“I have to get poetry lessons to describe his importance to us” (Slaven Bilic)
This has been a terrific season for the capital’s most talented footballing stars, but one player in particular has shone through in an outstanding debut campaign. Dimitri Payet joined West Ham last summer for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of 10 million pounds. 12 goals in 38 games for the Hammers has paid this back in full and the Frenchman now looks to be a one of the season’s bargain buys.
Payet joined West Ham on a 5 year deal from Ligue 1 side Marseille, where he spent two years scoring 15 goals and putting in a number of impressive performance that caught the eye of the East Londoners.
“we have signed a world-class player. If he was 22 he would be £30m plus, but he’s still in his prime” – West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan after the completion of Payet’s summer transfer.
This year Payet has blossomed under the supervision of the new West Ham boss Slaven Bilic, and the enigmatic Croat has transformed the London side into genuine contenders for a place amongst Europe’s elite. Payet has been at the heart of this transformation, masterminding the Hammer’s attacking football with help from new signing Manuel Lanzini and a recently rejuvenated Andy Carroll. Bilic’s attacking style has paid dividends, adding to the defensive solidity seen under previous manager Sam Allardyce and seeing West Ham finish the season as the Premier League’s fifth highest goal scorers.
Payet started his West Ham career with a visit to North London neighbours Arsenal, providing an assist for Kouyate’s opening goal in a magnificent 2-0 victory. From this point the Frenchman never looked back, scoring his first goal for the Hammers the following week in a 2-1 defeat to a Leicester side that went on to take the Premier League by storm. West Ham’s midfield maestro began to catch the attention of nation with stella performances throughout September and October, the most impressive of which being a brace in a 2-0 domination of Newcastle at the Boleyn Ground. Unfortunately for everyone associated with West Ham, a harsh tackle from Everton’s James McCarthy on November 9th ruled Payet out of Premier League action for an extended period, much to the dismay of the Upton Park faithful. West Ham’s league position suffered as a result of the injury to their talisman, and they fell from 5th position in early November to 8th place by the end of the month. Payet returned from the sidelines in January, and made an instant impact scoring a wonderful equalising freekick in a 3-1 comeback against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. This was perhaps his best performance of the campaign, and Payet received a standing ovation from the Boleyn Ground when he was substituted on the 78th minute for Alex Song. The Frenchman continued his superb form throughout the rest of Premier League season, scoring another sumptuous freekick in March to force Manchester United to a replay in the FA Cup Quarter final.
Payet’s freekick against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final.
However this incredible season was not enough to see West Ham into a fourth place finish and secure Champions League qualification. Nonetheless, a seventh place finish and a place in next season’s Europa League is a just reward for a team who have outdone all expectations this year.
Payet’s numerous fantastic displays have earned him a call-up to Didier Deschamps’ French side, a reward few would’ve expected at the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign. Fans of the Hammers’ will surely be excited by the prospect of their star man competing for the tournament’s favourites this summer, and will hope Bilic can retain Payet’s services for an equally exciting and dramatic 2016/17 season.
By Freddie Stuart.