One of the trends this summer was mid-table English teams bringing in top players from other European Leagues that they wouldn’t have been able to buy in the past. One of the best examples of that was former Marseille star Dimitri Payet going to West Ham. The Frenchman made the team of the season in Ligue 1 last season, but decided to leave Marseille after two seasons in the south of France. He surprised a lot of people by deciding to go to West Ham.
After impressing in Europa League appearances for the Hammers, Payet made his Premier League debut on Sunday against Arsenal, and he did not disappoint. The Frenchman was one of the most impressive players on the pitch. Whether it was with a cross, a dribble, or a through-ball, he showed his class and gave the Arsenal defense fits throughout the 90 minutes. Can he fire West Ham into Europe again this season? Check out all the odds at bet365!
One of the most impressive qualities shown by Payet was his ability to beat a man. The Frenchman completed four dribbles, more than any other West Ham player, and failed only one attempted dribble. After making 17 assists in Ligue 1 last season, he showed his quality final ball against the Gunners. He created two chances in the match and assisted the first goal. He also did a good job of keeping the ball completing 81% of his passes.
West Ham went to the Emirates with a 4-4-2 diamond shape. The diamond is a very narrow formation and Bilic clearly wanted to stop Arsenal from playing in the middle of the park and force them wide. The Gunners played into the hands of that strategy playing Santi Cazorla at left wing, which killed a lot of their width on that side. On the opposite side, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain did provide width. With the lack of width on the left, Cheikhou Kouyate was able to deal with that side on his own. On the right, Payet was tasked with helping Mark Noble deal with the Arsenal right hand side.
Payet was positioned at the tip of the diamond and was given an important role in the team. Offensively, he was responsible for starting the West Ham counter attacks. He was vital in the Hammers attempts to take advantage of Arsenal’s transitions. Defensively, as said above, he was to help Mark Noble deal with Arsenal’s right sided players, Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. One of the questions before the match was whether a finesse player like Payet would be willing to do the defending necessary in a diamond. As his heat map shows, the Frenchman was more than willing to track back and defend.
The moment when the match turned was West Ham’s first goal. The Hammers got a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Much has been made of Arsenal’s terrible defensive organisation that played all of the West Ham players onside. While the defending was awful, it still took an excellent ball in to make it a goal. Payet dropped the free kick into the danger area, which allowed Cheikhou Kouyate to head home. As poor as the defending was, it still needed to be a fantastic ball in, and Payet had the quality to do that.
Much has been made about Arsenal playing badly, but a lot of credit must be given to West Ham. They played very well and are capable of doing this on a regular basis with the kind of team they have put together. They’ve acquired lots of talented players this summer and Payet is the cream of the crop. He’s a top player and showed the Premier League that on Sunday.