The 30th of January brought us a definitive(?) ending to one of the most protracted and controversial stories of the second half of the current English Premier League season. Dimitri Payet completed his transfer to Olympique de Marseille, from West Ham, for a reported fee of £25 million, after spending the past few weeks causing unrest within the West Ham squad and refusing to play until his request to leave was granted. With his exit from the club now finalized, everyone in and around the West Ham organization will undoubtedly have their sights set on the future, as dwelling on the past will do them no favours whatsoever.
Payet’s absence will leave several holes and roles in need of filling, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a good portion of the West Ham team seemed to have been galvanized by his antics, earlier, and some of them have already started stepping up their performance levels, in order to ensure that the team continues to run smoothly, without him. Of course, they just got beaten soundly by Manchester City, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some positives to take away, over the past few weeks.
In this article, we will be giving our top picks (5 in total) of players who are expected, either collectively or individually, to become West Ham United’s new talisman, or talismans (Talismen?). With greater power, comes greater responsibility…. so let’s start counting them down.
5. Sofiane Feghouli:
The winter period began with rumours of Sofiane Feghouli being sold off, after only one, injury-hitched half season to prove himself in London. The transfer window has been opened and shut; Feghouli remains a West Ham player, and his recent performances have even started winning over some of The Hammers’ faithful. Payet’s sale guarantees that Feghouli will end up bettering the measly 4 league starts that he has managed to accrue, so far, and his first league goal for the club actually came while playing in Payet’s recently vacated position.
For someone whose Valencia days saw him take up similar roles and put out a similar statistical product (even if ultimately inferior) to Payet’s West Ham stint, Sofiane Feghouli may very well be in for a productive stretch of months ahead.
4. Andy Carroll:
Big, strong and powerful; Andy Carroll couldn’t be any more of a sharp contrast to Dimitri Payet than he already is (both in stature and playing style), and, although he plays in a completely different position from his former partner-in-crime, his roles on the pitch and in the team could certainly be on the verge of assuming a similar level of importance. The one, true “British-style Center Forward” in the West Ham squad has only managed a total of 8 Premier League starts, so far, but with a healthy return of 5 goals in those appearances (3 of them coming in his last 3 games), we think it’s safe to say that Andy Carroll is still a competent Premier League goal scorer; not least in the air; where the 193 cm tall striker can still rise and steer it in with the best of them.
The only caveat on his inclusion would be his proneness to injuries, but if he manages to stay fit and Slaven Bilic can see that he gets the sort of quality deliveries that he needs, West Ham’s Aerial Assassin should have no problems taking his club to new “heights.”
3. Michail Antonio:
As important as Payet was to West Ham, this season, he wasn’t the team’s highest appearance maker or goal scorer. Both of those honours belong to one Michail Antonio, the man who has started all 23 of West Ham’s Premier League games to date (the 3rd of February), leading the team with 8 league goals. He’s also made appearances in the team’s defence, midfield and attack, proving himself to be Slaven Bilic’s very own Swiss Army Knife, and, with his uncanny ability to seamlessly slot himself into whatever role the team needs him in, who’s to say he won’t be the man to pick up the slack, in Payet’s absence?
Of course, it would be ludicrous to suggest that Michail Antonio’s about to become “Dimitri Payet 2.0”, but it’s worth noting that; in almost every statistical category where Dimitri was leading the team, Antonio was ranked in second place. Quite impressive.
And, finally… all of the things we said about Andy Carroll being the team’s “Aerial Assassin” can also be said of Michail Antonio; with 6 of his current 8 (and 12 of his total 16) league goals coming from his head.
Kindly move to page 2, for the last two entries.