In Europe’s top leagues it is the players on the biggest teams that get the recognition and the accolades. Invariably they are the best so it follows logically. This season we have seen the emergence of a few who have gone against normal convention and have shown top four quality, at least in the season’s infancy. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Dimitri Payet readily come to mind. The latter from this trio has not just shown that top four quality, but unlike the others he just might be good enough for a top four team, right now.
Payet has displayed quality that would certainly be welcome at Manchester United, Liverpool, or even Chelsea. Of course he would have to defend a lot more to suit the tactics of Jose Mourinho but with Wayne Rooney struggling and reinforcing the notion that he has been done as a top player for a few years now, a creative force in the hole would be not too ludicrous.
Now this is not sensationalism. Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, and Juan Mata might be the names associated with playmaking, creativity, and class in England but Payet has shown enough to prove he at least deserves cursory mention in that discussion….surely.
Why is He Good?
It is a simple question indeed. Payet is able to use a refined skillset mainly characterised by his ability to take on and beat defenders, vision for killer passes, an admirable work rate, and considerable ability from set pieces. In that sense he has a complete set of skills. This tends to get overlooked but it is not coincidence or fluke that West Ham have been able to crack the top four thus far. It might taper off but it will not be Payet’s fault. West Ham have been giant killers this season, dispatching every big team put before them.
In many ways his playing style is an amalgamation of the very best in England. His ball use is in the mould of Cazorla, Fabregas, and Silva. His dribbling is of the Cazorla and Ozil ilk and his set pieces more of the Mata and Cazorla variety.
Style to Substance
West Ham built a foundation of power and pace last season and were able to craft a respectable 12th place. Now they have added the class in Manuel Lanzini and Payet and the payoff has been swift and decisive.
With the new additions West Ham may be able to push for a Europa spot and it would be a good bet if Payet can continue his form. Avid football fans must pride themselves on recognising class, regardless of which jersey they wear on weekends and Payet, quite simply, is class. Now this is not to crown him the greatest playmaker in the league. No, that title still belongs to David Silva but he is making it unanimous that he is the best signing of the summer in England and a steal at £10.7million. Surely, if he was linked with United or Chelsea the fee would be at least double that if not triple. It comes with the territory. It is really amazing that this man plays for West Ham and the Brazilian, Oscar, is even up for consideration in the Chelsea lineup.
The Stats Agree
It is always dangerous to take either stats or opinion in isolation and after all that we look at what he has done statistically. In terms of goals and assists, he ranks third amongst a list of Silva, Ozil, and Mata with 0.8 per 90 minutes. He has created an impressive 4.01 chances per 90 minutes, second only to Ozil who pretty much leads all of Europe. He is statistically the best at dribbling with 2.4 per 90 minutes with 60% success.
The main departure is in passing where he ranks fourth in both total passes and passing accuracy, not surprising given the brand of football West Ham play which is certainly not possession based and the fact that to create that many chances, if your name is not Mesut you have to take considerable risk.
Given the nature of the business it would not be surprising to see him being courted by bigger teams in the summer and there is no doubt that he possesses the quality to make the transition. However, we know West Ham and even Liverpool carry a different weight of expectations. Few, however, would leave him out of a PFA top six at this point and it would be well deserved.