After losing to Arsenal 5-1 in early December you could say that West Ham had reached their lowest point of the season, a result like that undoubtedly brings pressure to a manager and for Hammers boss Slaven Bilic it was no different. With the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ that followed from club 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 confidence shown to Bilic by the club 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. After a shaky start to the season which has failed to live up to the expectations of the previous campaign the run of victories would have been incredibly welcome.
With a run of wins under the belt it was as if a feel good factor had finally arrived at The London Stadium but if it had it would not have stayed for long after Manchester City dealt them a severe thrashing last week. Pep Guardiola’s men running out 5-0 winners in the 3rd Round of the F.A. Cup, once again West Ham were shown up at the 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 over the past few weeks will have quickly evaporated after that cup 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.
The West Ham manager has told reporters 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. He was quoted as saying “We have said we don’t want to sell our best players but Payet does not want to play for us,” Bilic said. “We are not going to sell him.”
It seems as if there is now a stand-off being club and player. Payet was linked with a move away from the club in the Summer coming off the back of so many impressive performances for West Ham during his debut Premier League season. The 29 year old was signed from Marseille in 2015 for £10.75m and with the way Payet was playing it was money very well spent.
So much so that had West Ham been prepared to sell in the Summer they could have easily doubled their money but if their stay player was available on the market now you would have to imagine that the fee that they could command will have dropped slightly. That’s because like West Ham in general, Payet has failed to live up to the expectations that many had for him.
Perhaps people were expecting too much from the mercurial midfielder as a second season can be sometimes harder than the first, although he has scored 5 times this season his overall level of performance has been way short of the level he previously set himself. Such was his form last season that the club moved quickly to tie him down to a new contract just months after his signature.
With a 5 year deal signed only last February the West Ham hierarchy would have hoped that commitment would indicate Payet’s long term future being at the club but with the player wanting to be elsewhere it seems those hopes could not be further from the truth right now. The question now though is how long can you keep hold of a player who ultimately wants to be elsewhere.
Hang on to 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 position to be selling their star players especially with Premier League safety not a given but they can’t afford a squad already low on confidence to be rattled by on going off the 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 results go against them then there were will be an obvious clamour to not only bring him back into first team training but to hand a place in the starting eleven.
In this battle between manager and player we have just noticed the opening skirmish but who will end up winning the war?