Arsenal fans, look away now. Dimitri Payet could have played for your club.
Arsene Wenger admitted that he scouted the West Ham star “many times” before he left St Etienne for Upton Park, but clearly didn't see enough from the Frenchman to warrant splashing the cash.
It’s a decision he might be regretting - Payet has lit the Premier League up this season, almost single-handedly firing the Hammers to the brink of Champions League qualification.
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Payet has scored 12 goals this season - nine in the league - and without him, West Ham certainly wouldn’t be sixth in the table or in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Slaven Bilic’s side picked up just four points from a possible 21 when Payet was injured for seven games earlier in the season. Since his return in early January, West Ham have lost just twice.
It’s enough to make an Arsenal fan weep.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the sides at Upton Park, Wenger was asked about the talisman.
“I looked at him many times,” the Frenchman replied, per the Mirror. “I’ve known him for a long, long time.”
Ouch. You can almost hear the groans from Arsenal fans. In fact, you can read them. Check the best reaction on Twitter below (NSFW).
“He played a few years in St Etienne,” Wenger continued. “He has all the attributes to be a top, top player. In fact, he already is.
“He is 29 and this year he has matured. He has come back into the national team when he looked to be out so that shows he has been more consistent.”
The two London sides meet in an eagerly-anticipated clash. Arsenal are in desperate need of three points in order to keep alive their faint hopes of catching up to Leicester, while a win for West Ham will see them draw level on points with fourth-placed Manchester City.
It’s imperative that Arsenal do not concede free-kicks within scoring range, because Payet is almost certain to punish them.
The France international has scored five set-pieces in the past three months alone, and was at it again at the weekend with a superb effort against Crystal Palace.
Payet doesn't practise free-kicks
One would presume Payet spends hours on the training ground perfecting his technique, but that isn’t the case. He recently admitted that he rarely practises free-kicks because he knows he is striking the ball well.
“I worked very hard on taking them earlier in the season up until the Bournemouth game when I scored,” Payet is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying. “Since that game I have not been practising as I have been happy with the way I am hitting the ball.
“I am enjoying a very good period at the moment in terms of free-kicks. I am full of confidence and that allows me to try out these new things. The ball seems to be going in at the moment which is great for all of us.”
Everyone except Arsenal, of course.
Who will win - West Ham or Arsenal? Have your say in the comments section below!
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