Mauro Zarate reminded Sam Allardyce of the raw talent he possesses by making a massive impact as a second-half substitute against Everton on Saturday.
The Argentine striker came on after 51 minutes at Goodison Park with the Hammers trailing 1-0 and completely changed the game, equalising with a deflected long-range effort almost instantly.
His introduction certainly lifted the visitors – who had five key players out injured – and provided them with a creative spark that had been missing from their performance in the first period, but in the end it was not enough to help them take something from the game.
Zarate has only made five Premier League appearances for the Hammers and has struggled to cement a regular position in Allardyce’s starting lineup since his summer move from Velez Sarsfield.
However, barring a mediocre performance in the 2-2 draw at Hull, the 27-year-old has looked a major threat in games when opponents have given him space to exploit. He has now scored two goals in claret and blue, with his first coming against Crystal Palace in what was probably his best performance.
He ran that game much like he did against Everton when he came on, which conveys just how influential he can be. Playing off the front or as a central attacking midfielder is when the forward is at his lethal best, he has made one assist and created six chances in these roles which isn’t bad going considering he has been a bit part player so far.
There have been concerns over Zarate’s lightweight stature and if he can cope with the physical demands of English football, as at Hull he was bullied out of the game. A player with his quality doesn’t need to be physical, though, it takes only a moment of magic from him to completely change a game and he has that in his locker.
His quick feet, creative movement and ability to find spaces from which to hurt opposition means he can overcome the physical constraints placed on him. However Allardyce, who typically likes his dogged, hard-working, brutish players – Kevin Nolan types – may disagree.
DESERVES RUN IN SIDE
As an attacking midfielder Zarate may not be to the managers liking because he will not be willing to do the dirty work when needed, like Stewart Downing did on Steven Gerrard against Liverpool, for example, however as a second-striker he can be given permission to operate more freely.
Due to Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho’s injuries Zarate certainly deserves a run in the side playing in his favoured position up top. Andy Carroll enjoyed partnering him against Everton and has been singing the praises of his team-mate.
“He is great,” West Ham’s official website quotes Carroll as saying. “He has got quick feet, he is nippy and he gets in and around defenders.
“He's a great player and he showed that on Saturday because he changed the game when he came on.”
Zarate has convinced the fans and his team-mates of his credentials and has surely done enough to earn a start in the next game against Newcastle, especially if the Hammers are still missing several key players.