25 Sep 2020 5:22 PM +00:00

West Ham: Should Dimitri Payet return?

(Photo credit: joshjdss)

There have been widespread reports in the media that Dimitri Payet could be heading back to West Ham. 

The Guardian report that the Frenchman's representatives have contacted the club about the possibility of a return to East London. It appears that his homecoming hasn't worked out as he dreamt it in Marseille and he is looking for an exit strategy. 


Departing in acrimonious circumstances is a familiarity for West Ham after he forced through a move midway through his second season at the club. Will they take advantage this time?

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He was their best player as West Ham finished 7th in the 2015-2016 season and memorably qualified for the Europa League. 

Will he be the same player?

At 31, West Ham should be wary of his age but he's not too old to contribute. In his 18 months back at Marseille, he made a total of 63 appearances which shows his ability to play on a regular basis. 

However, he limped off in what looks likely to be his final appearance for the club, after suffering a hamstring injury in last season's Europa League final, which Marseille lost 3-0. 

Some of his performances in the latter half of last season point to a player who hasn't lost his touch. He scored and assisted for Marseille in his final full match of last season, putting in a man of the match performance to defeat Nice 2-1 and put the pressure on Lyon in the race for third.

Still brilliant from a dead ball, as well as crossing and playing through balls in open play, he was imperative for Marseille as they reached a European final and challenged for the Champions League. Assisting all three of the goals Marseille scored against Salzburg in the semi-finals of last season's Europa League, he's still a creative presence. 

He finished last season with twenty assists and ten goals. 


Pellegrini and the need for a firecracker

New West Ham Manuel Pellegrini manager has always structured his team around a kind of mercurial game changer. Somebody with vision, technique, and ingenuity. 

As his Villarreal reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2006, it was Riquelme. Later, Santi Cazorla. At Malaga, it was Isco. At Manchester City, David Silva was key.

The closest he has to that is Manuel Lanzini, but the midfielder ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament while training with Argentina and will miss a large part of next season if not the entire campaign. 

Without him, West Ham have absolutely nobody in that mould. The veteran Chilean will look at Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate and despair at the lack of creative players. 

West Ham have firsthand experience of what Payet can bring. His through balls and set-piece deliveries were exceptional in his one full season in east London, in which he also finished top scorer. 

If he is genuinely available, it should be an easy decision. Pellegrini needs someone of his ilk to make this a success. 


Something out of the mundane

In recent seasons, the gap has widened between English football's six biggest clubs and the rest of the chasing pack. Arsenal finished nine points ahead of Burnley last season, and that was their rock bottom. 

The season before, Manchester United were eight points ahead of Everton in seventh, but a massive 23 points ahead of Southampton in eighth. Such numbers represent the pulled-up drawbridge.

There is a kind of collective existential crisis that's arisen due to mid-table being the height of ambitions for a number of clubs. Leicester City winning the title, or West Ham challenging for a Champions League spot feel like they belong to another era, despite happening just two years ago.

Fans of the chasing pack are justified in asking "what's the point?" if there's a limit on their success. Especially when playing the rudimentary, safety-first football of David Moyes and displacement in a stadium that doesn't feel like home. 

Dimitri Payet, West Ham's most exciting, unpredictable and dynamic player of recent times represents fun. What's the point? Seeing something that captures your imagination. A player that can surprise you. 

Payet would not transform West Ham. Only vast investment or a top-down restructuring of their strategy could do that. 

But he'd offer hope, and sometimes that's enough. 

Would Payet be a good signing for the Hammers? Let us know in the comments below.