West Ham put on an entertaining display during their 3-1 away win against Crystal Palace on Saturday despite captain Kevin Nolan missing the clash with a shoulder injury.
Mauro Zarate, Stewart Downing and Carlton Cole all found the back of the net as the Hammers blew away Palace in a match that was expected to produce a dull affair.
It has since been revealed that Nolan is set to be out of action for six weeks with a fractured shoulder and, while not wishing injury on anyone, his absence may benefit the Hammers.
Zarate slotted into the central-attacking midfield role to make his Premier League bow in place of Nolan and it was the Argentine that stole the show.
He scored an incredible controlled volley from the edge of the penalty area to put the Irons in front and set them on course for a comfortable victory.
Every time he picked up the ball he looked likely to create something and commit defenders and also produced some fine link-up play with Ricardo Vaz Te and the two wide men.
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He was the pinnacle of everything good and entertaining that came from West Ham at Selhurst Park and despite Sam Allardyce’s post-match admission that he has not changed the style, it seemed evident that something was different.
Zarate’s inclusion made them less dependent on booting the ball up from defence and whipping in aimless crosses as they had a man capable of linking up the play and orchestrating attacks. These two changes alone go a long way to improving their style of play.
While Allardyce would want everyone available to him in order to have the luxury of choosing his best starting XI, Nolan’s injury should force his hand and see Zarate continue to play in a midfield role.
He brings an attacking and creative edge to the side that Nolan simply cannot provide. His pace, guile and eye for goal could see him star for the Hammers throughout the campaign and light up Upton Park after the doom and gloom of last season.
Nolan had a good game during their undeserved 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last week and can definitely do a job in the side, but Zarate is the embodiment of what the east London outfit are looking to provide this season – entertainment.
Allardyce has backed "the best and strongest squad I've put together at the club" to handle the absence of their captain.
"It didn't affect us at Palace and maybe that's a sign there's more to come," he said.
The Hammers have certainly started the season in a promising fashion but it remains to be seen if they can remain consistent with their enthusiastic and high energy performances as the season draws on.
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