectively.
One last thing I wanted to mention; I thought Zaza showed real class in his departure. He could have easily blamed the club, the manager, or a number of factors for his failed spell with us – as his father attempted – but in a show of class, Zaza accepted the blame for his failings and as far as I’ve read, has not said a derogatory word against the club or manager.
In light of the recent Payet development, I think it’s important to recognise moments of decency such as this.
Zaza, we wish you well in your career and hope you rediscover the form that took you to Juventus and the Italy national team.
We move on to the Middlesbrough game in high spirits and full of confidence. Borough are a well organised, disciplined team, but if we can muster a performance like last weekend, I fancy us to continue our winning streak.
I want to end by saying how amazing the atmosphere was against Palace. The stadium erupted and the noise was incredible. The fans really are the twelfth man and this showed against Palace. It’s vital we continue to sing and cheer our hearts out every chance we get, home or away, and let the players feel the army of belief behind them.