Just three weeks after West Ham fans were hit with the devastating news of a long term injury to star man Dimitri Payet, we were dealt a killer blow when Diafra Sakho limped off in our underwhelming 1-1 draw at home to West Brom.
The extent of the injury is yet to be officially confirmed but judging by Bilic’s worried tone in his post-match press conference and rumours circulated widely on social media of two months out, the signs are looking ominous and gloomy. But just how important is Diafra Sakho to our success and how can we survive without him?
The beauty about Sakho is that goals are merely a welcome bonus to his overall game. He does everything you want from a lone striker. He can win headers yet also hold the ball up. He can make intelligent runs into channels and in behind the defenders. He also works tirelessly to defend from the front and his commitment is admirable.
The problem, however, is his ill-fortune when it comes to injuries. It was no coincidence that his absence last year was in direct correlation to our catastrophic descent down the Premier League table. He will be sorely missed in these next two months so we must look for another way to win games without him.
Andy Carroll could be considered the replacement for Sakho but thinking that Carroll is the answer to our injury crisis is a mistake. With Sakho out for the short-term recently, Bilic tried Carroll as our starting lone striker and the results were painfully evident; a lack of movement and cohesion, a lack of effort and a lack of goal threat.
The football that we are aiming to play does not suit Carroll and he slows down our fluid and versatile counter-attacking style.
So who else can fill Sakho’s boots? Nikica Jelavic is another in the mould of Andy Carroll that does not fit in with our style of play and consequently should be no more than an impact substitution option.
Enner Valencia is injured and Elliot Lee has been loaned out to Blackpool, leaving only Mauro Zarate and Victor Moses able to play in the lone striker role.
I personally would like to see Zarate in Sakho’s position for a number of reasons. Firstly, he is a more natural striker than Moses and therefore poses a bigger goal threat.
Secondly, he is more ‘like-for-like’ for Sakho than any of our other options as he works hard and does a lot of running. And lastly, after being shunned by both Allardyce and QPR, he has come back and proved his worth with some impressive performances this season and deserves a chance to play in his preferred striker position.
The forced change up front might have a knock-on effect, which means we change our formation. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. We could switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a slightly more defensive 4-3-2-1 with Lanzini and Moses floating between central and wide positions just behind Zarate with more attacking license due to the increased midfield solidity.
The midfield would include three of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang, Alex Song and Reece Oxford. This might be worth a shot away at Manchester United but understandably we will probably be expected to shift into a more attacking formation for home games where the onus will be on us to attack.
The last option to consider is a January signing. On the one hand some might consider this to be a knee-jerk reaction to our injury crisis. After all, we do have at least five strikers if they are all fit.
On the flip side, though, you can understand why we would consider another striker; Sakho, Carroll and Valencia are injury prone, Zarate is a midfielder/striker and Jelavic is sub-standard. The only issue is that value for money is hard to come by in the January window and we are unlikely to really bolster our squad.
It is still an option for Bilic to explore, albeit with a limited budget, as we prepare for a painful three months without Diafra Sakho.