Thursday, 26 January 2017

Off Field Drama Affecting FPL - Dimitri Payet

Dimitri Payet, like most French players who have graced the Premier League, has an excellent footballing ability. However, off-field drama has been the recent downfall of one of the league’s best players over the last 18 months domestically and internationally. Payet, who moved to the West Ham at the start of the 2015/16 season from Marseille for a reported £11 million, aided the Hammers in having a stellar season, finishing 7th on the league table, contributing 9 goals and 13 assists along the way, while also being head and shoulders above his team-mates for playing threat and creativity down the left wing. This form continued over into UEFA Euro 2016, where Payet was one of the main reasons that France got to the final in their home nation, being directly involved in 5 of Frances 13 goals at the tournament.

During last season, despite not playing at a title chasing club, Payet was a superstar, and the excitement he brought to the league was only bettered by Mahrez, Vardy and co. at Leicester.  He was brilliant for fans and FPL managers to watch and at a price in the £8 million range, he was an essential element to most squads.

How times have changed this season?

Payet garnered a £9.5 million FPL asking price from the get go this season and has provided flashes of excellence that were so prevalent last season. However, West Ham are not seeing the same success as a team this time round sitting 10th on the table at the current time, prompting Payet to demand a move away from the club effective immediately. The Hammers are reluctant to sell such a prized asset of theirs unless the right offer were to present itself. However, Payet wants to get out of London at any cost.

Over the course of the January transfer window, Payet has been in a war with West Ham management regarding a move. For GW21 and GW22, Payet has not featured in the match day squad, refusing to take the field, citing that he is injured and can’t play for the first team and going to such lengths that he will fake an injury if he is forced to play. This disregard for the team and club has caused quite a stir among the playing group who have lost respect for the French international and would not welcome him back into the first-team fold if a move away doesn’t eventuate and he remains a West Ham player.

A dramatic return to previous employers Marseille looks the most likely destination for the unsettled Payet, who is willing to take a wage cut to have the move be pushed through this transfer window. However, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has already rejected 3 transfer offers from the French club for the 29 year old, the last being a reported £22.5 million. The Hammers have asked for a £30 million fee, however, a fourth offer from Marseille is imminent, expected to be around £25 million which is likely to be accepted.

So, what does this move mean for FPL managers?

Well, it just might mean a whole lot of good news. Payet (£9.0) is a hefty deduction in squad budget compared to some of his counterparts at West Ham. Although Payet has scored 2 goals and provided 6 assists this season from 17 games with 3.1 shots per game, he hasn’t been as prolific at picking up FPL points as the previous season, only getting double figure returns twice, GW5 against West Brom (10), and GW7 against Middlesbrough (10), with a total of 81 FPL points, ranking him outside the top 20 best performing midfielders. Subsequently, there many cheaper priced options providing far better returns. Team-mate Michail Antonio (£6.9), who has been operating from the opposite wing and also right back this season, is the equal 8th best midfielder FPL wise with a total of 109 points so far from his 21 appearances in the league, contributing 8 goals and 6 assists. As a result, Antonio ranks 1st among all West Ham players for FPL points this season. Antonio also unleashes 2.9 shots per 90mins, similar to Payet, however, attempts more take-ons (4.8) per game than Payet (4.3).

Since the absence of Payet on the team sheet for the past 2 GWs, West Ham have had 2 impressive wins, albeit against poor opposition (Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough). However, Payet’s attacking creativity hasn’t been missed with the midfield workload being placed on the shoulders of Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini along with the striker Andy Carroll. These players stepped up with team unity seemingly sky high without the drama fuelled Payet as a distraction. Over the course of the 2 games, Antonio recorded 5 shots, 8 from 9 aerial duels won, 4 successful tackles and 4 assists, amazingly 3 in one game against Palace, racking up 20 FPL points in the two games. Lanzini also had 5 shots (1 goal), 7 successful take-ons and 2 assists, to go with 4 bonus, providing FPL managers with 18 points for the two matches. The third player, Andy Carroll got back his goal-scoring touch, scoring 3 times from 8 shots while also showing his aerial prowess winning a staggering 14 of 17 aerial duels, gifting FPL managers with a hefty 18 points over the two fixtures. Without Payet in the West Ham line-up, other players are taking on bigger and more cohesive roles to pick up the victory and 3 points, rather than all the attack going down the left wing.

Slaven Bilic has a few possibilities after the eventual Payet departure from the club. He can attempt to bring in another player before the window closes to fill the void on the left side of the field, or he could promote fit again Sofiane Feghouli to a permanent starting position. For FPL managers, Feghouli as a nailed on starter could be very enticing. With a £5.0 price tag and a 0.7% TSB, while operating virtually in the forward line but listed as a midfielder, how could anyone resist selecting him. Feghouli hasn’t featured much this season due to injury - 350 minutes of game time, however, does possess the ability to become a new version of the Payet we saw last season. Feghouli moved to West Ham at the start of this season on a free transfer from Valencia, where the 27 year old Algerian was a regular starter and top performer for the club, scoring 20 goals and providing 30 assists in 141 games.

If players like Feghouli, Antonio, Lanzini and Carroll can play regularly and remain fit and healthy and continue to link up successfully, we could see West Hams season turn around beneficially for the club and for FPL managers, as many Hammers players have the ability to perform well above their price tags.

Here are some possible West Ham line-ups, Post Payet - with all players available to play 

For predicted line-ups and team-sheet selections for each FPL gameweek, refer to Seb’s Gameweek Previews - Twitter (@_FFM_Seb)

By Luke Scali - Twitter (@LS_Potzi)