West Ham

Said Benrahma showed his Premier League class with West Ham stunner

Toby Cudworth
Benrahma bent home a late equaliser for West Ham
Benrahma bent home a late equaliser for West Ham / Pool/Getty Images
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There's been an awful lot of negativity doing the rounds when it comes to Said Benrahma and his performance levels at West Ham.

A lot of that no doubt stems from expectations when a club forks out in excess of £25m to bring you in as a major summer signing. But while there is merit to expecting some return on your club's sizeable investment, there's also a need for pragmatism and looking at the bigger picture.

Obviously, Benrahma will have been disappointed not to have scored for West Ham in his first seven months at the club. Scoring goals is what he did for fun at Brentford, and he was very much the star of a side more than capable of dismantling any Championship opponent on their day.

He made 83 league appearances in west London, including 68 from the start, scoring 27 goals and assisting a further 22. Supreme numbers from a player who was evidently too good to be in that division.

It was no surprise, then, that a Premier League side came calling, and it was also no surprise that the team who took the plunge was West Ham.

2019/20 had been a terrible struggle for the Hammers, but thanks to David Moyes and some shrewd signings in the winter transfer window, safety had been secured with some spirited post-lockdown displays.

Creating chances was one area that West Ham clearly had a deficiency in, and that's what Benrahma was renowned for in the Championship. A skilled dribbler and supremely talented with the ball at his feet, he could fashion a chance out of nothing and clearly had a keen eye for assisting his teammates - his numbers in that regard speak for themselves.

But it wasn't just the making of goals where West Ham had an issue. Under Manuel Pellegrini, there wasn't much of a togetherness about the squad - not a visible one anyway. Play was often a bit fluffy and just pretty to look at, individual mistakes were far too frequent and there was very little consistency in performances under the Chilean.

Moyes had to fix that first, and it's perhaps why Benrahma had a watching brief in the early couple of months of his West Ham career. Many confused the Scot's desire to knit together a unit who worked hard for each other with not trusting the Algerian. But it wasn't a case of Benrahma not having the manager's backing, nor having the ability - it was more a case of the Hammers embracing their new identity and delivering what the manager wanted. Walking before you can run, if you like.

Results were surprisingly promising after defeat in the first couple of games of the season, and Benrahma was never likely to waltz in and command a regular place in the side because of that. Pablo Fornals, in particular, has been exceptional for West Ham - not so much because of his dazzling end product, but because he does everything to a good standard. Moreover, he's a bloody hard grafter and that spirit and determination embodies everything Moyes wanted to instil in this West Ham side.

What it's meant for Benrahma is that he's spent less time on the pitch than he'd have anticipated, though he's still played just shy of 1,300 minutes. That sounds like a long time for a creative attacking player to have not broken their goalscoring duck, but he has been very in and out of the side.

He's looked good, on the whole, contributing five assists, and has generally looked lively for the majority of his outings. Things haven't gone his way in front of goal, though, and Moyes has been the first to admit to the press that Benrahma must improve his decision making, as well as his defensive work rate.

David Moyes, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma
Benrahma has often been used as an impact sub by David Moyes / Pool/Getty Images

Finally, though, we saw what his end product can be like against Brighton. Coming on for Jarrod Bowen just after the hour, West Ham needed his creative spark to make something happen and continue the club's push for an unlikely spot in Europe. The deadlock needed to be broken.

Unfortunately, it was the net at the other end which was bulged five minutes from time, as Danny Welbeck cutely dinked over Lukasz Fabianski. Goodnight Vienna to West Ham's European dreams, then?

Not yet.

West Ham's new found spirit came to the fore and Benrahma was the one who stepped up to the plate. Collecting a half clearance on the edge of Albion's box, he composed himself nicely - despite the advances of the onrushing Andi Zeqiri - to bend a stupendous effort that glanced in off Robert Sanchez's left hand post.

It was a moment of class that immediately showed Benrahma does belong at this level, regardless of what his critics may say. It was also a reminder that the superficial criticism that is rife in the game these days should perhaps be reigned back - in this particular case, there's a reason the 25-year-old has been managed carefully by Moyes and there's also a reason - plenty of them in fact - why he was signed in the first place.

More of those goals in the future please, Said.


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