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Dimitri Payet must return to his best to salvage West Ham's season

Wednesday 14th December 2016
After their impressive campaign last time around, West Ham United have failed to maintain those high standards this season. Dimitri Payet is undoubtedly the club's most important player, but the Frenchman's performance levels have also fallen.

The arrival of Slaven Bilic as manager had a positive effect on West Ham; the Croatian used his unwavering commitment to the cause and youthful exuberance to build a formidable side. West Ham finished the season seventh in the table, with 62 points, which was a record for the Hammers in the Premier League era. One other noticeable addition to the club was Dimitri Payet, a player who went on to play a crucial role in West Ham's successful campaign.
West Ham signed the relatively unknown 29-year-old midfielder from Marseille for £11 million and few could have predicted the impression he was about to make on English football. Payet demonstrated his unique ability from an early stage; he continued to perform throughout the season and finished the Premier League campaign with 12 assists and 9 goals.

Payet's ability to both create and score goals was a major factor in West Ham's impressive season. A sensational year was capped off with Payet being named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year; one month later, the French playmaker represented his national team and delivered some superb performances at Euro 2016.

As the new season approached, a new lease of life had been injected into West Ham: the Hammers were fresh off an outstanding campaign, the club possessed a strong squad, the board promised exciting new signings, a new state of the art stadium was ready to move into, and crucially, Payet remained in east London; despite interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Payet's role at West Ham can't be underestimated, as he's the catalyst for the side, and when the midfielder is at the top of his game, the Hammers are a different proposition. Every club aims to acquire an exceptional playmaker and West Ham have found theirs. Payet roams the pitch in search of the ball, manoeuvring into dangerous positions as he looks to unlock the opposition's defence. He possesses a range of qualities, which includes exceptional ball control, pinpoint passing, sublime dribbling, composed finishing, and expert free kick taking. However, so far this season, Payet's standards have dropped, which has coincided with West Ham's decline.

Former West Ham midfielder Matthew Etherington has recently expressed his opinion on Payet's performances this season. Etherington told the Sun:

Payet has been worrying in the last few games, his body language for a start. I know he is still creating chances for the team, but in the game away to Manchester United in the EFL Cup and at home to Arsenal last weekend, Payet looked like he didn't want to be on the pitch.  

Although Payet has scored twice in the league this campaign and provided five assists, he hasn't been as effective on the pitch as he was during his debut season. Despite scoring a superb free kick for the Hammers in their recent game against Liverpool, Payet must do more. Whether Payet's decline is because of an increase in the demands placed upon him, a disinterest in playing for the club as Etherington suggested, or just the usual case of a loss of form; it's essential that the midfield maestro returns to his very best if West Ham are to improve their league position.
West Ham have gone six Premier League games without picking up a win, which sees Bilic's side floating precariously around the bottom three - 17th in the table, one point above the relegation places. Big improvements are needed and Payet is key for that to happen. As things stand, West Ham are in danger of being involved in a relegation battle; a top half finish remains possible, but time is running out for the club to equal last season's achievements. To stand any chance of repeating last season's success, the Hammers are relying on Payet to quickly rediscover his best form - beginning on Wednesday night when West Ham host Burnley.
Danny Glendenning

Passions include reading, sport, and nights out with friends. A football fanatic whose writing career began in May 2016. Now 30 years old, lives in South Yorkshire - local team is Doncaster Rovers, although heart lies with Arsenal. Contributing editor for It's Round And It's White. Current claim to fame is an interview with Ron Atkinson. Always looking for work, either editing or writing. Contact via email: Dannysg1988@outlook.com. Or Twitter: @DannySG1988.



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