With news appearing yesterday that West Ham are looking at signing Joey Barton, is he really what the new Hammers’ manager Slaven Bilic needs?
West Ham recorded a very credible victory at Arsenal to open their account this season. They pressed and harried Arsenal at the right times in the right areas of the pitch, took their goals very well and put in a thoroughly professional performance, combining hard work and graft with flair and an end product.
Now news that Joey Barton may be on the way to the Boleyn ground, will surely disrupt what has the makings of a good side.
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Most of us will know numerous stories and anecdotes about Barton. He has served time in prison for assault, called Tiago Silva an “overweight ladyboy”, said Newcastle club legend and his manager at the time, Alan Shearer, was “a s**t manager with s**t tactics”, attacked teenage fans while on tour, elbowed Carlos Tevez in a title and relegation decider, the list really does go on and on and on.
He is outspoken in the media and on Twitter in particular, on a range of subjects from religion to football to philosophy, with opinions on everything from Morrisey to tax reform.
While Joey Barton the human being is a complex and instinctive animal, Joey Barton the footballer is a much simpler creature. A talented midfielder with a good range of passing, as his assists count will prove, no fear in the tackle and a very commendable work ethic. On paper you would think that there would be a long list of clubs looking for a free agent with Premier League and European experience.
But the mental side of Barton’s game will always put his place in the team in jeopardy. You just cannot trust him to stay cool in the heat of battle under provocation from players and fans alike.
The West Ham midfield looked very comfortable against Arsenal. Mark Noble putting in a typical work-man like display, Cheikhou Kouyate picking up a goal and having a very good game to start the season.
But the real star of the show was 16-year-old Reese Oxford with three tackles, two interceptions, one clearance, two blocked shots and a 94.7% passing success rate. If he continues in this vain, it will be very hard for anyone to take his place in the squad.
With the Hammers’ move to the Olympic stadium coming next year and the West Ham hierarchy looking to push on after league finishes of 10th, 13th and 12th in recent years, can Bilic afford to have such a disruptive player in his ranks?
No matter the good work Barton can do with the ball, the chances are sooner rather than later, it will be all undone in the blink of an eye, the lash of a tongue, or the swing of a fist or foot.
Can West Ham and Bilic afford to take that chance?