What a difference a year makes. The 2016-17 season has seen a drastic turnaround from from what preceded it. It would seem that the usual status quo has returned with the big six taking their typical place atop the league table, and players expected to be next generation of stars coming back down to the earth. Chief among these has been the shocking reversal of fortune for Leicester City’s squad as well as the disappointment in the big-money extension given to last year’s midfield star for the Hammers, Dimitri Payet.
When Leicester miraculously achieved the impossible to take the Premier League title, it gave many smaller clubs hope that they too would someday be able to reach the same lofty peaks. It was the first time a club who didn’t finish the previous season in the top three managed to win the league, and performances by Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were so impressive they seemed too good to be true. Sadly, they might have been. As the season rolls on, the success continues to seem like much more of a fluke. As of this writing, the Foxes sit a mere three points in front of the relegation zone and are desperately fighting to avoid being the first team to win a championship and then be relegated in successive seasons.
Last season’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, has also seen a serious dip in form. He quickly went from a Ballon d’Or candidate to scoring only four goals so far, compared to last year’s impressive 17. Jamie Vardy has also failed to live up to his own high bar. The striker has scored just seven goals so far, and is highly unlikely to match last year’s incredible league total of 24. Leicester’s disappointing season has led to the sacking of manager Claudio Ranieri in a desperate attempt to stay clear of the relegation zone. But this precipitous fall from grace for some of last year’s brightest stars isn’t unique to Leicester City
This drop in quality seen by both Vardy and Mahrez isn’t all that dissimilar to what Hammers fans also saw with Dimitri Payet. Last season, Payet was one of the greatest talents in the Premier League and was named Player of the Year at the 2016 London Football Awards. His efforts were rewarded with a lucrative extension that saw the
midfielder making £125,000 a week. Unfortunately, as talented as Payet might have been, he was failing to live up the expectations set by the 2015-16 season. In 18 games, Payet only scored two measly goals and his lack of effort and attitude were apparent to both coaches and supporters. It was evident that his own failures were frustrating him, and it was showing on the pitch and in the locker room.
In a recent interview, Payet said he was bored at the club and blamed his poor form on overly defensive tactics and a lack of room for improvement. The midfielder went on to say that his move was precipitated by his own fears of regressing. We would be quick to point out that anyone with eyes can see that his fears weren’t unfounded. He already had regressed; it just wasn’t the fault of West Ham or manager Slaven Bilic.
The interview (in French) points out certain inconsistencies in his reasoning- he quotes West Ham’s lower league position as the major reason for leaving, but then goes on later to say that he had already wanted to go at the beginning of the season (after the conclusion of the European Championships)
Payet had quickly gone from a promising signing to an albatross around the neck of West Ham. And now that he’s gone, the club can focus on healing the rifts he caused in the dressing room. Supporters have been quick to decry Payet’s comments online and it’s safe to say that there has been no love lost between Payet and his former club. In the future, the Frenchman might be better off focusing on improving his own game rather than trying to pass off his own problems on others.