Dimitri Payet has not only been the standout player in West Ham's team so far this season, but also one of the best performers in the Premier League.
In 12 games this season he has scored five and assisted three more as the Hammers sit sixth after a strong start, and has taken much of the plaudits for the role he has played. In the entire league, in fact, only Arsenal's Mesut Ozil has created more chances than the Frenchman.
However, an ankle injury picked up midway through the first half at home to Everton two weekends ago has seen him sidelined for three months and now Slaven Bilic must make adjustments to try and maintain his side’s performances in Payet's absence.
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The defence will remain as it has done so far, with the front six undoubtedly due to change. Here are four ways in which they might be able to do that:
1. Play Mauro Zarate down the middle
The first is a simple, straight swap that sees Argentine Zarate step into the central role behind the striker.
He has not played there too often for West Ham, but it is his preferred role and may finally get a chance to show the fans what he's tipped to be capable of. This would be behind either Andy Carroll or Diafra Sakho (when fit), with Manuel Lanzini and Victor Moses operating on the flanks.
2. Play Manuel Lanzini down the middle
To the contrary, Bilic could opt for the Italian through the centre. The Italian seems to thrive behind the striker and with his pass completion the highest at the club - 88% - his creativity could be the ideal replacement for Payet.
And whilst he might not be quite as imaginative as his crocked team-mate, Lanzini's cameo role down the middle against Everton certainly showed promise.
3. Defensive set up with extra central midfielder
With two of West Ham’s next three matches away to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, it might be wise to play more defensive minded.
This can be achieved with the addition of an extra central midfielder to sit alongside Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble, with the two realistic candidates for this role Alex Song and Pedro Obiang.
The former played 70 minutes in a friendly recently and almost looks ready to play in the first team after a lengthy spell out. Obiang has featured mostly from the bench in his debut season with the Hammers, but is known for being a solid holding midfielder from his time with Sampdoria in Italy.
4. Shift to basic 4-4-2 formation
Instead of plugging the Payet-shaped hole, it could be pushed forward into a two-man attack, likely resulting in a Carroll-Sakho pairing. West Ham have some other options, though.
Nikica Jelavic and Zarate are the two obvious alternatives, alongside youngster Elliot Lee, son of former West Ham player Rob, as well as Michail Antonio. The former Nottingham Forest player scored 16 league goals in just over a year at the club.
There is no doubt Payet’s absence is a huge blow to the Hammers, but after a successful summer transfer window they have acquired the strength in depth to find an alternative and maintain their early form.
Bilic has impressed so far as manager at Upton Park and whilst this is a test for him, most Irons fans will be confident he can keep producing results, whether it is through one of the suggested methods or otherwise.
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